African Academy
Alumni Christinah Mdhluli – A First for Woman in the Edcon Group

Twelve years ago, Christinah Mdhluli had her head down hard at work on her N3 Technical Certificate in Mechanical Fitting and Turning at the Joburg Technical College, when fate stepped in and steered her in the direction of African Academy, and a future brighter and more fulfilling than she could ever have imagined.

Having always had a strong desire to be in drafting, Christinah had opted for courses in Mechanical Drawing - the only route into this field known to her at the time - initially through Witbank Technical College where she completed her N1 and N2 Courses, and later at the Joburg Technical College.

It was a stroke of luck, good fortune and perfect timing when she ran into an old friend, who shared his exciting experience as a student at African Academy at the time, and enlightened her as to the various courses on offer in her field. With her interest piqued and her eyes more firmly on the goalposts of a career in drafting, Christinah made some inquiries and in 1995 she registered for a one year course in General Drafting – the equivalent of her N4 and N5.

The course impressed Christinah with its focus on diverse disciplines ranging from Mechanical Drafting to much-needed Office Orientation and other skill sets which she was confident would stand her in good stead as she prepared to enter the job market the following year.

Her confidence was well-founded. In February of the following year, 1996, Christinah attended an interview set-up for her by the Academy Administrator, now Dean, Debbie Prinsloo with the Edcon group and in recognition of her well-regarded qualification from the Academy, her talent, and her willingness to learn, she was employed as the first-ever woman to work in Edcon’s In-house Drawing Office, where she was put to work designing layouts for all new and revamped stores under the Edcon banner.

Christinah’s story does not end there. During her seven years spent in the Edcon Drawing Office, she went from not knowing the first thing about store layout and retail principles to mastering the art and applying her mind beyond just the store design to the implementation and roll-out of the project itself. She sought to improve the practicality of her drawings by understanding more about the implementation and execution of the design through asking questions and affiliating herself with mentors who could appreciate her willingness to learn and extend herself.

She quickly proved herself as an untapped talent, worth developing and growing on the Project Implementation side. On her own initiative, she enrolled for a Architectural Drafting Course at Inscape, following which she completed a course in Project Management at Damelin, and is now working in Project Management at Edcon where she is involved in the design of the store layout, as well as the full-scale implementation of the roll-out strategy or revamp – a position she finds ‘very fulfilling and rewarding.’

Christinah attributes a large part of her corporate success to the excellent grounding she received, and the skills she was able to develop at African Academy. She says, with sincerity: ‘If it weren’t for African Academy, I would never have been exposed to the opportunity of working for the Edcon Group, nor would I have known or acquired all the different disciplines required for a successful career in drafting, and realised the many directions in which drafting can take your career. It has opened so many doors for me.’

Now that Christinah has cut through the gender tape in the industry and proven the diverse applications and career paths that a drafting qualification from African Academy allows for, all other aspiring draftswomen should find inspiration in her success and be motivated to pursue a career that knows no limits.
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