Real Careers: Tholo Motaung

Exceptional EA showcases Real Careers, in which administrators from around the globe generously share the benefit of their experience. We’ve made virtual trips to Belgium, Brazil, Canada, England, Germany, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, the USA and Wales, and now make our way to Johannesburg, South Africa to visit with Tholo Motaung.

Tholo Motaung is Administrator to the Director: Corporate Affairs Department at Vaal University of Technology. Here’s a look at his world.

An Early Start, and a Brief Commute

I wake up at 5:00, have a morning devotion and take 45 minutes at the gym every second day. I take a shower and then have a quick breakfast.

I am blessed to be living close to my workplace. I drive for only 10 – 15 minutes. I usually listen to the national radio station on my way to work so as to keep abreast of current affairs.

At the Office

Morning Routines: I always fetch copies of four different newspapers which I go through first thing in the morning to identify any sector-related news that we have to archive. I update the Director’s diary and go through e-mails.

Primary Responsibilities: I manage all the administrative/secretarial functions of the Director’s office and provide administrative support to all seven departments that report to the Director. My manager is responsible for ensuring that the Institution’s brand, public relations and marketing initiatives are implemented successfully. She is always busy, and I have to ensure that she gets the necessary support as promptly as possible in order for her office to be productive.

A typical day starts with reading newspapers, updating the diary and managing emails. I then attend to tasks that my manager provides. However, each day is different – which is what makes my job exciting, as I cannot predict how it will turn out.

How long is your work day? A typical day is eight to 10 hours. I prefer to be in the office between 7:30 and 7:45, which gives me enough time to settle in before my manager arrives. I depart the office between 4:30 and 6:00.

IMG_9639What might be a typical lunch? My typical lunch is eaten at the desk, hence I prefer to take a lunch box which is either a sandwich or a good meal.

Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? I sometimes work on the diary and attend to urgent e-mails at home, either late at night or in the morning.

Dealing with Challenges

What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? Corporate Affairs is a fast paced environment and requires one to be able to prioritise effectively and pay attention to detail. Ensuring that effective and professional services are provided to our internal and external customers, as this has a major impact on our brand, is important and challenging.

Communicate expectations and deal breakers in the work relationship

What do you most enjoy about your career? Providing efficient support to my manager, colleagues and customers is fulfilling, as it translates to achievement of the Departmental goals.

On Saying “No”

I do not say “no” to people often, unless there is a good reason. It is important to provide a good reason  and offer other options / alternatives, if they are available, when one says “no” to another person. If I always say “yes” to everything, then I run the risk of being overloaded or transgressing the set rules, in which case I will be found incompetent and/or unreliable.

Always saying “yes” to everything? You run the risk of being overloaded

Tholo’s World

Map of worldI was born in a small town called Kestell, which is next to the beautiful Drakensburg Mountains. I am currently based in Vanderbilpark, which is in the southern part of Johannesburg.

I am a city guy who thrives on the demanding and fast paced life, but I take time to recharge out of the city.

What song or two are we likely to find you singing along to when driving, or if no one’s listening? Because of You by Mmatema, and No More Night by Joyous Celebration 19

Away from the office, I attend events such as food, coffee, chocolate and wine festivals; I also go to market places. How do you pamper or reward yourself after a tough day or week? I spend time with family or watch a good movie.

 A dream holiday or travel adventure? Camping, fly fishing and hiking

Education and Professional Development

Education: Education has assisted in acquiring the skills and knowledge that helped me to be competent in my work and have the ability to understand governance, management and operational matters.

Be dynamic and willing to learn from the job, colleagues and formal education

Peer and Professional Associations: I have been a member of The Association for Office Professionals of South Africa (OPSA) for 10 years, and it has helped me to stay abreast with current trends and information regarding professional development.

I am now serving as a Board Director of The Association for Office Professionals of South Africa.



Preferred form(s) of social media? 

  • Facebook: Tholo Motaung
  • Instagram: motaungt
  • Twitter: @016Motaung
  • LinkedIn: Tholo Motaung

They help me to keep in contact with the world and friends.

Your dream app, or software, to help you in your career? A software that will assist in taking minutes at meetings

Awards and Recognition

I was the 2014 Runner-up in the Leadership category for South African Office Professional of The Year Award.

Maintaining professional conduct is of utmost importance

Style and Substance

Nordstom Mens' Ties Copyright Shelagh DonnellyWhat are your go-to pieces to ensure confidence on an important day in the workplace?
 That would be a blue shirt, maroon tie and a grey formal jacket. Formal wear is important to give a professional look in the workplace.

Your favourite mens’ wear brand? LM Tailored Suits by Linda Makhanya (Sandton, South Africa)

Preferred scent: Tsar cologne for men by Van Cleef & Arpels

What might we find in your desk drawer? Anything I may need for a day in the office, and a Snacker Bar

Travel or travel planning advice? The most important aspect for me is to ensure that I develop an itinerary in addition to the one provided by a travel agent, as it assists in ensuring that all travel aspects are covered. The other important aspect is to ensure that insurance is sourced for the trip.

Inspirational reads? Winning the Battle for Relevance, by Michael McQueen

Role models or mentors? I have always looked up to Zelda La Grange (PA to Nelson Mandela) as a source of inspiration because she was able to support a man who became a world icon. Despite the rife political challenges that were faced by the country, she focused on understanding his vision and still keeps his spirit and values alive.

Allow yourself to learn, as organisations are constantly changing

Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. I’m proud of moving from being a Paramedic and starting in the administrative fraternity as a receptionist, and then working my way up to being an administrator in the office of the director.

Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? I am planning to contribute more to the development of the profession, through empowering office professionals with the relevant and current skills necessary in the fraternity.

Lessons Learned

What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive/principal? Communicate expectations and deal breakers in the work relationship, and define the work style required to be able to build a good working relationship.

Take initiative, and be dynamic

Your most effective time management strategy? I plan and keep to my schedule, but also make room to accommodate any urgent issues that may arise.

Advice for a new mother working to the workplace? Allow yourself to learn again, as organisations are constantly changing.

Advice for new executives on how to best capitalise on having an assistant, and working with one: Clarify expectations, value the support and maintain effective communication. Allow an assistant to provide support and manage the office using his/her own work style, within the set parameters.

For those interested in promotion: Take initiative, be dynamic and willing to learn from the job, colleagues and formal education. Maintaining professional conduct is of utmost importance.


… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Tholo referenced may be interested in checking the following links. To explore a range of resources recommended by readers, click here for Exceptional EA’s Resources Page or click here to see all professional associations and networks recommended by peers.

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