Sipokazi Sokanyile: “It’s Not an Impossible Dream to Take Your Talents Abroad”

2021 Momentum gsport Awards Woman in PR & Sponsorship winner Sipokazi Sokanyile is venturing into a new path in her journey as she joins the Media & Comms department at the ICC. Photo: Sipokazi Sokanyile (Instagram)

2021 Momentum gsport Awards Woman in PR & Sponsorship winner Sipokazi Sokanyile is venturing into a new path in her journey as she joins the Media & Comms department at the ICC.

After 13 years of serving as the media liaison at Cricket South Africa, Sokanyile has accepted the challenge to take her career to the next level.

As a determined and driven woman in the sport media space, Sokanyile has never shied away from being vocal about her ambitions to represent South Africa abroad, as well as her future plans to lead Cricket South Africa.

Sipokazi Sokanyile’s Rise to International Media Star

Sokanyile is currently smashing her goals and hopes that her global appointment inspires other women to realize that their dreams are valid.

Speaking with Celine Abrahams, Sokanyile chats about the power of recognition and reveals her greatest ambition for women in sport.

 

Sipokazi, thank you so much for taking time out to chat! First up, congratulations on your recent appointment at ICC! Please tell us about your move.

Thank you so much for this opportunity! This is a very exciting move because I’ve been at Cricket South Africa for 13 years, I have literally walked the journey from mini-cricket all the way to the Proteas, which almost kind of feels like that primary school all the way to high school graduation, where you know all the aspects of the game from an administrative point of view. And now, this move feels like the reward for having conquered all of those spaces and done well enough to be recognised by an entity and board like the ICC.

I am really grateful and very excited to begin this new journey and I can’t wait to see what it brings.

 

How did this opportunity come about?

I’ve been in touch with most of the staff members from the ICC that I met while I was at the ICC Men’s World Cup which was in England. I worked for the Media and Comms team and I made really good friends with the staff members there, in particular with the Head of Department. I have never been shy about making my intentions clear about where I want to go and the fact that I have always wanted to work for the ICC – it’s always been a personal goal of mine. Having had the opportunity to work in that department for a short period of time, I was able to get an inside look, almost a peak into how they go about their business, the impact that they have on world cricket and I was drawn and impressed.

I’ve always told Claire Furlong, who is the Head of the Department, how much I would love to be part of her team on a permanent basis. As soon as an opportunity came about, I jumped at it! And, here we are today (laughs).

 

Has it dawned upon you yet that you will be representing South Africa at the world governing body of cricket?

Ha, ha, I’ve been taking in taking this job in small increments because it has been so overwhelming. It means leaving home, it means leaving my family, leaving everything that I know behind, leaving my country that I absolutely adore and…it has sunk in bit by bit. I am really excited for it and I am looking forward to the journey, to seeing what I can do next.

I am very well aware of what I am capable of here in South Africa and I am also aware of what I need to do in order to be able to one day come back to South Africa and make a bigger impact. So, I do believe that this is the right move and that whatever I learn where I am going is going to facilitate what I need to have in place for when I do return.

 

How has your family reacted to your ground-breaking achievement?

They have been very supportive and are very excited for me. In fact, it was my parents who encouraged me to take the job because I was quite nervous to leave my country and permanently being away from home. But, my dad has been a traveller his entire career and it was because of watching him going around the world, doing what he loves and doing his job that made me, firstly, aware that a person that looks like me can actually go out and see the world, that the world is possible and the doors to the world are open to people of colour.

And, my mom who has always been so encouraging of my career. She’s the reason why I got that job at CSA because she encouraged me to send emails so many years ago where I was begging for an opportunity, to get an internship and look where it has led me now.

The both of them sat me down, spoke of how this is such a good move, and encouraged me to take it. It has come at the right time in my life and you never know what is on the other side of those doors.

 

What are you looking forward to in your new position?

I am looking forward to learning! I am very big at learning (laughs). I felt like I had possibly learnt everything, or most of what I can learn at CSA and I’m looking forward on expanding my knowledge and the skills that I have.

I’m looking forward to discovering a new country, new colleagues and people, and seeing what this new opportunity has to give me. For a lot of people there’s always nerves when it comes to the unknown, but for me the unknown is a massive opportunity at getting to know myself that might be hidden and I think making a move like this will surely open new avenues within myself, about myself. So, I’m really looking forward to that personal growth and a massive career leap as well.

