As winner of the 2017 Veuve Clicquot ELLE Boss award, Amanda Dambuza says she absolutely encourages all deserving and qualifying women to enter. Nominate yourself, or someone else, for this year’s title. As Amanda says, you simply cannot miss an opportunity like this.

ELLE: Please tell us a bit about what you do?

Amanda Dambuza (AD): I founded, amongst others, Uyandiswa – a project management consultancy. I head up the organisation and my role is to ensure its growth through business development.

ELLE: What was the best thing about being part of the 2017 Veuve Clicquot ELLE Boss award and how has this business journey shaped your path?

AD: Oh my word, what a rush! There are so many highlights! One of these was meeting the judges, such wonderful women who are truly trailblazers. This was just such a special experience. I have been looking up to some of them for a very long time so to have them hear my story and decide that I was the worthy winner is something I will cherish for a lifetime.

I must say hearing my name being called out as the winner of first the entrepreneur category, and then as overall winner, was incredibly special.

I do not do what I do for accolades but to have my work recognised like this… to have my personal brand ‘Amanda Dambuza’ elevated to these levels, to be associated with such strong corporate brands. Well, I am just grateful… I am very grateful to the people who made me aware of these awards and insisted I accept the nominations.

The cherry on top was being hosted in Reims, France by Veuve Clicquot. Wow! What a mind-blowing experience. I now have a vine named after me in Champagne valley… in Reims, France! I never could have scripted that. I have been so humbled by the whole experience.

ELLE: What are your other career highlights so far?

AD: I started Uyandiswa with virtually no funding and to see it having grown so much in such a short space of time has really been very pleasing. We now work with over 85 people. Being able to create employment opportunities for graduates and open up platforms for other women-owned businesses is such a motivation to me.

ELLE: What are you working on currently?

AD: I am working on building a strong artificial intelligence and robotics centre of excellence in order to complement our project management offering and strengthen our business analytics unit.

ELLE: What are the challenges you face daily?

AD: Our business is centred around people. While this is rewarding for me personally, it comes with lots of challenges. Also, it is vital to ensure that the business continues to be sustainable through profitability, so managing margins is a daily challenge for us.

Balancing the many needs of our clients and making sure that they are happy with our service offering is also a very big challenge. Fortunately, I have a strong team that supports me in this.

ELLE: What is like being a female, in often male-dominated fields? 

AD: I love it! A lot of women have entered the IT profession, particularly in project management. So it gives me great pleasure that in some way I may have influenced some women to enter the industry when they see that it is possible to be successful and make a career out of it.

I never look at my male counter-parts as competition or a threat. I never try to be something or someone I am not. I am a woman, I am blessed with many God-given strengths so I focus on those and use them to navigate tough situations.

ELLE: Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew in your 20s?

AD: In my 20s I wish I knew that perfection is truly not something to strive for because it is unreallistic. Excellence on the other hand is truly something you can strive for every day. As long as you have given something your best then there is nothing more to it.

I also never had lots of room for grey in my world. It was black or white. With life experiences and growing older, I am far more forgiving and tolerant of both myself and others. I do my best to understand from another’s perspective. I am still a work-in-progress though; probably for the rest of my life.

ELLE: What is the best advice you have ever heard?

AD: I had a mentor who helped me put myself first. I am one of those people who had to be taught how to do this. He told me ‘you cannot give what you do not have’. It was the best advice I have ever received in my life. It took a while to register along with books to read to help me grasp the concept. Once I made the connection with that statement; I was never the same again. I am so grateful to him for that.

I encourage businesswomen across South Africa to put themselves first and enter this year’s Veuve Clicquot ELLE Boss Award, this is an opportunity not to be missed!