Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Da Vinci Appoints Remarkable Executive Dean: Profiling Professor Krishna Govender

The Da Vinci Team welcomes Professor Krishna Govender who has joined The Institute as Executive Dean. This profound scholar and leader certainly knows what it takes to be Remarkable, with multiple accomplishments to his name.  

Prof. Govender is a renowned academic, postgraduate research supervisor and a top rated researcher - with well over 100 articles published and various accolades amassed. He has held several senior and executive positions in his robust career, such as Academic Director, Rector and Executive Dean of faculties and schools in several private and public higher education institutions in South Africa and abroad.

This insightful man lives by the words of Nelson Mandela that “…an educated enlightened and informed population is one of the surest ways of promoting the health of a democracy.” To this end, Prof. Govender has over an expansive career not only enlightened and informed countless curious minds, at both high school and tertiary level, but also supervised over 50 postgraduate students in the last 6 years alone. Thus, contributing significantly to knowledge generation and the cultivation of research and business leaders that are impacting their organisations and the societies in which they research and operate. Outside of assisting others to hone their research skills, he is himself a prolific well-published academic researcher who is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and was listed amongst UKZN’s top 30 published researchers in both 2016 and 2017.

Prof. Govender holds true to the Da Vincian Principle of Curiosita (seeking the truth), with his insatiable curiosity in life and learning all he can, as well as an unrelenting quest for continuous learning not only through his various lauded research endeavours but also through his own formal studies. Prof. Govender holds a B Pedagogics (Commerce) (UDW); B Ed.; B Com. (Hons.) (Unisa); M Com (Natal); Ph.D. (UCT) and in 2018 was awarded a DBA (Honoris Causa).

Prof. Govender comments that he looks forward to engaging in Da Vinci’s co-operative learning culture and through this, he hopes to co-create a Learning Organisation, which embeds knowledge generation, dissemination and application as a cultural imperative.

We wish Prof. Govender an innovative, dynamic, unique and remarkable journey with us, and we certainly cannot wait for all Da Vincians to co-create with this mindful and deeply passionate Da Vinci scholar and leader.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Remarkable Business Leaders and Da Vinci Alumni

Profiling Steven Shepard and Cory Botha - Remarkable Business Leaders and Da Vinci Alumni that selflessly gave of their expertise to our examination process 

The Da Vinci Institute had the privilege of co-creating with two remarkable leaders and Da Vinci alumni that selflessly gave of their depth, insights, and experience in our postgraduate examination process in 2018. Each of them is remarkable in their own right and whilst their individual remarkability is evidenced below, their commonality is their willingness to give of themselves and their time to contribute to the examination process and thus, the personal development of the students’ that their skills benefited. Both Dr Steven Shepard and Mr Cory Botha are certainly contributors to Nelson Mandela’s vision that “Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become a head of the mine, that a child of farmworkers can become president of a great nation.” Steven and Cory, we salute you both for your immense contributions to the Da Vinci community and society at large.


Dr Steven Shepard is a prolific writer, with over 80 books on the market to his name, about a wide range of topics - including technology, writing, history, biography, leadership, photography, and even some children’s books. He works with companies to help them realise the power of technology at the human level, focusing on how to ensure that the technology works for them.

Steven has a rich and diverse academic history, having completed his undergraduate work at the University of California at Berkeley, where he graduated with degrees in Romance Languages (Romance Philology) and Biology. He went on to earn a Master’s degree in International Business. In 2009, he received his Ph.D. in the Management of Technology and Innovation from the Da Vinci Institute.

Immediately after graduating from Berkley, he began his career as a commercial diver and underwater cinematographer. He later entered the technology world and spent 11 years at Pacific Bell, followed by ten years with a consulting firm, before founding the Shepard Communication Group in 2000.

Steven is the epitome of living The Da Vinci Institute’s principles and dream - by giving back and impacting on the development of a sustainable society. Over the years, Steven has taught on Da Vinci programmes, assessed students and worked with Da Vinci staff on the development of new material. Steven explains that he sees Da Vinci as, “creating a culture of learning that transcends the school and extends deep into the lives of students.”

Engaging with Steven it is clear he is a man of rich interests, both fundamentally and professionally. He is deeply interested in the touchpoint between technology and people—how technology enables better healthcare, more effective education, more transparent government, expanded economic growth, and hope. Given his cinematographic background, coupled with his academic prowess and work experience in the management of innovation and technology, he is interested in different ways to deliver knowledge via podcasts, video, etc.

