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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist


Reaching Wisdom director has a passion for mentorship

From filing clerk to director of Reaching Wisdom: Yolandi Dercksen's journey unveils the power of mentoring.


When Yolandi Dercksen stepped into the corporate world to assume duties as a filing clerk, little did she expect the job to be so rewarding.

Not a dream job, but Dercksen – now director of Reaching Wisdom, an organisation specialising in coaching, training and mentoring proficiency – believes being a filing clerk prepared her for a much bigger role in life.

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“Being a filing clerk might not have been my dream job, yet it was the most rewarding.

“I moved between desks, asking every person multiple questions about their jobs on a daily basis.

“It was one of the quickest ways of learning about all the functions within the organisation, making connections and eventually being asked to become an imports controller,” remembers Dercksen.

Climbing the ladder

Due to the influence of many mentors in her life, she rose to the rank of team leader and a manager within three years.

“Having a mentor can expand your world to new possibilities through the learning of real-life stories and experiences from others,” said Dercksen.

Passionate about mentoring, Dercksen believes that the discipline has been around for more than 3 000 years.

“The term mentor came from the name of the character who acted as a guardian, adviser, teacher and friend to Odysseus’ son during the father’s absence.

“The quality of mentorship lies in the suitability of a mentor, as well as willingness of mentor and mentee to sweat and drive the relationship.

“The mentor needs to actively and consciously create time to share experiences and wisdom with the mentee.

“The mentee needs to possess a thirst for knowledge and a fertile mind in which to plant the nuggets of wisdom received from their mentor.

“If a child aged 10 can teach his grandmother how to use a cellphone from experience, who are we to attach an age to mentoring?”

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With her phone constantly ringing to book appointments for mentoring classes, Dercksen is among the most sought-after experts in the field.

Reaching Wisdom is a Johannesburg-based organisation, with clients across South Africa.

“We offer a bouquet of bespoke coaching, mentoring and training services, which we tailor to suit the unique needs of our clients.

“Our services include executive coaching, mentoring, enneagram profiling (habits), professional training, facilitation and group performance coaching.

“We have a specialist service offering support and guidance to in-house accredited academies, requiring customised learning programmes and material development,” said Dercksen.

She believes that mentoring can change lives.

“When a business routinely invests in mentorship, it communicates to employees that their growth and development are integral to the overall growth and development of the business.

“Employees – being the greatest asset of any business – stand to gain numerous benefits from a well-structured mentorship programme.

“An effective mentorship process and policy create a supportive environment for employees, as they undergo personal and professional evolution.

“This includes identifying and enhancing their strengths while proactively addressing their challenges.”

On the difference between mentors and coaches, she said: “Mentors offer advice and guidance based on their own personal journey and gained experience in their profession and personal life.

“They draw examples from their own experiences to guide their mentees on what may be a similar journey.

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“Coaches neither give advice, nor do they need to have experience in a particular area to be able to support those being coached.

“A coach retains neutrality by applying a specific set of coaching tools to support people on their individual journey.

“Coaches do this understanding that those being coached know what is best for them.

“I have seen many managers referring to themselves as mentors – yet they are managing and not mentoring.

“When mentorship is used as a management or correction tool, it is seen as a fixed process.

“Once the issue in question is resolved, the mentorship process and relationship will end.

“The mentee might have overcome one challenge, but still needs support in navigating a new set of challenges coming with reaching milestones and career growth.”

The why behind the what

What propelled her to become a coach and trainer?

“Early in my career, I stepped into the interesting world of supply chain management, freight and logistics.

“In this fast-paced, deadline-driven industry, I became aware of the need for individuals to grow within themselves by not just gaining cognitive understanding of this technical industry, but delving deeper into self-awareness to make wiser decisions.

“Becoming a facilitator was one step closer to being able to teach individuals and to mentor in this amazing corporate world.

“Yet something was missing – the human connection and the essence of how to truly be courageous in the workplace by being authentic.

“In 2017, I discovered the life-changing world of mBraining, based on the book by Grant Soosalu and Marvin Oka, which changed my coaching and mentoring career in corporate.”

Driven by growth, courage and compassion, she says there is “nothing more rewarding than seeing an individual being courageous enough to step up and grow”.

Watch: Black women in business lack mentorship and sponsorship

Her role models include her grandfather – a former SA Airways pilot – and leadership experts Brene Brown and Anthony Robbins.

Growing up in Kempton Park and Benoni, Dercksen attended Kempton Park High School and later completed matric at Benoni College.

In her leisure time Dercksen reads books and travels the world. She is currently reading Dare to Lead by Brene Brown.

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