A woman making a difference. Interview with Helette Pieterse


A woman who believes in the power of hope and the positive change it can bring to our country. We sit down with Helette Pieterse, CEO of MAD Leadership Foundation and chat to her about what motivates and inspires her on her quest to #MakeADifference.


Having studied Accounting and then post-graduate studies in Value and Policy Studies and Education Policy Studies, the first part of Helette's career was working in Finance as a Financial Director.


"I am a true believer in the power of Education and how it can change the world and I am very fortunate to now have a job where my passion meets my background and experience."

- Helette Pieterse 


What made you join MAD Leadership Foundation? 

I realised that I needed to do work that was meaningful to me. As I've said, I'm a true believer in the power of education and how it can change the world. This quote by Nelson Mandela says it so well: “Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation.” Education breaks down walls and opens doors. When I saw this opportunity at MAD Leadership Foundation advertised I knew this could be the meaningful work I wanted to do. What I like about MAD Leadership Foundation is the personal approach to providing comprehensive support to each individual scholar on the programme - it makes a sustainable impact. 


What are your dreams for the future of the Organisation? 

I have many dreams and big ones. But the first one to mind is the dream of 1000 leaders on the programme. That is the ambitious goal we set for ourselves - to have 1000 scholars on the programme - can you imagine the impact and ripple effect if we can have 1000 young people with leadership potential have an opportunity to realise their dreams and ambitions without placing the burden of the financial implications of a good education on their families who are already struggling to make ends meet. 


What’s the most rewarding part of your job? 

This is a difficult question. There are so many elements to this job that makes it rewarding: the shared joy when we tell an applicant and their family that they will be receiving a scholarship; the interactions with our scholars who have the ability to energise and inspire me; the interactions with our loyal supporters and partners; the synergies we discover with like-minded individuals and companies, like our relationship with Rialheim. All these things give me hope for the future of South Africa and that is rewarding. 


And the most difficult? 

Not being able to help every deserving young person who apply to join our scholarship programme. 


What advice would you give to your younger self? 

I would borrow this piece of advice from the Greek Philosopher, Epictetus: “The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control." 

Helette Quote.jpg

Being a woman, how important is it for you to inspire other women in business? 

As a woman, I hope to inspire not only other women in business, but women, and especially young girls in general. It's not always easy, but it really is worthwhile to see the magic that happens when your voice is heard, when your opinion matters and it is acknowledged that a woman's perspective adds value. However, because it's not easy women often forget to acknowledge and support each other. I want young girls to truly believe that they can achieve anything they want to. 


What is your advice for success? 

Work hard and dream big. 


Who has been your biggest inspiration? 

I have had many people in my life who inspire me, who make me want to do better, to be better. But if I had to single one person out it would be my Mom. She has shown me how to be a strong and independent women, but also she has taught me compassion and empathy and I am truly grateful because this has helped me find my purpose in life.  


How has working with Rialheim been? 

It has been inspirational, an absolute pleasure. The thing that makes it special is the intent, values and beliefs of the people of Rialheim. Working with an organisation who also strongly believes that South Africa's future is bright and that we have a responsibility to help build that future is what makes it very special. 


What would you like your legacy to be? 

To have paved the way for whoever comes after me to have a strong foundation upon which they can build and improve.  


One quote to live by? 

I love words and have many, many quotes I believe is worth taking note of, so this is not a quote, but a motto that drives me - "Privilege entails responsibility." 


What more can we expect to see from you? 

I would love to say that you can expect to see me help fundamentally change our education system for the better so that every child in this country has a fair chance in life, but that is my big dream. The only thing I know for certain is that you can always expect to see me work passionately towards making the world a better place.


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Darryl Gouws