Visionary Elon Musk says that “I think it is possible for ordinary people to choose to be extraordinary.” Steven certainly is extraordinary, with his rich diversity, as he continues to author additional books, is a prolific speaker and inexplicable media producer. He also teaches about technology to various business executives and is involved with several universities such as Emory, the University of Southern California, UC Berkeley, several schools in Canada, and of course, the Da Vinci Institute in various capacities’.  Steven, we salute you for your contributions.


Mr Cory Botha is currently the Head of Project Management Office, Centre of Excellence, Eskom Rotek Industries, and a remarkable Da Vinci alumni having received his Master of Science in Technology and Innovation (cum laude) in 2012. Post-graduation Cory has remained as involved as ever with the Da Vinci Institute in various capacities.

Cory has a philosophy that espouses The Da Vinci Institute principles of building a sustainable society and the vision of being a leader that cultivates all those one co-creates realities with.  He believes that “as individuals, we should know that we are not singular in this journey and there should be a collective willingness to introspect, argue, acknowledge and authentically address the gap together for mutual reinforcement and mutual benefit. Together, we should push the conversation forward – deeper, broader and with each other.”

It is clear that Cory has a profound passion for research that is purposeful, beneficial and has a deep-rooted social impact. He is of the belief that business can learn a great deal from research output and with his visionary thinking, he has no doubt assisted many business executives to understand that business practice is grounded in theory and validated in practice, making him a catalyst in bridging the divide between academia and actual practices.

Physicist Stephen Hawkings once said “intelligence is the ability to adapt to change” and Corey is certainly a diverse individual who has built his career on being adaptable and a change agent. He was educated in light current electrical engineering in the 1970s but never got to practicing and working in that field because when he discovered the world of project management in his first job at Fluor International he was captivated. His combination of Engineering and Project Management skills are certainly formidable. His mentors advised him to look for employment as a project engineer and then as a full project manager. This led him to Dorbyl Industries and then Foster Wheeler Energy as a project engineer and finally, as a full project manager for Siemens. After completing his Siemens contract, Corey would go on to join the LTA subsidiaries, as the manager of their projects department. In 1990, Corey entered private practice as a project management consultant using his dynamic skill set and visionary approach to advise on project management development, lecturing in project management, developing project management systems and executing projects for clients. In 2006, he was recruited to support Eskom in their first new build project and in 2010 he joined Eskom Rotek Industries as the Head of the Project Management office, where he is still currently based.

As a Business Leader, Corey is an influencer in upskilling employees through education. This is because of his authentic belief in the power of education. He explains that “an organisation that encourages its employees to engage with academia and further their knowledge fundamentals, is bound to keep up with the ever-increasing performance demands and especially, with that rate of change.” He continues that he has “learnt that there is a pressing need for business executives and those who command business to adopt these principles, and themselves to seek that academic growth. It is regrettable that so often, those individuals in business who indeed strive to improve their academic prowess are often neglected and disregarded as “too academic”, and then, their suggestions towards improvement are devalued.” He believes that Da Vinci’s “mode 2 approach of developing employable knowledge is unique in preparing students to overcome this imbalance and assist them to deliver practical business solutions.”

Cory’s passion for learning and teaching is palpable and is reflected in his altruistic way of seeing education as a means to develop people. Engaging with Cory brings to mind a true educator, someone who believes that “education is improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and a world better than you found it” Marian Wright Edelman and that Cory certainly does. Cory lives by his word and to this end, plans to do ongoing lecturing and supervision of students, is currently researching and writing up his Ph.D. on the subject of dynamic imbalances between the temporary and permanent organising forms.  Corey does not believe he will ever slow down and post-retirement plans to remain as a consultant in the field of business strategy and institutionalising project management.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Da Vinci @ Work: Deelan Chetty Achieves Cum Laude

Life-long learning for some is a life philosophy. It is a way of living and approaching the world. For Deelan Chetty, he embraces this reality whole-heartedly. Having studied Information Technology straight after matric, Deelan restructured his focus to enter the logistics industry and went on to complete South African Customs modules 1 and 2, and International Forwarding.  To quench his hunger for knowledge, he has continued his learning through internal training whilst completing such programmes as leadership and employee development courses.

His thirst for learning more did not stop there and in June 2017, he enrolled for his Higher Certificate in the Management of Technology and Innovation with The Da Vinci Institute. “I am at a point in my career of 19 years where I need to constantly study and improve myself and the opportunity came about with Hellmann Worldwide Logistics and The Da Vinci Institute and I grabbed it. Experience can only take you that far; however, it is always good to back that experience up with a qualification.”

