We had the good fortune of connecting with Hermence Matsotsa and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Hermence, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
According to the Science Direct Advances in Psychology Journal, risk taking is any consciously or non-consciously controlled behavior with a perceived uncertainty about its outcome, and/or about its possible benefits or costs for the physical, economic, or psycho-social well-being of oneself or others. In a nutshell this definition describes my life and career journey. The concept of taking risks I inherited from both of my parents. My mother a young Gabonese woman who defied her tribe’s cultural norms and expectations and risked falling in love and choosing my father, a young American man who accepted the call made by President Kennedy and joined the Peace Corps as a construction volunteer in a village on a continent he knew little about. Together, they were tone deaf to the opinions on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean who told them their union was blasphemy, and perceived past the cultural norms, language and educational barriers, and racial systems that existed then and still do now. My parents raised my sister and I to not allow our fear of the unknown and the judgement of others keep us from experiencing a memorable adventurous life. As result, at the age of 19 after having taken may journeys across the globe and my parents taking additional risks with us in tow, I spun the globe one evening and my finger landed in Ecuador, South America. Two months later, I was packing my bags, saying goodbye to my college friends, and with my passport heading to the airport to start a nine-month adventure, this time on my own without the protection of my parents to a country I knew little about the culture or language. Two years, later I was on another long flight, passport in hand following my father’s footsteps to Togo, West Africa to join the Peace Corps. Sixteen years later, I skydive my way to the world of entrepreneurship this time with a supportive husband and a 2-year-old daughter leaving federal public health government career simply to have the opportunity to define, design, and make the impact I want to see in the world. Since then, my life and career have been a collection of such life changing decisions and adventures, which have directly led to my personal and professional growth. All have been based on my need to consciously and at times unconsciously behave with a perceived uncertainty about the outcome, and/or about possible benefits or costs for the physical, economic, or my psycho-social well-being and that of others. Taking risks to achieve my personal and career goals has come with its challenges, however more importantly, it has allowed me to better define, embrace the failure, and success and the courage needed to face them both. My life’s greatest achievements have always required me to have the courage to step out of my comfort zone, face uncertainty with faith, seize opportunities and appreciate moments when they present themselves. Instead of asking myself “What If..” I ask, “What now and how?”
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
uBuntuSpeaks (UBUNTU) is a U.S.- based workforce performance development, communication, and organizational culture change training and facilitation consulting firm. We specialize in three core areas: 1. Critical (soft) skills strengthening and capacity building 2. Diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI), cultural competence and communication 3. Team building and employee engagement We dedicate ourselves to building the critical and practical skills, capacities, and competencies of career professionals. We use evidence-based, cross-cutting, hands-on workforce performance development training strategies using adult learning principles, which successfully lead to: • Increased job satisfaction and morale among employees • Increased employee motivation and employee engagement • Increased efficiencies in processes, resulting in financial gain • Increased understanding of how people from different cultures communicate, engage and perceive the world around them • Increased innovation in strategies and products • Achievement of positive work performance outcomes • Reduced employee turnover My business’ core values and approach sets us apart from other businesses in the same field. Our core values originate from the UBUNTU South African philosophy of human interconnectedness, which holds three principles. 1. I am who I am because we all are 2. My humanity is caught up is inextricably bound up, in what is yours 3. Respect for others, helpfulness, kindness, community, sharing, caring, trust, and unselfishness My consulting team and I have a strong passion for “human-potential resource” optimization. We strongly believe in the South African philosophy of human interconnectedness — “I am who I am because of who we all are. We encourage our forward-thinking and thought-leading clients adopt the UBUNTU’s core philosophy and values to maximize the performance of their workforce. I am most proud of the leadership across cultures training, culture facilitation, and diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging 1;1 coaching, and mentoring we have conducted with federal, non profit organization workforce, and early public health career professionals in the United States and internationally. Our work has allowed individuals to better understand, appreciate, and advocate for the lived experiences of others regardless of their race, gender, sexuality, culture, economic, employment status. I founded my business in April 2018 after I was informed of the possibility that my federal Public Health advisor position with the Centers of Disease may not be renewed the following fiscal year October 2018 due to program funding cuts. I decided at that moment that I no longer wanted to live with this constant uncertainty I had experienced for the past seven years, but rather take the risk and do what I was doing for CDC on my own terms however difficult and challenging it may be. As a wife and mother of a two-year-old, I knew starting a business with no start up capital would be more than a mountain to climb. However, what I did not realize was how much time would be required to learn how to effectively establish and operate a consulting business. There was so much to learn and complete. I felt like I was going back in university and majoring in business and entrepreneurship. I quickly learned that knowing one’s financial status and learning how to budget was key to surviving when profits are slow coming in and savings are quickly going out. As soon as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic became part of everyone’s reality, I knew I had to pivot the way I delivered my training and facilitation services. It could no longer be in person by now had to meet my clients virtually. Additionally, networking, creating partnerships, teaming up, and sharing resources with other business entrepreneurs during this time was key our survival. I realize more and more everyday how blessed I am to have had the support and mentorship of other entrepreneurs, especially other women who took the time to remind me of my purpose, passion, impact, and risk-taking spirit. These women shared their stories, resources, and time to ensure I too would succeed. It is in them that I knew the UBUNTU philosophy of human interconnectedness was alive and I was directly the recipient of them choosing to embody and practice it. I have chosen UBUNTU as my business brand not only because it sets it apart, but because it what I believe our world can aspire to be. A world where no person is alone and knows that their humanity, success, and prosperity is directly tied to that of others! Hence, I am who I am because we all are!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Eat/Dining 1. Desta Ethiopian – Best Ethiopian food in the State. The atmosphere and customer service is the best. 2. Bones Restaurant- Seafood and great mixed drinks 3. Kat’s Cafe – Live Soul Music and food 4. Surin of Thailand – Thai food 5. Slutty Vegan – Amazing Vegan food Sight seeing/History 1. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park – Atlanta, GA 2. Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum – Atlanta, GA 3. Georgia Botanical Garden -Atlanta, GA 4. Stone Mountain Park – Stone Mountain, GA 5. Tellus Science Museum – Cartersville, GA Fun/Adventurous things to do: 1. Skydive Georgia- Cendartown, GA 2. Stone Summit Climbing Atlanta- Atlanta, GA 3. Rolling Thunder River Company (Whitewater Rafting)- McCaysville, GA 4. Treetop Quest Dunwoody (zip Lining) – Dunwoody, GA 5. Atlanta Motorsports Park – Dawnsonville, GA
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to recognize Tonia Morris, CEO of Simply HR Inc for her continuous business mentorship and support especially during these unprecedented COVID-19 years. I also want to give credit to Jacqueline V. Twillie, CEO of ZeroGap Women’s Leadership Strategist who reminded me of my risk-taking spirit and courage when I most needed it to launch my uBuntuSpeaks, LLC (UBUNTU) consulting firm. Additionally, I want to give credit to the founders of Women’s Entrepreneurial Opportunity Project, Inc (WEOP). Founders, Antoinette and Marionette Ball have created a supportive and resourceful platform that has allowed me to learn, grow, and connect with other entrepreneurial women in Georgia.
Other: www,ubuntuspeaksllc.com – Global Health Workforce Development Consulting https://www.ubuntuworkforce.com/online-prof-development-courses/ – Professional Career Development Online Courses