“Meet the CEO” - Bridging the Gap between Business and Academia
The Aerotropolis Institute Africa (AIA) in collaboration with UKZN’s School of Engineering recently hosted a highly successful “Meet the CEO” event on the Howard College campus. This was part of a series of events that aim to bridge the gap between business and academia.
AIA Co-ordinator, Dr Rudi Kimmie, explained that the “Meet the CEO” initiative exposes students to business active leaders, offers positive roled models, as well as opportunities for networking.
The guest speaker was UKZN alumnus, Mr Prasheen Maharaj, CEO of Southern African Shipyards. The company is Africa’s leading commercial and naval shipbuilder and ship repair company. It has the largest shipyard in Southern Africa and holds the record for building the largest ship ever built on the continent.
Maharaj’s career commenced in financial services where he was involved in the insurance industry, international currency and derivative trading, asset management and corporate finance. ‘The reason why I do business is that my personal ethos is my contribution to society. I am passionate about job creation and developing SMMEs, especially Black owned companies,’ said Maharaj. He shared his insights into current trends in the workplace, offered guiding principles on how to be an asset to a company and provided advice on moving ahead in business and professional networking.
Maharaj stressed the importance of students undertaking work-based research and the need for partnerships between the private sector and universities in order to grow the global knowledge economy.
‘We are not looking for people who have mastered the art of regurgitating current knowledge, but those that bring a new body of knowledge to what we are doing in business’ explained Maharaj.
He identified perseverance, excellence, achievement and resilience as the qualities required in today’s business leaders.
‘We need innovators, people who can think out of the box in order to solve the complex societal issues that our country faces. It is important to maintain a healthy balance between work and play; write your obituary because where you start you start with an end in mind. Finally, professional business networking is crucial in building your brand and meeting like-minded people,’ advised Maharaj.
Maharaj serves as a Council Member of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a Member of the Board of Directors of the eThekwini Maritime Cluster and as a Member of the Shipbuilding Committee of the Aerospace Marine Defence Industry Body. He is currently in the process of merging Southern African Shipyards with Black Assagay, which will give birth to the biggest Black owned marine defence company in South Africa and southern Africa.
‘Since Durban is a maritime city, it was appropriate to commence with a speaker from the maritime industry. The event was well attended. Going forward, CEOs from major industry sectors in KwaZulu-Natal will be invited to speak,’ said Kimmie.
‘I really enjoyed the event and found Mr Maharaj’s explanation on the link between businesses and the 4th Industrial Revolution very interesting’ said second-year Agricultural Engineering student, Mr Arise Mthembu.
Words and photograph: Zolile Duma