My morning started with a 9am meeting with Adaobi and Gloria, the two women putting together the Fashion Master-class with leading stylist and fashion consultant Natalie Joos (if you watched House of DVF you’ll remember her during the challenge when the girls had to create their own photoshoots for a blog or something… episode 5 anyway).

Natalie_Joos

The meeting was interesting as we talked about the valuable lessons that could come out of attending this master class. And then Gloria pointed out a fundamental truth – ‘the problem I’ve seen is that people in Zambia don’t really like to invest in growing themselves professionally’. A girl after my own heart! It’s exactly what I’ve always thought.

It’s well known that in the West, people get degrees not only to learn stuff but to advance their career, and advancing it more so by going to an Ivy League college (particularly in the US) whose name alone sees you through the front door (remember in Suits they only hired lawyers from Harvard). In Zambia we tend to think that development ends at going to University – if you were fortunate enough (or wanted to) to go. I didn’t go to University initially and worked my way up. When I wanted to ensure my career climbing could progress and also came with the right salary to boot, I went to University to pursue my MBA (the great thing about the UK is how they value experience as much as degrees so I was able to go straight to a Masters without having done an undergraduate degree). Before that I’d taken courses in project management, in web development, post graduate diploma in journalism, management course, you name it.

Education isn’t just attained in the classroom of course, and I grabbed every opportunity I could find to better myself and therefore increase my career prospects.

In Zambia, I find that people are happy to drop hundreds on a night out, or on a swanky luxury car they probably can’t afford, than to say I’ll take a couple of days, or weeks out to learn something valuable to my career/profession/business. When I was sitting with Gloria and Adaobi, granted I’m not in the fashion industry, but I thought, what an amazing opportunity to get a masterclass from this woman! Natalie Joos! She’s been on House of DVF! Ok, I do watch waaay too much TV. So not only that Natalie Joos, but the one who has styled editorials and spreads for Vogue, and Elle, and Harpaar’s Bazaar (and yes she can still call Diane Von Furstenburg her friend – or at least call her!)

Can you imagine the wealth of knowledge you could get from her? Except for one thing… the cost of K700 (approximately $100). Last week I had a mani/pedi, a facial and a couple of bottles of wine, costing me, yup you guessed it, $100!

I’m not rushing to get a ticket mainly because it’s not directly my industry – however, if I had an in-house wardrobe mistress or art director I would for that employee! I even contemplated paying for a couple of freelancers we regularly use for them to have the knowledge that I could later benefit from, but the reality is if they don’t see the use in it already, won’t I just be throwing money down the toilet? (and why should I pay for my competitors to benefit when using that same freelancer?)

Freelancer abroad that I work with are constantly learning and perfecting their craft – I know this not only because they tell me, but I’ve seen their growth over the years – but in Zambia, because of our acceptance of mediocrity, local freelancers (and even some company owners) don’t see the need to invest in themselves. And that’s why they don’t grow and as the country opens up to the rest of the world – which it will (thanks to the instability of some of our neighbours – not that we’d ever take advantage of their misfortune! We’re a Christian nation for Pete’s sake!), if you can’t compete on a global level, you shouldn’t even come out to play.

Training and development is a big area we focus on at Media 365 because it adds value to our product offering to the client. It’s not always possible, and of course it’s scary to think of investing in someone who will ditch you as soon as they have the skills (though my experience has also shown that since they don’t value the training and development they might ditch you before you even get to train them! I’ll name no names… Ok maybe they just didn’t like working here…), but it’s always worth a try.

It’s true that development isn’t just about spending money; internships (oh I have a blog post about that coming up!), work placements, online education, reading professional or industry publications/articles, mentorships and more, are all opportunities that you get for free.

But where else are you going to ask that one on one question if you don’t spend the money to meet that person, to learn and grow? And who knows where a chance encounter will take you? I met Bill Roedy, then Chairman of MTV Networks Europe, when I was hosting a plenary session. We hit it off and two years later I embarked on my eight-year career at MTV (hashtag just saying).

 *By the way, if you do want to attend the Natalie Joos Master class on the 30th and 31st of May go to https://www.facebook.com/events/1418927278410021/ for more details, or get tickets from Vala at Foxdale Court in Lusaka

18927278410021/ for more details, or get tickets from Vala at Foxdale Court in Lusaka

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