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Durban University of Technology (DUT) continues to commend all its essential workers for their dedication and commitment in providing services to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. DUT’s Communications team’s Simangele Zuma spoke to Ms Nontokozo Ngcobo, Manager: Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Midlands Campus.

Q: What is your role at DUT? 

A: “I am currently a manager for the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Midlands Campus under the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement. I provide business support to students and further establish practical learning spaces (the hubs) for the practical learning of our student-preneurs.”

Q: How long have you been in that role?

A: “I started in 2016 as a lecturer under the Applied Management Sciences Department. I then became the Work Integrated Learning (WIL) coordinator for the same department. I was later appointed to establish the DUT Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation under the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement.”

Q: How would you describe yourself in five words? 

A: “Passionate, hardworking, creative, resilient and dependable.”

Q: If you were an animal, what type of animal would you be and why? 

A: “I would say a lion, I am protective over the people and things I love, I am brave and fearless, and nothing intimidates me. I am always willing to fight for what I love and what I believe in, I am a hunter, for opportunities, for money, for growth and for innovation and development.”

Q: How has it been like working during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

A: “It was a bit challenging; it came as a shock and it challenged me to be creative, innovative and to find new ways of navigating in my role as a manager in this space. It challenged my capacity to adapt and innovate, we had to move quickly to create an enabling work environment for all our employees. We embraced remote learning through various online programmes such as virtual trainings for entrepreneurs and mentorship programmes to help them navigate the new normal.” 

Q: What precautions do you take to prevent yourself and loved ones from COVID-19? 

A: “Taking the necessary precautions in ensuring that we always comply with the COVID-19 lockdown regulations. Making sure to wear masks in public spaces, sanitising before entering workspaces or any public facility and keeping the regulated social distancing. It was very tricky, but we managed to adapt.”

Q: What does your typical day entails? 

A: “My typical day entails checking of emails before working hours, checking the team and entrepreneurs, the challenges that they are facing as we are working during the difficult COVID-19 period. I identify the gaps, propose interventions as to how we can mitigate the challenges of the pandemic. I closely evaluate and monitor the progress of what we are doing and maintain constant communication with strategic partners to propose possible interventions and solutions to challenges faced by entrepreneurs daily.”

Q: What are some of the lessons you have learnt since the outbreak of COVID-19? 

A: “To appreciate what you have, as Nightbirde said: ‘You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.’ I have learnt to be happy with everything I have and everything I am doing, in as hard as it is, we cannot wait for COVID-19 to be over, for us to be productive. We have to find ways to navigate in the space that we are in. I have learnt to appreciate the opportunities given to me and to work with what I have, to try and continue with my daily activities. Most importantly loving and caring for one another, your team, and colleagues beyond the work environment. I have learnt the importance of establishing more relationships for support, as this difficult time requires that we join hands even more in achieving the goals of the institution.”

Q: When not at work, what do you do for fun? 

A: I love travelling, spending time with my family and nieces. I love hiking and seeing nature. I love cooking and baking, watching international politics, news and hanging out with my friends.”

Q: What is your biggest wish in life? 

A: “My biggest wish in life is to see our young people being proud and understanding the real power, which is the economic power, because once you have that, you have everything.”

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