 

Former Cricket South Africa Sponsor Services Officer, Leila Daku, is also at ICC having joined in March 2022. Surely both of your appointments speak volumes of the capabilities of our South African women in sport.

I absolutely agree with this! I think that the fact that the ICC are able to have a look at talent that is brewing with South African cricket landscape and that they have found people that they are willing to absorb within their own team speaks volumes, firstly, about Cricket South Africa as an organisation. Yes there has been turbulence around the business itself but it has created talented sportswomen and sportsmen that are celebrated around the world, and also, I think that this is a great opportunity for the world to know that CSA has also helped to mine the talent of successful and good administrators. There are so many hardworking women and men in the South African cricket landscape that have been developed and assisted by CSA to where they are right now. I think it speaks big things, wonderful things about the organisation, about South Africa as a country, about the talent that we have and about the women that we have in our sport who are capable, strong, intelligent, door-breakers and ceiling-smashers.

I think that these appointments can also give hope to other young women who are looking to expand their own space in the sport environment. Sometimes it’s not up until you see someone else do it that you feel as though it can be possible for you. So, it’s important to watch others taking those steps so that you are able to also see that this is indeed possible.

I am also incredibly proud that myself and Leila are women of colour at the ICC, also that the ICC are diversifying their staff and that they’re making great leaps in that space as well.

My greatest hope is that young women who see myself and other women like Leila are doing and that they know anything is possible – it’s never an impossible dream to take your talents abroad!

 

In 2021, you won the Woman in PR & Sponsorship gong on the Momentum gsport Awards stage – how has winning impacted your career?

Accolades go a really long way towards creating recognition or towards putting a higher spotlight on a person, so being able to be a recipient of the 2021 Woman in PR & Sponsorship award raised my profile quite significantly. Also, it has gone a long way in terms of the respect factor within my own working environment and allowing my name to be link to the Momentum gsport Awards.

 

We constantly emphasise the importance on the Power of Recognition. What does this mean to you?

Every day there are women who are working really hard, and you find oftentimes women who have been working hard throughout their lives and careers, it becomes a thankless job, yet, it is a job that is vital. Organisations cannot be successful without the work that is being done by those women, so recognition gives a necessary spotlight on those who are going above and beyond in their work, those women who are pushing the envelope and that are breaking boundaries in industries that almost take their people for granted.

 

Nominations for #gsport17 are currently opened, what is your message to encourage the public to nominate women in sport for this year’s awards?

It’s incredibly important for the public to nominate women in sport, to nominate the women that work tirelessly towards their chosen sport. Most women in sport are volunteers and they do this in conjuction with their everyday 9-to-5, others this is their 9-to-5 but it doesn’t recognise them. Everybody knows someone who is exceptional at their job, who is ground-breaking, who is the go-to person, but that person isn’t being given their flowers and that recognition that she deserves, so the awards platform is the perfect space for those women to be honoured and celebrated.

 

You have previously spoken about your ambitions to lead CSA one day – is that still in your future plans?

Absolutely! I still have big, big dreams about South African cricket, I have big plans for South African cricket and my involvement some day in the near future. I am still keen to come back to South Africa a few years down the line and to make a massive impact. But big impacts can only be made from significant power and you need to be able to be in a major role in order to achieve this and effect the kind of change that I would want to make. So, I need to go out, build a base and build up the skills that will allow me to be able to do that.

 

What is your greatest ambition for women in sport?

For women in sport to walk into a space and not have her presence doubted and not to have us questioned as to why we are in certain spaces, holding certain positions.

For there to not be a big debate about equal pay, what women deserve because more often than not – and this is not poking at men or anyone – but it’s always the biggest argument when it comes to salaries and compensation when it comes to women and yet a man can speak a number and he receives it without question. If a woman tries to command her own salary, it has to be debated and negotiated. My biggest desire is for us to not have to explain what we truly deserve!

 

 

Photo 1 Caption: 2021 Momentum gsport Awards Woman in PR & Sponsorship winner Sipokazi Sokanyile is venturing into a new path in her journey as she joins the Media & Comms department at the ICC. Photo: Sipokazi Sokanyile (Instagram)

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