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Director Enrolments and Retention | Neal Jephtha

1. What do you do at HEPSA?
My role is listed as the Director of Enrolment and Retention, but my job is to lead and develop people and essentially solve problems to support our mission, which is to expand access to affordable online education.

2. How long have you been with HEPSA?
I have been with HEPSA since its inception in South Africa, it’s been almost four years.

3. What’s one thing that surprised you about working at HEPSA?
The one thing that surprised me a bit was the ability to define our own culture, this was a refreshing change coming from large corporates where the culture was defined, staff already exist and the culture is entrenched. The ability to define or influence this is very satisfying and not a common occurrence.

4. What led you to this career?
This might sound cliché, but I have always had a passion for seeing people grow and achieve, and in this space both our colleagues and our product make this possible. With my dad being a lecturer and my mom a teacher, education was entrenched in our family as a non-negotiable, so when the opportunity arose to make a difference in people’s lives, I grabbed it with both hands!

5. What was your first job?
It really depends on what you call a first Job. In my youth, growing up in Cape Town I packed shelves at supermarkets, delivered bricks for high-rise buildings, worked with disadvantaged kids and the elderly, tutored maths to Grade 5s & 7s, and refurbished the interiors of motor cars. But in my early 20s, I started my first corporate job as a call centre agent for Norwich Life Insurance, which is now with Liberty Life. Over time, I have been retrenched twice and moved cities twice, and when I was younger I attended five different primary schools in different provinces (but not because I was naughty).

6. What energizes you at work?
I honestly find that having a clear, task-driven day is the thing that energizes me at work. When you plan your day and the moment you start ticking off even the smallest task on your to-do list, it creates a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, and thus the energy for the next one. It really is a snowball effect.

7. What’s your go-to productivity trick?
Honestly, I don’t there is a trick for this, you either have the work ethic or you don’t, but there are small things you can do especially in these times. I will plan my day around my calendar. When you see my notebook, the highlighted tasks in different colours will not make sense to you, but it does to me. What is also important is to take time out during the day, whether its 15 minutes or 30 minutes, whatever it is, make sure you don’t burn out. The one habit I am still trying to learn is not to eat at my laptop, I’ll get there eventually.

8. Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Definitely an early bird, I will normally log on between 6 and 6:30am, address any urgent emails or queries, and then plan my tasks in order of priority.

9. How do you prefer to start your day?
I prefer to start my day with prayer and a strong coffee, it’s a formidable combination!

10. What’s a work-related accomplishment that you’re really proud of?

Well, if it has to be only one (sigh). Let me put it this way, we had a vision of this company in its infant stages and we kept on building that vision, it was hard, there were disappointments, so many learnings and failures, but that was the bottom of the iceberg. We are only now starting to see the fruits of this, both in the new programmes, partners, new enrolment numbers, continuing student numbers, and graduations, and there is still so much more to come! One of the first programmes we launched will see 63 graduates this year with 40 distinctions – this is why we do what we do, and I am so proud of the HEPSA team!

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