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06 January 2020 | Story Igno van Niekerk | Photo Igno van Niekerk
Success is tied to the company you keep
Prof Brownhilder Neneh believes failure is part of success – it teaches you to be persistent and resilient.

As a young girl growing up in the Cameroon, her dad told her that once she had completed her first degree, she could choose where in the world she wanted to study. Her first choice was the United States; she applied and was admitted.

So, how did she come to complete her postgraduate studies and then became a professor and Head of the UFS Department of Business Management?

A matter of timing

Prof Brownhilder Neneh, Associate Professor in the Department of Business Management, tells the story. “It was a matter of timing. The new intake in the US took place in June; I started looking around and saw that there was an opportunity to come to the UFS. I did not want to waste six months; so, I came here, did my honours degree, and within one year and five months, I completed my master’s degree (Cum Laude), and then went home. I thought of doing my PhD in Germany but realised that the language might be a challenge; I came back and within a year and a few months, I completed my PhD.”

Listening to Prof Neneh relate the story, one might think she does nothing but study; although her academic workload is high, she finds the time to play with her 14-month-old baby every day. “When I arrive home and she sees me – that’s when my energy soars – and we start playing. Where possible, I take her to conferences with me. As a working mother, I understand the challenge of finding the balance, and my husband is great in supporting me.”

Finding the balance

Having risen to the position of professor, being happily married, and apparently having found the balance which many people seems to strive for their entire lives, I ask Prof Neneh what her recipe for success is. She doesn’t hesitate: “Success is tied to who you marry (if you get married), the company you keep, hard work, consistency, and always trying to be the best at what you do – and, oh yes, failure is part of success; it teaches you to be persistent and resilient. I also believe that God’s grace and favour has added to my success.” At a conference in September 2019, Prof Neneh once again talked about her favourite topic – women entrepreneurs and the challenges they face. She believes that there is a lot to be done to lessen the load of entrepreneurial women. And as I get ready to leave, I ask for her definition of success. She doesn’t hesitate: “Seeing students fly above you – and shining. Yes, to see them shine.”

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