A day in the life of a Risk Officer

When we first contacted Ellen to participate in the Women’s Day profiles she admitted that she was reluctant to respond because it opened up wounds and made her remember all the hardships she went through to get to where she is today. Ellen’s story is one of strength and determination.

A day in the life of a Risk Officer

In 2002, the security company that Ellen was working for was contracted to the Babcock head office which was originally located in Sandton. Once the contract had run its course, the decision was made to use a different company but Ellen had made such a profound impression with management at Babcock that we asked if she would consider working for the new security company.

What made Ellen say yes
I was so comfortable where I was, the company I was with was bigger and I had a good position - I was a site supervisor, so moving to a new company was a risk. But I knew that I wanted this. The people (at Babcock) knew me well because I used to take their newspapers to their offices every morning. I would go to Welma’s offices every morning and speak to her and she would always motivate me. They saw something in me that I did not yet see in myself. I decided to take the chance and resigned. I haven’t looked back.

Tell us about your background
My dad passed away when I was 3 and I did not get the opportunity to complete my schooling. When I was older I decided to get into the security industry since qualifications were not necessary. I received training and earned a certificate as a security officer. The person who interviewed me favoured me and gave me a senior position which I thought I didn’t deserve because I didn’t have any experience. As soon as I started earning my own money I knew I wanted to study and so I registered for a BTech Degree in Security Risk Management.

Joining Babcock - officially
While working security at the Babcock offices, a short-term vacancy at reception opened up and I was offered the position. I took on the role of services coordinator, which included reception as well as facilities duties. When I joined Babcock in 2010, the financial burden of my studies was lifted as the company paid for the rest of my studies. This made me put more pressure on myself as I did not want to let anyone down. I completed my degree in 2008 at 40 years old.

Ellen Mbhele and her mentor, Welma PrinslooI later moved into a SHEQ coordinator position and that same year I was encouraged to apply for a 12-month mentorship programme with Babcock. I was accepted and my mentor was none other than Welma Prinsloo (pictured left). Upon completion, I received a certificate for the Most Developed Mentee.

What’s the best thing about your job?
I’ve just started with this new role that encompasses IMS audits to ensure compliance within the business. It has meant being exposed to other Babcock sites and seeing more of Babcock operations and has helped me realise the extent of Babcock’s expertise.

Which of your achievements are you most proud of?
My BTech Degree. I was not getting paid much as a security officer but I saved what I could and put myself through university.

What other qualifications do you hold?
I graduated with a Diploma in Business Management (Enterprise Risk Management) in 2015. I also hold a few certificates: Certificate in Business Continuity - Continuity  SA (2015), Certified ISO 22301 Business Continuity Lead Implementer – PECB (2016), Certificate of Competence NQF level 8 Risk, Compliance & Governance (2017) and a Certificate in Integrated Management System, Lead Auditor (2018).

I’m not done yet. I will continue to study and improve myself.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced?
During my BTech there were nights I slept at the office because I didn’t have enough time or the privacy to study and work on my assignments at home. It was not an easy road, I was married with children but I worked hard and pushed myself. Sometimes people look at me now and say hey, but you’re lucky and I think to myself luck has nothing to do with it. I’ve worked hard and I’ve made sacrifices.

What support has enabled you to progress in your career?
I’ve been able to do all of this because of the support I received from Babcock. Sometimes we say to ourselves, I’m too old to do this. My story truly revolves around the people at Babcock - they believed in me and pushed me. They saw something in me. Roger O’ Callaghan & Wilna Steyn were the ones who gave me the position of receptionist and encouraged me on my path.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt?
You can change your story at any time.

Is there something about you that others might find surprising?
I love to talk! Although I don’t think that will come as a surprise to many!


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