From the moment Salela set eyes on a Sunday newspaper advertisement for Brand SA’s UK Country Head vacancy in 2014, she knew the job was in line with both her purpose and personal promise she’d made when former President Nelson Mandela had awarded her a scholarhsip.

She drove to her interview at Brand SA’s head office with gospel track Akekho Ongavalaby Thobekile blaring from the speakers. “The song’s message is that no-one human can ever close the doors of opportunity God has opened for us,” she explains.

When the security guard at the entrance to the premises asked whether that was really true, an assured Salela replied: “My God is about to open this Brand SA door for me!”

“I prayed in the parking lot and before entering the building,” she recalls now. And just before beginning the interview, she told the panelists: “I just thought I should let you know that this is my dream job.”

THE BRAND SA JOURNEY

That panel interview was only the beginning of a gruelling process which included a full day of psychometric tests, more interviews, being shortlisted and a six-month wait before finally receiving a favourable response from Brand SA.

“When I eventually got the call, I was told I’d have to leave for the UK in a month’s time. In those years, my suitcase was always strategically placed at my bedroom door to accommodate last-minute trips. Becoming the Country Head to the UK is my calling,” she says.

Salela’s yearning to serve SA was sparked at a send-off ceremony in 2003, when Madiba met 10 Nelson Mandela Scholarship recipients, including her. As he shook each student’s hand, he said: “You are my ambassador – you carry my name.” These words inspired her to look beyond a traditional marketing role when she returned to SA after completing her MBA studies at the UK’s University of Leicester.