Career Interview: Abdul Dangor from BMW Driver Training

YM: I read in your profile that your choice of university was defined by affordability where the registration fee met your parents budget. How did financial constraints affect your career aspirations?

AD: At the time I thought it would but looking back today I realised it did not have much impact. I believe that having things tough allows you to adapt to situations and this in turn develops your mind to think differently than the norm. Being confronted by challenges (financial and other) but still having a clear objective which is etched in both your mind and heart will automatically result in you being forced to think of innovative ways to achieve those objectives. Over time this way of thinking, which originally was developed to assist in tough situations, becomes an asset to an organisation who values forward thinking and the ability to lay a path ahead to achieve them. If I was not financially constrained I can say with great certainty that I would not be where I am today. It made me think differently about using what’s at hand and doing extraordinary things with it.

YM: I agree, we need a lot more people to be innovative, forward thinking and resourceful to tackle the economic and social issues in this country. Given that we have a new minister for higher education and the focus on affordability, what changes should be made in this area?

AD: I believe that access to funding should not be made easier. It may be a different point of view, but I believe funding should be channelled into student work programs where institutions are developed to find students work while studying or structuring a curriculum where students do these in parallel. Ploughing funds into funding studies in isolation results in a pool of people who may have degrees / diplomas, etc, but are not equipped to handle the challenges of the working world. I think supporting organisations through grant funding to employ matriculants, who are required – as part of their employment agreement – to study, would be a better alternative.

YM: You worked at the Department of Trade and Industry from 1997 to 2004, holding various positions during this period. What were the biggest career highlights and lessons?

AD: Clearly one of the highlights of my career at the DTI was being able to engage with various different types of people and understanding how they think, what is important to them, while learning how to interact with them and reach consensus on difficult issues. In all institutions communication, understanding and finding common consensus is the most important and dti developed this in me. I would say discovering this was my highlight.

YM: At the age of 23, you were selected from a pool of highly skilled applicants, to serve as SA’s Foreign Economic Representative in Cairo, the youngest servicing trade rep in SA’s history. How did you edge out the competition?

AD: Firstly, believing in what you do and having a passion for it is irreplaceable. I cannot work on something if I don’t believe in it. Secondly, comes ownership and taking responsibility. Thirdly, having no fear to take on something you don’t know how to solve but dedicating all resources at your disposal to search for answers and surrounding yourself with people who are trustworthy and knowledgeable and not being afraid to ask for assistance, is a vital characteristic. I lived these three principles and by following them I succeeded.

YM: Some would argue, fake it until you make it, there is a lot that we can’t control and telling others that you don’t know to solve something is a sign of weakness.  And you would say…

AD: If that’s the attitude of people and the organisation in which I had to operate I would certainly conclude that the grass is greener on the other side. Ethics and morales (maybe religion) is linked to people that tend to fake it. Think about it. Those who fake it are fearful. Those who fake it generally have targeted the wrong end result. In most cases money. However,

YM: How did you find out about the position at BMW Driver Training?

AD: The “inner” and “outer” factors that play on humans prompted me to write to BMW in 2005 and indicate to them, through a motivational letter, that BMW is destined to be my next stage in life

With regard to the “Outer”, I have always loved the BMW brand for several reasons and loved the cars. The brand represents a symbol of success. When I was a student I saw a BMW everyday during my 5km hike from the train station to where I stayed and, when my legs felt tired, I told myself I have to do this and it will be my key to one day owning one.

As to the “Inner”, this morphed over the years where today working for BMW has become my catalyst to find wisdom and contentment. There are a few superficial things in life we go through in order to achieve wisdom and my path has brought me here where I am able to experience the best the automotive world has to offer. Cars, money, travel…wisdom and contentment has to follow.

YM: Having previously worked in the public sector, what challenges did you face upon joining BMW?

AD: Definitely people. In the private sector, people’s personalities seem to be overcome by the drive to achieve the bottom line. Yes, this is important because an entity in the private sector only remains viable for as long as it makes a profit. I call this TINA (*Tina was the name given to one of the worst hurricanes in history). To me it stands for – There Is No Other Alternative. In applying what I have said earlier and showcasing that there is an alternative has resulted in crossing this challenge. Ironically the name TINA will be back on the list for hurricanes next year and, with the world’s economies failing as they are, when the naming of this hurricane occurs next year it may also express my view that we should be looking for alternatives for how the world is run.

YM: Interesting, I’ve lost count of how many times, people have been the #1 challenge when moving from the public/private to the private/public sector. Some people are hurricane TINA themselves; there is no other alternative but to work with them in the office!  In five years time, you want to…

AD: In five years time, I want to have answers. Answers to the age old question of what is peace, contentment and the meaning of life. Best expressed by the following words I heard a wise man speak – Is permanent peace an illusion? Is true contentment ever attainable? If not then why all of this yearning and life search as to where, how and when? But then look at life on earth, it begins and ends with agitation when peace is invaded and cells divided and then again sub-divided to fulfil the original promise of birth and cosmic perfections in regular unexpected rotations. And then man tills the earth creating dusty agitation to help new growth, to survive, to interact and to learn the first steps of inner and outer harmony And to know that whatever appears will once again disappear. And to experience that whatever you see here frivolous or dear is indeed on its journey back to there. So where can you find peace? How and when? Is it within change and the battles of time and space or is it before it all began or after the never ending end?

My search for peace, contentment and balance is what I am after. The path one’s career takes will help shape these answers. Defining finite parameters of what I want my career path to be over the next five year for me is impossible right now, but the path will follow a route where answers to the above will be found.

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