The prospect of entering the world of work, after a relatively sheltered student life, can be daunting – especially if you are not sure which career path to follow. For some graduates, it is only by being thrown into the deep end of a professional work environment that they discover what work they really want to do.
For those who are not sure about the next step after graduation and are short on work experience, a Postgraduate Diploma in Management (PDM) can be a useful stepping stone. This is because the PDM is a ‘vocational’ programme for those fresh out of ‘varsity’, culminating in a two-month internship.
“Because prior work experience is not a prerequisite for doing the course, the PDM is attractive for undergraduates looking to gain business knowledge and experience at the same time,” said Dr Jones Mensah, Director of the PDM at Wits Business School (WBS).
It gives students a chance to apply their academic learning to ‘real, live’ business contexts, and, for those who have work experience but looking for a new direction, the internship gives them the opportunity to test out their career preferences before ‘taking the plunge’.”
Successful PDM alumni
The thousands of PDM alumni from WBS include several successful businesspeople and entrepreneurs who used the year-long programme to gain an invaluable grounding in fundamental business skills.
Among them are Danny Koppel (better known as musician Danny K), Paul Ballen, founder of Paul’s Homemade Ice Cream and Nhlanhla Dlamini, founder of Maneli Foods.
Jordan Stephanou is another shining example of how a ‘PGDip’ launched a new career in business. Having graduated from Wits with an Honours in Health Sciences, Stephanou realised that the medical field was not for him, after all. He enrolled for his PDM at WBS in 2014 and it was during this time that the seeds were sown for his successful tech business.
“I remember spending countless coffee and lunch breaks talking about potential business ideas with my fellow students at Wits Business School, and getting excited with the vast calibre and potential of the individuals I had the opportunity to learn with,” he said.
Stephanou is the founder of meal ordering app for corporates tastePal, which was shortlisted in 2018 for the World Summit Award as best digital solution in Business and Commerce in South Africa. The business was also identified in December last year as one of 100 high-potential start-ups that are key to accelerating innovation in Africa.
“The PDM validated that business was the right path for me, and gave me the confidence to believe that I could thrive in a business environment,” says Stephanou. “The two-month internship provided me with my first glimpse of corporate life, which gave me countless learnings about the pros and cons of certain career choices, and illuminated the path I wanted to set out on.”
Launched in 2017, tastePal has gained traction in more than eight corporates in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and is now poised to expand into Africa.
tastepal has also partnered with FoodForward SA, a food security NGO, to redistribute surplus food to other NGOs that support starving women and children.
Stephanou himself is an active member of the African Union-European Union (AU/EU) Youth Hub, one of only 42 designated global ‘Young Experts’.
The World Summit Awards, for which tastePal was nominated, aim to promote the world’s best digital start-up companies and innovative apps which have a strong social impact element, or which focus on any of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
For Stephanou, his years as a young medical undergrad seem like another lifetime ago.
“The PDM was a turning point in my life,” he asserts. “It gave me a foundation of knowledge across all different elements of business and also gave me the opportunity to test my ideas with some of the smartest people I have ever met!”
Applications for the 2020 PDM intake at Wits Business School are open. Apply here.
This article was published in partnership with Wits Business School.