As many of us know, the challenge to balance working full time, studying part time and having family commitments can be quite a struggle. For Deelan, it was not an easy journey. “It required a lot of sacrifice. At first, it was difficult wearing the different hats and switching between family, work, study and play. I was lucky enough to have a strong support network in the office and at home and I was able to still achieve results and maintain control throughout.” Making it more difficult was the fact that Deelan resided in Durban. “I travelled to Johannesburg every month to attend my classes, so it was a lot of time away from home.”

“My position of Operations Manager (Air & Sea) at Hellmann is one that demands attention every minute of the day. I work in a fast paced and rapidly changing environment. My biggest challenge was working and studying and allocating time after hours to complete the programme”. Fortunately, the power of support from loved ones was imminent for Deelan. “I had a lot of support from my wife who was also studying at the time. She has inspired me to see the benefit in studying hard and the self-improvement that is derived from it.

“As a people manager, the programme set a tone of how to structure different leadership techniques and to manage and problem solve in a systematic way. It also taught me a lot about myself, my learning and personality style and how to engage with and identify other people’s learning styles.”

Through all the challenges on his learning journey, Deelan successfully graduated on 20 September 2018 at The Institute’s annual Graduation ceremony, held at the Linder Auditorium in Johannesburg. Not only, did he graduate, but also he achieved his qualification, Cum Laude. “It was an incredible experience graduating with my fellow colleagues and friends. One of my goals set out at the beginning of the programme was to achieve a Cum Laude and I accomplished it. Hard work and a positive mindset truly pay off.”

From his studies at The Institute, Deelan says he has learned that one has to take any opportunity to study seriously in order to make the biggest impact on one’s job. “As an operations manager for Hellmann Worldwide logistics, I take pride in learning as much as possible to, in turn; empower my people to achieve greatness and to lead by example. Prepare your mind, be committed, be dedicated, realize that it is not a task, but a learning journey of self-improvement.”

We would also like to acknowledge students from Hellmann Worldwide Logistics who graduated and achieved Top Achiever status. They are Elizabeth Marie Desancic for modules Managing Systems and Problem Solving, Creative Thinking and Decision Making, and Morne Erasmus for the Management of People module.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

High level of interaction on ResearchGate makes all the difference

Not all opensource research platforms are equally useful. This is the experience of masters graduate Cliff Brunette, who has registered on two platforms and found them vastly different.

“I published my dissertation on both ResearchGate and,” says Cliff, who completed his masters through The Da Vinci Institute in 2017. “With ResearchGate, I get constant feedback. I have 60 reads across the world already and get monthly updates about how many people have read my dissertation and responded. I have also been asked to review someone else’s project and to comment on it.”

His experience of the other platform is more one-sided. “I know it’s there, but unless I go back in, there’s nothing forthcoming. ResearchGate is very active.”

Cliff, a Learning Experience Specialist with Cornerstone Performance Solutions, is now working on his PhD through Da Vinci and is finding ResearchGate resources useful and beneficial.

“When anyone I have cited (in his master's dissertation) publishes a new article, I get notified and receive automatic access to their work. That is extremely relevant to me because of my field,” he says.

Cliff’s masters was about learning architecture and the role that personal significance plays in helping learners to co-create. For his PhD research, he is exploring learning architecture for a future Fourth Industrial Revolution world.

It’s a huge topic that affects everyone living in the 21st century, which is another reason why ResearchGate is helpful to Cliff. “You’re not limited to what is happening in South Africa; you’re playing on the international scene.”

Friday, 28 September 2018


Three and a half years ago, Mkhululi Moyo started a chapter of his life. It would be a start to something life-changing.  Mkhululi was no stranger to education, having completed his National Diploma in Computer Science. However, when enrolling with The Da Vinci Institute for his BCom (Business Management), he liked the experiential learning approach used and the emphasis on self-discovery, and the practical application of learning in a workplace.

His learning journey paralleled with full-time employment as he continued to work as a Software Developer in Global Markets Technology at Rand Merchant Bank (RMB). This was both life and career changing because Mkhululi soon realised that to get the most out of his BCom studies, he had to change his career and be in a role aligned to his BCom studies. Mkhululi then joined the Client Strategy team in Coverage. Part of Mkhululi’s struggles in balancing work and study lied in procrastination. “During the first half of year one, I would start working on my assignment close to the deadline. After going through the pressure of having to accomplish a lot within a limited time, I decided to overcome procrastinating and start doing my assignments early and completing them in time.”

