You know you’ve met a powerhouse when after a citation of achievements has been read out as a speaker’s introduction, a young lady, answering to the prestigious title of Doctor gets up with a huge smile on her face and proceeds to effortlessly charm you and reel you in whilst simultaneously inspiring you with her wealth of knowledge and wisdom. As fate would have it, a couple of months after listening to her, our paths would cross again, this time through a ZNCC Business Mentorship Program I had signed up for, and this time, I would get more than just a brief glimpse into the workings of this remarkable lady. Dr Eldrette Shereni, as the pint sized dynamite goes, was to be my mentor for a year. The year came and went, but our relationship has stayed on since. And in that time, I have come to admire this lady immensely, both professionally and personally. And now, I have the pleasure of interviewing her so that you, dear reader, can have an appreciation of this phenomenal woman as well. I will confess to having a slight bias going in, but I’m pretty sure you’ll get to understand why before the end of my conversation with her.
We kicked off our conversation with how it all began for the good Doctor, this series of succeses and breaking of boundaries. Dr. Eldrette Shereni is the 7th child in a family of 8, the youngest of the girls and a 21st February baby. She attended David Livingstone Primary School before moving on to Franklin Delano Roosevelt for her Secondary education. A bright student who scooped multiple prizes growing up, the dream was always to become a doctor, initially a medical one, until a Biology Practical at O Level which involved the dissecting of a frog drastically put an end to that dream. “I knew from that moment that I was not cut out for operating on human beings…” (Laughs) Good thing though that ‘doctors’ don’t only have to be medically aligned and cutting people up is not a mandatory prerequisite. The lady still got her way, getting her doctorate (DBA) at the age of 36, and it’s been Dr. Eldrette Shereni ever since.
A few days after Dr Shereni’s last O Level exam, on the 2nd of December 1995, tragedy struck. Her mum suffered a stroke, consequently leaving her hemiplegic on the left side. All the older siblings had moved out by then, and were either married or living elsewhere, save for her young brother and herself. “That was a defining moment for me, where I realized I had to think like a mature adult and take on the responsibilities of running a household as my mum was now incapacitated.’’ She proceeded for her A Levels, where she took up Commercial subjects, and it is during that time that her Dad also retired from active employment. “Realising that I no longer had the luxury of going to college full time, my career journey commenced in 1998 soon after my A Levels, as a Trainee Manager at Wimpy Restaurant.” The money earned was used to raise funds to pay for her tertiary studies. “I had to balance work and studies my entire adult life, and even got my Masters’ degree barely 24 hours before going into labour to deliver my son in 2008. This ingrained a culture of discipline, hard work and determination to excel against all odds.’’ Dr Shereni describes her journey as a rocky one which taught her the value of hard work and commitment and gave her the ability to multi-task and continually sharpen her skills.
The professional journey which has led to this point in Dr. Eldrette’s career started 23 years ago and spans across different countries and sectors. Dr. Shereni has experience working both in Zimbabwe as well as in the United Kingdom. “I have been exposed to various sectors over the years namely Hospitality, Banking , Technology & Innovation, Insurance, Financial Services as well as Telecommunications, which vast exposure has broadened and deepened my knowledge base and made me a well-rounded individual with a deep understanding of the unique dynamics within each sector. I have worked at Wimpy as an Outlet Manager, then Msasa Guest House as a General Manager, Intermarket as a Global Access Brand Manager, Dilgenter Ltd UK as a Corporate Affairs Manager, First Mutual Life as Head Individual Life and Head Employee Benefits, CBZ as Head Group Marketing & Corporate Affairs and then NetOne Cellular as Head Marketing and Public Relations.
When she’s not having the big girl meetings around the boardroom table the good Doctor is an avid reader who makes it a point to read at least 3 or 4 books a month. She pays mind to investing into building the right networks across the globe. “I have worked with powerful leaders across the globe and have actively participated in global arenas such as the World Economic Forum on Africa held in Kigali in 2016; Women Economic Forum held in New Delhi India in 2017 and 2018 where I was conferred with 2 Global Awards – Iconic Woman Creating a Better World for All and Exceptional Woman of Excellence Award; Women Advancing Africa (WAA); Network of African Business Women (NABW) & New Faces New Voices which are part of the Graca Machel Trust; the Global Youth Leadership Summit – where I was a Global Youth Mentor in Graz Austria as well as the Africa Leadership Summit held in Joburg – all of which are under the Special Olympics International where I was promoting social inclusion for the differently abled-intellectual disabilities and pushing for a unified generation. I was also the President of the Lions Club of Harare West and attended the 99th Lions International Convention in Fukuoka Japan where I facilitated a LEO Leadership Summit.’’
