Bridget Marango

Bridget Marango

Date: March 25, 2011
  • SHARE:


My Three Year Degree Programme with Gender Links

There are many degree programmes out there and they surely can teach us a lot but no degree can equip one with the practical “on- the- job- learning” that is fundamental to every working human being’s existence. No place can better equip one with institutional systems as Gender Links. Once one has been Gender Linked, a great amount of self discipline follows.

My journey with GL began three years ago when I joined as the new full time finance manager. Michael Havenga, my predecessor was a very competent accountant with big shoes to fill. I found myself nervous at many times, not sure if I was going to manage but I soldiered on. My manager, Colleen Lowe Morna was very welcoming and took her time to explain things to me. In the second month I thought I was going to fail my probation as the going got tough.

I am a hard worker but sustaining the 100% excellence standard for everything in a very demanding environment proved challenging. At one time I shared with my family what I was planning to do after my three months stint at GL but three years later I am still here, growing in leaps and bounds. My learning journey is divided into three phases over the three years, more like a degree programme with modules as summarised below.

Year one: technical learning: good organisational systems like planning, reporting, monitoring and evaluation, checklists and forms. My mentor Michael Havenga assisted with building my technical competence. He taught me all about the GL accounting system. Amazingly my boss, Colleen who is programmes oriented with a journalism background had a lot to teach me regarding practical financial management. She taught me everything about project funding and reporting, tracking expenditure, complying with donor requirements and enforcing policies and regulations. Colleen had more confidence in me than I had in myself. When I doubted myself sometimes she would encourage me, teach me and let me run. Now I can stand on my own feet and run my own unit.

Some of the skills I acquired through peer learning from colleagues like Loveness Jambaya, Dumisani Gandhi and Susan Tolmay to name but a few. I recall a lot of mini mentoring sessions from interpreting emails to learning how to do a performance agreement and the famous bimonthly planner.

In my second year, GL grew exponentially. The budget went from R8million to R26million. At this point it became imperative to understand GL programmes in depth. Colleen gave me the platform to learn, exposing me to how programmes function, where the funds really come from and how that feeds into the annual work plan and cascades into trimester plans and the relationship with spending patterns. My mind shifted from a bean counter to a finance strategist who can add value to the design and implementation of programmes. This wasn’t at all easy as I still had the accounting side to run. I needed time management, multi tasking and self organising skills.

Almost at that point, Colleen conducted a time management course that gave me valuable insight into how important one’s time is and how to guard it. I learnt all about prioritisation and taking care of tasks that are important before they become urgent to avoid being in a crises mode. Not only did I apply this valuable skill to my work but also to my personal life. I preached the same principles to my poor family and everyone started to plan around important but not yet urgent things like taking the car for service before it breaks down. Being a finance- oriented person, this principle worked amazingly in my personal budgeting. Paying traffic fines or dental bills on time saves on interest, penalties and emergencies.

Third year: I found myself moving to greater heights alongside the GL growth curve. The finance and admin work expanded as a result of the establishment of more satellite and field offices. My duties shifted from implementation to those of assisting the strategic planning process, planning for the unit, oversight and managing staff. They say “Management is the art of working through others”. This was hard for me at first as I was used to doing things myself and doing them well.

The art of delegation is something Colleen had to push me to learn. We would argue about my performance agreement which I populated with direct responsibilities rather than management tasks. She helped me to understand that my higher level calling is to set the framework for others to do things and leverage my skills by guiding them through implementation. Many times she sketched the management triangle on the back of a piece of paper, reminding me that as you go up the ladder your technical skills become less and less important as your people, strategic and conceptual skills come to the fore.

With six staff members in the Corporate Services Unit, I had to learn how to manage staff from diverse backgrounds with different competence levels, attitudes and personalities. Balancing the organisation’s and the staff interests, being firm but affirming, building people without breaking them, identifying their strengths and weaknesses and getting the best out of people is part of what I have been learning this past year and it’s not easy. I am still learning on this front drawing from my mentor Colleen. Nobody can ever get it absolutely right but one can only strive to be as close to achieving this balance and I am looking forward to the HR course that is scheduled in the new fiscal year.

Moving along, I believe I am going onto my post graduate or should I say the Masters level with GL. I am looking forward to more exposure as more challenges lie ahead. GL never stops to grow and with its growth we also grow. It is a blessing to be with such a futuristic family.


Bridget Marango is Head of Finance and Administration at Gender Links.




Comment on Bridget Marango

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *