Alumni Magazine Edition 6

Duane Schroder: From Intern to Vice-President

do in the future. Here we are 19 years later, and I am still in the career that I studied for.” From Reservation Agent to General Manager of several hotels in South Africa to fulfilling key roles in American establishments, Schroder has also achieved several commendations in his life, including the 2007 Radisson President’s Award as well as improving business and satisfaction metrics. However, Schroder count among his career highlights the practical experiences that students were afforded while studying. After graduation, he worked at Caesars Gauteng for about six months in the reservation department and, while working there, he heard that he had been selected as the recipient of the Internship Program for Waterford Hotel Group in the US. Having left South Africa in 2002, he has grown his career with Waterford Hotel Group over the past 18 years. This opportunity, he says, was the single biggest “moment of my career” and put him on the trajectory to where he is today. Having the opportunity to be mentored by other University of Johannesburg alumni, such as Len Wolman, and be a part of his organisation, was also “career defining”. Looking ahead, Schroder aims to continue growing the Waterford Hotel Group, and is also a dedicated family man. “I will ensure that my children are afforded the opportunities I was, specifically for their education.” He also spends time developing people, either through mentorship of people he works with or being involved on the board of the UJ School of Tourism and Hospitality. “Any area or time that one can dedicate to assisting other people has an effect on that person that cannot be measured. While the effort might be small, the impact is large.” Perhaps these are qualities Schroder inherited from his mother, whose drive to educate continues to inspire him. “There is a lot to be said for the foundations that are built at a young age and how that shapes your focus and adaptability in difficult times.”

US-based Boitumelo Makona, who is currently a Senior Consultant in Accounting Advisory for CrossCountry Consulting, is one of those people who sees herself succeeding at something, and sets about doing it. Having set her sights on a degree in commerce during her high school, and after falling in love with the University of Johannesburg campus, Makona has been working in the United States since 2019 after initially having had a successful career in South Africa. Born in the Eastern Cape, Makona spent the first few years of her life in Mqanduli with her grandmother before moving to Johannesburg to live with her parents. Initially, she lived in Lawley (south of Johannesburg), until her father passed away when she was 11. She then moved to Lenasia South with her mom and siblings where she lived until she completed matric. At school, “I was very dedicated to my work and was probably one of the few children who enjoyed being at school. My father encouraged a strong work ethic and always said I could do anything I put my mind to. These lessons stuck with me even after he died.” Makona also attributes some of her success to “amazing teachers who contributed to this culture, who were supportive and cultivated a great learning environment”. As a result, Makona wanted to be a teacher, but she realised that someone could teach even if they weren’t in a classroom. “Over the years, I focused on my strengths as well as other things I was passionate about. This pushed me in the direction of accounting. I also discovered that a career in commerce would create endless possibilities and I could achieve great financial success so I would be able to help others.” A university degree was always on the cards, although it took Makona a while to decide what to study. She started collating information about various options in Grade 11 and then attended open days at the University of the Witwatersrand and Johannesburg. “I then went to the UJ open day to join some of

BOITUMELO MAKONA: paving her own way

you’ve planned it, so you always need to be open to change. What you have planned for yourself isn’t as great as what God has planned for you.” Working even harder to fulfil a promise to finish the degree, she made Top 10 in her class of over 500 students in 2015 and was then chosen as one of the Academic Trainees for the 2016 year at EY in Johannesburg. It was here that her dream of being a teacher was also fulfilled at that point and the ACC200 class she was assigned to added so much to this passion. After her tenure with EY, it was time to decide whether to “stay with this great company or move out of my comfort zone”. Makona chose to move to the States and is currently staying in Missouri. Currently, Makona is planning a wedding and hopes to be fortunate enough to help more students who need funding and provide other support to get through school. “I was given a chance by those who believed I could achieve great things and I want to be able to do that for someone else.”

my friends. I spoke to a few people and walked around the campus. For some reason, I just saw myself there as a student. My favourite part was the fountain area on the way to the student centre and one person told me that was where all the graduates took pictures. I just felt right at home.” Makona felt so at home that she only applied at UJ, and was extremely relieved, and excited when she received her provisional acceptance letter. She started with a BCom Accounting degree in 2011 (this was before they introduced the Bachelor in Accounting Science course) which she completed in 2013 before completing a BCom Honours in Chartered Accounting (also referred to as CTA) in 2015. Among her varsity highlights, she counts being accepted to stay at the Kruinsig Ladies’ Residence, while her low point was having to repeat a year to finish her CTA, which she couldn’t finalise due to personal reasons. “This was definitely one of the lowest points in my life, I felt like I had failed at life. As horrible as this was, this is where I learned one of my greatest life lessons. Not everything goes according to how

“Growing up, I had aspirations of becoming a pilot and flying huge airplanes for the rest of my life. I applied to be part of SAA Cadet Training programme but, unfortunately, I was not selected for that course.” Instead, he studied a National Diploma in Hotel Management at what was then the Technikon Witwatersrand, which he finished in 2001. In 2004, this diploma was converted into a BSc degree. Schroder, who has a rich history of climbing the ladder in the hospitality sector, says education has always been a priority for his family. “It forms the basis for the entry to your career of choice.” His mother ensured the children were educated, and his pre-admission requirement of six months’ experience in his chosen field has also stood him in good stead. “Those six months working in hotels after High School was a great way to get experience and determine if this was something that I wanted to

Duane Schroder, Vice-President of Operations for the Waterford Hotel Group in the United States, was never the best scholar, but a family commitment to education and having to spend six months in his chosen career before being able to study helped him grow his career internationally. Schroder, who was born in Kempton Park and raised in Edleen in west Kempton Park until he moved to the United States in 2002, describes himself as being a less than stellar scholar in primary and high school, even though education is a priority for the family. “As a scholar, I probably could have applied myself a little more to my studies, but I was able to make it through high school, even if it did give my mother additional unneeded grey hairs.” Schroder, a former Edleen Primary School and St Benedict’s College student, moved into the hotel industry early in life, despite his dreams of being a pilot.




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