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How Did I Get Here? Gabi Nesengani, HR Director, Cummins Diesel South Africa

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Gabi Nesengani, Human Resources Director, Africa regional distribution organisation for Cummins Diesel South Africa explains why she’s delighted to be working in an organisation which treats people as more than just a number.


1. How strategic is your current role and what does it involve?
My current role is very strategic. I’m responsible for HR for Cummins Diesel South Africa (CDSA) which comprises: seven branches & head office in South Africa. Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. We are in the process of expanding into Africa i.e. Kenya, Ghana and Angola.

CDSA is a wholly owned subsidiary of Cummins Incorporated (Cummins Inc), a public company listed on the New York Stock Exchange with an annual turnover of approximately $US 6 billion. Cummins Inc. is the biggest independent manufacturer of diesel engines in the world with engines ranging from 200 Hp to 3500 Hp for automotive, rail, industrial, construction, power generation and general application purposes.

Cummins Inc. is a truly global company doing business in almost a 150 countries and having manufacturing plants in North America, the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia.

The strategic part includes organisational structure, recruitment and staffing, compensation and benefits, policies, training and development. Cummins is a multinational company, headquartered in Columbus, USA. I have to implement corporate policies and initiatives designed in USA within different regions in Africa. Africa is multicultural and governed by different country laws.

2. How is the HR function perceived within your organisation?
It is seen as an integral part of the business. HR plays a key role in decision making.

3. How does your business use HR practices to get ahead?
I’m associated with external networks and subscribe to HR publications. This helps keep abreast of developments within the HR world. HR is central to a lot of the business processes and decisions. HR is visible in a lot of company activities.

4. Why is your company such a great place to work?
Cummins has a set of values which are very much aligned to my personal value system. Policies are mainly principle based. I work in an environment of support and caring, I’m more than just a number. There is a lot of investment in people and their development.

5. How does HR win hearts and minds in your business?
By being a strategic business partner, tying in HR decisions to the bottom line. How will HR activities add value to the business? At the same time, HR strives for a win-win situation where employees are concerned. Sometimes it is tough to balance the business needs and employee needs.

6. Will HR survive outsourcing and changes to service delivery?
Definitely, HR should embrace change and use outsourcing to its advantage. Outsourcing will help HR to work more like consultants and do the things that matter vs. being seen as an admin/personnel department.

7. What’s the new skill set of HR?
Ease of using technology, cross cultural management (very important for Cummins which is American owned and South Africa manages Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana!), new retention strategies, talent management, diversity management, competitive rewarding and recognition.

8. What’s the worst thing about working in HR and the best?
You never seem to shut off from work. The best is that no two days are the same. There is non-stop challenge. Also, I work with great people and this makes all the hard work worthwhile.

9. What are the key issues preventing HR professionals from getting a seat on the board?
Not being assertive enough about the important issues, i.e. taking a back seat. Not understanding the business and not showing how HR work adds value to the business.

10. If you have a mantra/motto what is it?
Whatever I do, I give it my best shot.

11. What are you currently reading?
Seven things that steal your joy by Joyce Meyer and Power of a praying wife.

12. What would be your desert island disc?
Cece Winans – the CD is titled ‘The Throne Room.’

13. If you could have lunch with three famous people, dead or alive who would they be and why?

  • J Irwin Miller- late chairman of Cummins Inc. His belief in people and drive for diversity shaped the Cummins values. In spite of this, he was still an astute business man.

  • Nelson Mandela – his unselfish willingness to forgive ensured that a lot of South Africans were able to have a better future than was previously possible.

  • Richard Branson – he always pushes the limits. An entrepreneur.

14. If you’d like to be remembered for one thing what is it?
Someone who always tried to make the world better.

Previous career profiles can be seen on the How Did I Get Here? page.


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Annie Hayes

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