Dr. Shereni is an astute strategic marketing professional who became a Chartered Marketer and Fellow in Marketing with The Chartered Institute of Marketing -CIM UK in 2008 and has maintained that Chartered status for the past 13 years. She has sat on the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe (MAZ) Board, is a member of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) National Executive Committee and Chair of the Public Relations, Branding & Communications Sub Committee. She was recently nominated to Chair the CSR Network of the Zimbabwe Advisory Board and was also nominated as the President of the Zimbabwe India Women International Chamber of Commerce and Industry – WICCI. ‘’I have learnt so much from these various interactions and engagements and invest my time in mentoring young women and girls from all walks of life as this gives me fulfilment. I find community development and volunteering towards various causes affecting marginalized and vulnerable groups extremely gratifying and believe that this passion has shaped my personality and strength of character. My journey so far has been an exciting and exhilarating one and I am confident that it will be onwards and upwards from here on, with greater opportunities in the horizon.” You would think that with the demanding roles she holds this lady would slow down a little but oh no… even with all this going on we unpacked what turns out to be her main hustle “My main hustle is Strategic Business Consultancy where I consult on various aspects of Marketing, Reputation Management, Corporate Citizenship, Brand Development & Positioning, Competitive Analysis, Customer Insights, Strategic Planning, Media Management, Diplomacy and Stakeholder Relations, Sustainable Community Development, Micro Insurance, Digital Transformation, Social Media Management, Business Efficiency and Innovation, Culture Transformation AND Leadership Training… only to mention a few’’ Add to that a recently discovered passion for gardening uncovered during Lockdown which she is “currently exploring further to see if it can bring out the hidden agronomist in me” and you wonder how many hours she gets in her day to do it all! An “all” that also includes, Events Management & Decor; Social Entrepreneurship where currently she is involved in setting up a social entrepreneurship hub in Bonda with a colleague; and NOW, the Elsherry Show, a show wherein a lot of topics which would normally be covered during mentorship sessions as well as girl child symposiums will be brought online to assist young people and girls where physical access may be a challenge during this Covid season.
Dr. Shereni, or simply Doc, as she is known by many in her circle, also opened up about her private life. “I am a firm believer in strong family values and the importance of having a healthy work-life balance. I am happily married to a very supportive husband, Nyasha, and we have two wonderful children, Mariah and Jayden. I believe that for one to be successful they need to have clarity of purpose in all their endeavours. I developed my personal and professional roadmap at a young age and knew exactly what I wanted to become and worked tirelessly towards achieving it. I must say it has not been an easy road, and that I have experienced my fair share of challenges along the way, which I have overcome by remaining true to myself and authentically me.
“Women must work twice as hard to get half the recognition, therefore my work ethic has been premised on hard work, integrity, and innovation. Growing up as a very short woman, who got several nicknames in school..Shorty, Hottentot…I told myself I could be as tall as I wanted which is where my passion for very high stilettos stems from. As a woman, I have set high standards for myself and have ensured that every opportunity I have unlocked in my life has been based on merit. Every challenge, every sticky floor I have unstuck myself from, every glass ceiling I have shattered through have all moulded me to become wiser and I have leveraged on the key learnings from each difficult situation in my life and used them as a foundation for my success, and to unleash my hidden potential within. I am bold, daring and fearless and am quite an adrenalin junky who loves adventure as well as experiencing the cultures across the various countries I have visited. I have gone to the Sumo Arena in Japan to learn some sumo wrestling, I have swung on elephant tusks and I have gone swimming with the sharks…” And these only but a few of the daring escapades this dynamite has undertaken. “My friends and family call me a thrill seeker because of my thick skin and fearless nature. I am also the resident ‘pleasure manager’ and ‘party animal’ whenever I get a chance to let my hair down and unwind. My motto is work hard and play even harder – you only live once and if you do it well, once is all you need’’
And with that, we wrap up an enthralling conversation with an even more enthralling woman. As I reflect on the many things we touched on, her journey, the hurdles she has faced along the way and how they have all shaped and sharpened her into the force that she is today, I am struck again, even now, some years after our first encounter, by her unique ability to effortlessly charm and simultaneously inspire, to present as both an equal and yet one immeasurably superior… And perhaps, this unique quality to be so relatable even as she is clearly heads and shoulders above; that is the palpable power and magic that is Dr. Eldrette Shereni.
By: Cheurombo Pswarayi