Meet Joanie Nel OPSA Rexel SA National Office Professional of the Year Award 2015

Instead of shrinking back from the challenge once you were nominated why did you push forward through the process?

I am proud to call myself an Office Professional. It is my chosen career. I have a burning passion to make a difference and become the change I want to see in the world. I strive to excel and exude excellence with the knowledge that I am human, an individual with great possibility but also weaknesses. To give up was not an option. I want to surround myself, to learn from and grow with exceptional office professionals. I realize I can only learn from them if I am willing to let my actions match my words. Surely no sensible person can expect to sit and do nothing and expect great leaders to notice them. I believe that by showing the courage and commitment to push forward I pay homage to my mentors and leaders that inspire me. In the words of Henry David Thoreau: “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” By pushing forward, I opened the door and said, “Here I am. Please teach me, let me learn from you.” and my plea was answered.

What did winning the award mean to you?

As my name was announced I had that same feeling some people get when they stand in a crowd and everyone speak at the same time. Overwhelming, breathtaking, unbelievable, amazing and yes, frightening. I use the word frightening because I suddenly found myself walking in the footsteps of amazing people. These are previous National Office Professional of the Year Winners. They continue to ignite flames within office professionals and make a difference and enrich so many lives. I am still today challenged to fulfil the requirements and the standard set by those that won before me. It is only with the amazing opportunity that I received to be mentored by one of these great leaders that I continue to learn and grow and become confident on this journey. Accompanied with this is the opportunity to observe and learn from every single participant of the Academy of Excellence and the OPSA Leadership. As much as the trophy, bouquet of flowers, gifts and title are awe-inspiring and appreciated it is but keepsakes. More important, I realize, is what accompany these items, the unseen unspoken challenge and the choice to follow in the footsteps of great masters, to make a difference and create a legacy.

Nelson Mandela said “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. You playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are born to manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear our presence automatically liberates others.” These words, together with my mentors and leaders I observe closely inspire me, encourage me to work through the fear and become the person that will one day walk confidently next to those I look up to today.

What one piece of advice will you give newcomers to the profession?

Be an individual, take risks, be spontaneous and imaginative. Make a real difference and have an open mind and heart. We all make mistakes. What matters most is what we learn from them. Eleanor Rooseveldt said “Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one.” Learn from mentors and likeminded office professionals, let them ignite the flame within and create a burning desire to grow and make a difference.

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