This alignment of study and work became more integrated as Mkhululi started applying his learning in the workplace. His role as a Client Strategist at RMB includes driving the origination and retention strategy by providing deep corporate client and industry sector insights. “I enjoyed my experience of learning and working as I was able to apply most of my learning in my workplace. My work-based challenge was based on an existing situation within the RMB Global Markets technology division. I shared my research paper with my line manager and they were appreciative of the work I had done and committed to using the information from my research paper as input to make informed decisions.”

“When the energy was low my motivator was knowing that the theory I was learning in class was applicable in the real world of work and there were noticeable and immediate benefits in my contribution in the work that I was doing.” In this context, motivation and support came from those closest to him. “My wife who is an academic was very supportive. She helped to simplify some of the assignments that I was overthinking.”

Mkhululi Moyo graduated on 20 September 2018 at the Annual Da Vinci Graduation Ceremony and was awarded a Cum Laude for his BCom (Business Management) qualification. When asked how it felt, Mkhululi stated, “It felt good. I am pleased with myself. In fact, I am proud of having achieved the BCom qualification and the recognition I received for obtaining a Cum Laude. It is humbling to have been supported and provided with an enabling environment that has allowed me to unleash my potential.”

“Studying while you’re working is different from studying to complete your studies and get a qualification. It is beneficial because when you study and work you are not just dealing with theory, there is an existing work “sandbox” environment available to test and apply your learning. It is this experimental approach that will ensure that you will always remember what it is that you study. It becomes transformative because your contribution towards your work environment and society becomes fact based and is supported by credible sources.”

What is next for Mkhululi?

“I intend to study further. Da Vinci has cultivated in me the culture of being a learner and I intend to use education to equip myself with the knowledge to contribute meaningfully in corporate and entrepreneurial business initiatives in South Africa.”

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

In the big wide world of research, Marcus is not alone

At least 50 people from around the world have read Marcus Desando’s master’s dissertation since he uploaded it to ResearchGate, an opensource networking site for scientists and researchers.
He uploaded his dissertation about a year ago and it clearly struck a chord among other researchers, focusing as it does on leadership regeneration in the performing arts in South Africa.
“Initially, a few people followed me and after a while I realised my dissertation was being read by people all over the world, including the United States, Europe and India,” says Marcus, an alumnus of The Da Vinci Institute and CEO of the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT).
Marcus, who has since embarked on his Doctorate in management through Da Vinci, says ResearchGate has also made him aware of other researchers in his field, which could be useful as he makes progress with his Doctorate, which is about how to integrate the creative arts into the mainstream business.
“Sometimes I come across questions that other people have asked on ResearchGate where the answers might be relevant to my own research. An example was the question, ‘Do you think entrepreneurship principles can be applied to non-profit organisations?’,” he says.
This caught his attention since Marcus heads up an NPO and his Doctorate research is about how to integrate the creative arts into the mainstream business from the point of view of artists. “There tends to be a perception that the arts are a pastime or charity, and not revenue-generating.”
So it helps to know that the mainstreaming of the arts is a subject that concerns other researchers elsewhere, he says. “ResearchGate has opened my perception of the research world and the fact that there might be others out there who are doing similar work.”

The fine art of using ResearchGate: a Doctorate student’s experience

For several weeks, Da Vinci Institute Doctorate student Estie Serfontein had been struggling to find out more about the research technique known as “purposive sampling” and was having precious little luck. She turned to ResearchGate, an opensource platform for researchers around the world.

“I found an article that explained the different kinds of sampling and sizes and research paradigms. It helped me quite a bit,” says Estie, who has a master’s degree in fine arts and a day job as Quality Assurance Manager at Execujet, a private aviation jet company.

“Whenever I find a source on ResearchGate, it’s quite specific and explanatory, which is helpful,” she says, adding that she has also benefited from the platform’s Q&A Board. “I haven’t asked a specific question on this forum myself but have found quite useful information by looking at other people’s responses to questions that have been posted.”

Estie started her Doctorate in Technology and Innovation in April 2017 and is preparing a descriptive case study on process control systems in South African aviation. She became a member of ResearchGate a few months later, attracted by the concept of being part of a worldwide community of people with a lot of information and research experience.

“I’m not an expert researcher and it helps to be able to follow other researchers in my field,” Estie says.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to request automatic alerts when people doing similar research upload their work. “You add keywords connected to your project and profile, and receive alerts when someone using related keywords uploads material.”

Apart from following other researchers, ResearchGate members can ask the community for input on their work. From Estie’s experience, the response has not been overwhelming. She uploaded her research proposal in February 2018 and has had four reads so far but no specific responses.

She does not find this discouraging. “Once I have completed my first chapter in the near future, I’m sure I’ll be able to use ResearchGate and its functionalities much more to my advantage.”