The First Black Woman to do Store Planning in the Edcon Group

Twelve years ago, Christinah Mdhluli had her head down hard at work on her N3 Technical Certificate in MechanicalFitting and Turning at the Joburg Technical College, when fate stepped in and steered her in the direction of African Academy and a future brighter and more fulfilling than she could ever have imagined.

Christinah Mdhluli

Christinah Mdhluli

Having always had a strong desire to be in draughting, Christinah had opted for courses in Mechanical Drawing – the only route into this field known to her at the time – initially through Witbank Technical College where she completed her N1 and N2 Courses and later at the Joburg Technical College.

It was a stroke of luck, good fortune and perfect timing when she ran into an old friend, who shared his exciting experience as a student at African Academy at the time and enlightened her as to the various courses on offer in her field. With her interest piqued and her eyes more firmly on the goalposts of a career in draughting, Christinah made some inquiries and in 1995 she registered for a one year course in General Draughting – the equivalent of her N4 and N5.

The course impressed Christinah with its focus on diverse disciplines ranging from Mechanical Draughting to much-needed Office Orientation and other skill sets which she was confident would stand her in good stead as she prepared to enter the job market the following year.

Her confidence was well-founded. In December of the same year, 1995, Christinah attended an interview set-up for her by the Academy Administrator, now Dean, Debbie Prinsloo with the Edcon group and in recognition of her well-regarded qualification from the Academy, her talent and her willingness to learn, she was employed in February of the next year, 1996, to work in Edcon’s in-house Drawing Office, where she put to work designing interior layouts for all new and revamped stores under the Edcon banner.

Christinah’s story does not end there. During her seven years spent in the Drawing Office, she went from not knowing the first thing about store layout and retail principles to mastering the art and applying her mind beyond just the store design to the implementation and roll-out of the project itself. She sought to improve the practicality of her drawings by understanding more about the implementation and execution of the design by asking questions and affiliating herself with mentors who could identify her willingness to learn and extend herself.

She quickly proved herself as an untapped talent, worth developing and growing on the Project Implementation side. Out

of her own initiative, she enrolled for an Architectural Draughting Course at Inscape, following which she completed a course in Project Management at Damelin and was working as a Project Manager in the Group Property department at Edcon where she was involved in over-seeing the design of the store layout. In November last year she moved from the Property department to the Store development department, where she is currently working as a Chain Project Manager which is a position that enables her to get more involved on the Operations side of the Edcon Group, as well as the full-scale implementation of the roll-out strategy or revamp – a position she finds ‘very fulfilling and rewarding’.

Christinah attributes a large part of her corporate success to the excellent grounding she received and the skills she was able to develop at African Academy. She says, with sincerity: ‘If it weren’t for African Academy, I would never have been exposed to the opportunity of working for the Edcon Group, nor would I have known or acquired all the different disciplines required for a successful career in draughting, or realised the many directions in which draughting can take your career. It definitely has opened so many doors for me.’

Now that Christinah has cut through the gender tape in the industry and proven the diverse applications and career paths that a recognised draughting qualification from African Academy opens the doors to, she is hopeful that all other aspiring draughtswomen will find inspiration in her success and be motivated to pursue a career that knows no limits.