By Charndré Emma Kippie
Born in Stellenbosch, Cape Town, Jackie Carroll who is the Managing Director of Optimi Workplace, is passionate about adult education and training, sharing knowledge and skills for adults to thrive and progress in the world of work. Previously the Co-Founder of Media Works, Jackie went on to work with the Optimi Group to empower individuals throughout South Africa through learning solutions. Today, she holds a Higher Diploma in Education and a Bachelor of Arts (English and History) from Wits University.
Optimi Workplace provides workforce training and community education material for corporates and the public sector. Media Works, a division of Optimi, is South Africa’s leading provider of adult education and training. The Optimi Group provides accessible learning solutions that support every step of your learning journey. Optimi provides offerings in four divisions: Home, Workplace, Classroom and College. Together, these divisions support more than 200 000 learners every year.
How did your journey with Optimi Workplace begin?
I co-founded the adult education and training company, Media Works, 25 years ago, and we sold our company, to what was then known as Future Learn, at the end of 2018. Future Learn evolved into The Optimi Group, a company that provides accessible learning solutions that support every step of the learning journey.
Optimi provides offerings in four divisions: Home, Workplace, Classroom and College. Together, these divisions support more than 200 000 learners every year. I am pleased to be the MD of Optimi Workplace, which provides workforce training and community education material for corporates and the public sector.
Why are you so passionate about Adult Education and Training?
I am committed to the principles of quality education. As a citizen of South African, I firmly believe in quality education for all. I know that this results in an improved quality of life for all. Quality education assists in the reduction of unemployment and crime. Improving education leads to greater economic benefits for South Africa. At the higher levels, the development of better skilled graduates empowers adults to be ready to meet the challenges of our ever-advancing economy.
At the lower education levels, increased literacy and numeracy skills among the less educated also deliver huge economic benefits. It creates the intellectual foundations for improved job performance, greater productivity and higher-level learning. This, in turn, enables more people to reach a decent standard of living, as determined by the United Nations.
Please could you tell us a bit about your background.
I have been married to my husband for the past 23 years and am a proud mother of two wonderful young adults. I always tell my family that being a mother and wife is a job from which I never want to retire. I am a teacher by profession and have always considered this to be my true calling. As a teacher, be it in a formal setting, or be it informally, in the home, we shape the future. This is a responsibility that I take very seriously.
Where does your keen interest in the POPI Act stem from?
At Media Works, as part of Optimi Workplace, we focus on sharing knowledge and skills for adults to thrive and progress in the world of work. We were interested in the POPI Act, as we saw an opportunity to untangle the perceived complexity of the act in a practical, accessible way, empowering people to not only become compliant as a business, but to utilise the knowledge about the protection of personal identity
Why do you see the POPI Act as an ‘opportunity’?
The enforcement of the POPI Act in South Africa demonstrates the country’s commitment to data security, and has the potential to improve its reputation as a trading partner.
“South Africa is waking up to the fact that POPI is an opportunity to leverage competition if we get it right. Businesses that show POPI compliance are more likely to earn the respect and loyalty of their customers and to increase their chances of local and international trading and success.” says Dr Peter Tobin, a POPI Act compliance specialist from IACT-Africa, who developed the content for our POPI Works course.
What 3 tips do you have for business to adapt to these new conditions and laws?
- My top tip to companies is to try to change your mindset on POPIA, and embrace it rather than fear it. Complying with the POPI Act isn’t only a legal imperative, it also makes sound business sense.
- We recommend that every employee should do a POPI training course, so that there is a clear understanding about what the act covers, and what their rights and responsibilities are as an individual and as a company.
- Once you have done your training and your business is fully compliant, make sure that your business has evidence of POPI compliance. We have seen that major corporate clients are receiving lawyers’ letters from their customers requesting evidence of POPI compliance. Those that are unable to supply this evidence are being removed from supplier lists.
In your opinion, what threats should businesses be on the lookout for?
One of the greatest myths about POPI is that the threats are primarily external and unknown. When businesses think of privacy violations they think of malicious hackers half a world away, devising intricate ways to breach complex security systems and access data. The reality is that a business’s greatest risk is often its employees. Your employees are dealing with personal information on a daily basis, and huge breaches can take place accidentally and inadvertently, by sending private information to the wrong person, for example. You have to prevent external violations, yes, but you’ve got to start by properly training your staff first.
As POPI comes into effect, many businesses may also see a major threat in the regulator, who could implement severe penalties if any contraventions are brought to light. But once again, businesses are much more likely to come under fire from customers who choose to go to the press or take their business elsewhere if their privacy is infringed upon. This may cause catastrophic reputational and business damage. The regulator is not your only concern.
Have you read any books that have inspired you and your business?
Richard Branson – The Autobiography. I consider him as the ultimate entrepreneur, so I found it very insightful.
Are there any outreach initiatives, social projects or community work that you’re involved with at the moment?
I am really passionate about animals, particularly dogs. We have five rescue dogs of our own! I support and work in a rescue, no-kill shelter in Stilfontein.
What advice do you have for women working in your field?
Follow your passion, you can never go wrong. If you do what you love, the money will follow. Believe in yourself, no one will believe in you more, so back the right horse – yourself. You know that you can do it! Don’t be afraid to ask for help, we have all been there and the people who know what they are doing, will help, you just need to ask and be prepared to listen.
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