“I don’t think that students, or even many seasoned professionals and grownups for that matter, realise that the golden thread running through any career is a passion for what you do. For me being passionate about what you do is fundamental. Waking up and being so excited that you’re chomping at the bit to get down and dirty with whatever the day may hold.”
This is the principle on which businesswoman and Matie alumna, Adéle Smith, has built a career spanning more than 20 years in diverse industries.
Adéle completed a BA degree majoring in psychology and German at SU in 1997. She has also completed various executive programmes through the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) and Duke University’s Corporate Education.
After graduating from SU, she worked at a wine tasting centre at Neethlingshof Wine Estate just outside of Stellenbosch. “Fresh out of varsity, or maybe because I was born in Stellenbosch, wine was my passion then (and still is by the way). Speaking fluent German probably helped secure that first job too. What could be better than tasting exquisite, award-winning wines every single day, and getting paid for it!?”
In 1999, she joined Lufthansa German Airlines as a call centre reservations agent, utilising her skills in German to travel the world and within no time found herself heading up operations in Cape Town – then one of seven global reservations centres taking calls from all over the world. She subsequently also supported the launch of three new Lufthansa reservation centres in Berlin, Istanbul and Toronto.
Five years later her natural ability to hold a conversation with just about anyone would lead her to an operations director role at The Dialogue Group, running multiple call centre teams across Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town. The group employed more than 2 000 employees in the then booming contact centre and business process outsourcing industry.
Since then, Adéle has managed to turn her passion for language, communication, business, people and their development into a brand that has helped her to confidently walk the different roads she has had to travel over the years and wear the many hats she sports.
A mom of two girls, Adéle also owns The Daily Coffee Café in Kuils River with her husband and business partner, Nate. A second Daily Coffee Café and brand new restaurant concept are on the horizon too.
The Smith couple are also directors of Accelerating the Business Case for Change, or in short, ABC² Consulting, their business strategy and human resources consultancy established in 2017 after both made the decision to exit corporate and start a fresh entrepreneurial chapter in their lives.
She is also an associate at Legitimate Leadership, a Johannesburg-based business and leadership consultancy that collaborates with business leaders the world over by facilitating workshops and a wide range of interventions that transform teams and organisational culture.
“I’m passionate about learning, coffee, good food, music and the arts, and these are the things that we incorporate and weave into our lives and business, whether at The Daily Coffee Café or any of our social responsibility projects, including For The Love of It and EWE (Everyday Women Empowered) events. We love creating happy spaces and various platforms that give established, novice or upcoming artists and our communities a voice and opportunity to learn or do something for the first time, often,” she says.
“My working experience tells me that we pay our intuition or gut little to no attention when it comes to our happiness or passions.
Too many of us ignore or downplay it when it comes to happiness because ironically, I think we’re afraid of what it may mean. We focus on STUFF. The bills, the rent, fitting in, not fitting in, not belonging, not toeing the line, not letting others down, whatever the reason may be, we rather choose to take a dump on our own happiness by continuing the vicious cycle.
“It took me almost 20 years to realise that it’s okay and necessary to rediscover, feed and fuel my passions, talents and gifts without the guilt, doubt or anxiety. And, guess what, I can still pay the bills and shop at Woollies, what’s not to love about those Eat In for Under R150 deals!,” jokes Adéle.
“My advice is to not ignore or downplay what makes you genuinely happy. Explore it. Run with it. You only have one life. Make it your best one!”
- By Lynne Rippenaar -