The DUT Communications team spoke to the dynamic Dr Joe Molete, who is the new Director of the Midlands Campuses as of January 2020. He is responsible for the leadership and growth of the two DUT Midlands (Indumiso and Riverside) campuses.
Dr Molete is ecstatic to be part of the DUT community, especially since there is a new DUT strategy 2030. “I am privileged to learn from selfless colleagues who have vast knowledge and experience about DUT. I believe together we will transform DUT to be one of the best institutions,” he said proudly.
Dr Molete holds a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Penn State University, United States; MSc in Biology from Howard University, United States; BSc (Honours) in Biochemistry and a BSc Life Sciences from the University of the Witwatersrand. He further holds a degree of Master of Business Administration from the University of Cape Town and an Advanced Management Programme from Harvard Business School. He is also a dynamic leader and strategist with more than 20 years of work experience, which includes more than 15 years’ experience in a biosciences organisation and five years’ experience in an academic environment.
Dr Molete envisions huge plans for the Midlands campuses and to grow the Midlands campuses into an entrepreneurial university that run its own processes with little dependency on the main campus. “With more than six thousand students and the current growth plans I believe we can be independent campuses. At the heart of our strategy is what we call Stewardship and since I have a heart for developing people, I hope to initiate a number of workshops to develop the people. We also plan to work in collaboration with all the stakeholders in our community, hence the Society component of our strategy. As part of the strategy we will initiate a number of forums where we engage and initiate collaborative projects. But in the short term our priority is to fill all the vacant posts as well as fast track infrastructure and maintenance projects,” he stressed.
Dr Molete also gave more insight into his academic journey and how it came to him joining DUT this year, 2020. He said that his years of study were a roller coaster of events and emotions and included many transitions. “I started in a little primary school in Soweto where I was born, to going to one village boarding school in Phiri-Kolobe, to a university in Johannesburg called Wits (University of the Witwatersrand) where I graduated with Honours in Biochemistry.
When I left for the USA, to study MS in Biology at Howard University in 1994, I was filled with mixed emotions, especially as I had to quit my Master’s degree at Wits, which was only six months from completion,” he said. He further added that he had thought he was going to stay for two years in the USA but he was subsequently offered a scholarship to study for a PhD in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at the Penn State, and ended up spending five years studying for his PhD.
“My PhD was exciting because I studied gene regulation combined with Bioinformatics just to understand how evolutionary conserved genes are regulated. After my PhD I worked in the USA for five years, mostly in Bio or Pharma-related companies. I quickly realised that there is money in business and management, I then studied for an MBA part-time with the University of Cape Town (UCT) and I also completed my Advanced Management Programme from Harvard Business School,” said Dr Molete.
He stressed that after working for 10 years he realised that money does not fulfil him as he wanted to make impact and so he decided to work at the Vaal University of Technology. After five years at VUT, he then opted for greener pastures and ended up at DUT.
With more than 15 years of experience assisting technology entrepreneurs in research and in commercialisation of inventions, and with his vast experience in such a field, Dr Molete hopes to impart his knowledge to future entrepreneurs at DUT. He further spoke more on the role he aims to play in terms of preparing entrepreneurs for the 4IR, and how vital it is to prepare students for the 4IR.
“In this ever technologically changing times it is critical that we support students to cope with changes. If we do not innovate our curriculum we run the risk of graduating students who are not employable. We plan to formalise entrepreneurship and innovation into the curriculum, strengthen short training courses as well as entrench project based learning so that students can have the knowledge and tools to start companies. We will also establish technology and social incubators to help students play with technology and translate their ideas into prototypes,” he added.
Besides his input into helping to nurture students for the 4IR, Dr Molete also spoke on his flagship programmes which he has been instrumental in conceptualising prior to DUT, and how they can benefit DUT students.
“My flagship programme is titled: Finding Your Sweet Spot. It is a programme I use to ignite people to their greatness as well as support them to become better leaders and entrepreneurs. I have had a few souls interested in the programme and I will be supporting them soon. As they say, when the student is ready then the teacher will appear. The programme works for those who are really tired of the status quo and want to take their life to a new level. The participants do all the work and I just guide the process as well as pray for them. Let us see how it goes when we start,” he said.
Besides his busy work schedule, he spoke on how he finds the balance of working with his family life. Dr Molete explained that the job is not demanding, if one is in in the right job and one focuses on what one is good at then one will always contribute to do ones best. “The work place will always have plenty work, it is all about being realistic and not pressurising oneself. My family is in Gauteng and I miss them. In the mean-time I will find balance within myself and do my best with the work at hand,” he said.
Dr Molete’s career spans into three portfolios which include: working as an inspirational speaker and a coach to support leaders so that they are happy both at work and at home. As a passionate, persuasive and dynamic speaker, with more than 15 years speaking experience, Dr Joe believes that an authentic leader is central to a successful enterprise. His flagship programmes include “Finding Your Sweet Spot” and “The High Impact Leader” in the 4th Industrial Revolution.
His second portfolio includes more than 15 years of experience assisting technology entrepreneurs in research and in commercialisation of inventions. He supported scientists and technology entrepreneurs in more than eight companies such as CSIR, BioPAD and Cape Biotech. In the USA he worked for companies such as Baxter Healthcare, American Red Cross, International Aids Vaccine Initiatives (IAVI) and Penn State.
Dr Molete’s third portfolio includes assisting the transformation of higher education institutions so that they are ready to develop students that are ready to survive in the 4IR. He worked for the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) where he led the VUT Science and Technology Park as a platform to catalyse regional economic growth. He facilitated several technology incubators, initiated enterprise development programmes and mobilised various stakeholders in order to develop the Science Park.
Pictured: Dr Joe Molete, the new Director of the Midlands Campuses.