East London Port Manager, Sharon Sijako of Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) has been announced as one of three finalists in the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s (BWASA) Eastern Cape Regional Businesswomen of the Year Awards 2019 in the category of Women in Government.

The winners will be announced on 27 July.

An inspiration to young women in business, Sijako is only the second female Port Manager in the Port of East London’s 120-plus year history. She has over 20 years of operational experience and a track record of strong leadership, critical problem-solving and strategic thinking.

“My greatest priority is the development of the Port of East London,” she says. “This will create jobs and assist in growing not only our Metro, but the entire eastern half of the Eastern Cape.”

Since her appointment as Port Manager at South Africa’s only river port in December 2017, she has led with distinction, overseeing a staff complement of 159 including an executive leadership team of 12. Prior to that she held senior leadership roles at both Transnet Port Terminals and Transnet National Ports Authority.

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing, but Sijako has taken it all in her stride, developing a deep understanding of the port system and the challenges and opportunities faced by the maritime industry.

Sharon Sijako
Sharon Sijako

“The maritime industry is largely male dominated and I had to contend with the fact that some business leaders did not take me seriously. This resulted in me having to work twice as hard, and give more than 100% to the job,” she says.

Her personal and professional resilience, coupled with a solid work ethic and a strong sense of accountability, have helped her to achieve numerous successes in her current role.

Under her leadership the port has developed and presented a strong socio-economic case to the Transnet Board for a major, long overdue port expansion in East London to stimulate greater economic opportunities and investor confidence for the region.

Sijako also spearheaded the introduction of an expansive stakeholder engagement strategy both internally and externally, with the key objective of informing stakeholders of developments and soliciting support for the proposed port expansion.

The successful implementation of this strategy has ensured that the port’s key customers, stakeholders and employees have bought into the strategic direction of the Port of East London, thus ensuring long term financial viability for the port and its customers.

Sijako is passionate about women’s development and has actively championed for women to be fully developed in various positions inside and outside of the organisation.

“I am a firm believer in mentoring women in the workplace and continually seek out opportunities to steer and assist women in developing their skills and furthering their careers,” she says.

“I also place a high premium on self-belief, remaining true to myself and never compromising on my values of mutual respect. Even in the face of adversity, I have never deviated from these core principles, which have allowed me to prove that I am indeed capable of performing to the highest standards,” she concludes.

Sijako holds a BA (Social Sciences) and an Honours Degree in Business Administration from the University of the Western Cape. She has benefited from numerous leadership training initiatives throughout her career and is currently enrolled for a post graduate certificate in Business & Strategic Leadership with the University of Cranfield.

Port of East London Corporate Affairs Manager, Terry Taylor, said her colleagues are holding thumbs for her leadership gains to be acknowledged at this prestigious platform.