Ash Resources, South Africa’s leading manufacturer and supplier of fly ash products, has appointed Nicola Viljoen as its new Commercial Manager with effect from 1 September 2014.
In her previous role as Senior Purchasing Manager for Lafarge Gypsum, she is credited with transforming the company’s complex purchasing and contracting function, which handles the multiplicity of specialised products and systems in the building interior fitting business.
Change management is her forte and Viljoen is excited about her move back to a general management function, dealing with a totally different product and sector of the construction industry. “The aspect that the two companies have in common is that they each value and foster their team spirit and unique identity, while benefiting enormously from the technical and financial strength of the international Lafarge Group. It is an interesting challenge to strike the optimum balance,” she observes.
Viljoen is strongly people and strategy focused, saying: “It is the people in a company (Ash Resources) that make it work rather than systems and products. My strength is being able to identify how everyone and everything in departments can mesh together to function better in a company. People should not be afraid of constructive change but they often need the self-confidence to enjoy and embrace change energetically, both for their personal fulfilment and to ensure their company stays ahead of the competition.”
Born in Zimbabwe, Viljoen grew up on the East Rand. As a child she says she dreamt of being a racing car driver because it sounded exciting and fun. She doesn’t race but loves her motorbike and she is certainly moving in the fast lane, making her mark in industry!
Viljoen holds an MBA from the highly regarded Henley Management College in the UK and has studied Advanced Contract Management. In addition to the three years spent with Lafarge Gypsum, Viljoen’s extensive work experience includes Management and Financial Consultancy, National Operations Manager for Hulamin Engineering Solutions, and Group Procurement Manager for Kulungile Metals.
Asked the inevitable question about being a woman in what is still typically perceived as a male industry, Viljoen says it is not an issue if it is approached properly and you have earned the position through skill and hard work. “It is important to avoid trying to be one of the boys,” she says. “Handling diversity well, whether gender, race or culture, is an immense strength for any company and is particularly so in the case of Lafarge. Women in general are more caring and often show more empathy when dealing with staff, whereas men deal with other workplace aspects better. It is a case of forging a strong mixed team that benefits from the inherent synergy.”
Women’s reputation for being natural multitaskers is epitomised by the dynamic, positive thinking Viljoen. A mother of three children, Viljoen is able to excel in her corporate life, while enjoying after hours interaction with her family and still making time for her biking and her passion for community work. As an ardent superbike rider, she has helped raise money for children’s homes and cancer sufferers by taking part in events such as the Teddy Bear Run. A facet of Lafarge that she respects and enjoys is the group’s active support and encouragement for employees to do volunteer work to help uplift disadvantaged communities. In this regard, she has recently headed up a team that has arranged ongoing partnership support for the Jes Foord Foundation that is addressing the social evil of rape.
Astonishingly, this versatile corporate department leader fully intends making time next year to renew her studies to qualify as a Chartered Global Management Accountant. Asked whether there was anything she couldn’t do or disappointed her in life, Viljoen laughs and says it is not being able to read her Kindle in a relaxing bubble bath! We are sure she will find a way.
Ash Resources is South Africa’s leading manufacturer and supplier of fly ash products. With a proud track record of quality and innovation, the company has pioneered the development of fly ash as a major sustainable material for the construction industry.