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Culture

A Day in the Life: VP and General Manager of Short Courses Kabelo Serutle

Written by Bannon Puckett on Feb 17, 2021

Related content: Diversity And Inclusion, 2U Cape Town, Short Courses

This story is a part of our “A Day in the Life” series that highlights the career journeys of 2U employees across the world. Throughout February, we’re celebrating Black History Month and featuring members of one of our Business Resource Networks: the Black Engagement Network (BNet).

Born in the South African village of Phokeng, and now an integral part of 2U’s operations in Cape Town, Kabelo Serutle knows a great deal about family pride.

First and foremost, Kabelo is the proud father to an “amazing, bright-eyed young man and future leader.” He’s also the proud son of parents who worked multiple jobs to put him through college and whose academic pursuits instilled in him a passion for lifelong learning. Plus, he’s a proud 2Ute helping universities deliver a best-in-class education experience to students worldwide through 2U-powered short courses.

“I feel blessed to be a part of the 2U family,” Kabelo beams. “I am delighted to honour those who have entrusted me with their future and dreams—and I’m motivated to create spaces for more people like me.”

A self-proclaimed “closet techie,” Kabelo began his career as a software developer after graduating from Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria. A short course in Java led him further into the realm of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and how to help people connect in today’s digital world. Before joining 2U in December 2019, Kabelo spent over 11 years in different roles with Enterprises University of Pretoria, moving from contract research and consulting to marketing and key accounts management. “The use of technology to impact society has always been close to my heart,” he says.

Education has been an equally important part of his life. “When my father retired at age 65,” Kabelo notes, “he decided to study toward a diploma in property management. He couldn’t use a computer, so he would write up his assignments, and every night I would type them up for him. He built a successful business as a realtor after qualifying for the degree, which is just another demonstration of how empowering education can be.”

Read on to learn about Kabelo’s journey with 2U so far, his involvement with 2U’s Black Engagement Network (BNet), what South African observances of the Black experience mean to him, and more.

Why did you join 2U? What is it about the company that sparked your interest?

I have always been an advocate for technology, and when I learned about GetSmarter (which 2U acquired in 2017), I was drawn to the possibilities of changing lives, making an impact, and making quality education more accessible. Toward the end of my recruitment process, I had the opportunity to spend some time with my future colleagues. They played a very big role in influencing my decision to join 2U.

A team is an important part of successfully building relationships, reaching and exceeding milestones together. Mutual trust and respect—and most importantly, inclusion—are key to managing a wide variety of opportunities and challenges with a diverse team. I have all of those elements in the Global Partnerships team and with 2U leadership.

Of 2U’s nine Guiding Principles, “Relationships Matter” speaks the loudest in my world. We help university partners—most often rooted in decades (and sometimes centuries) of educating—traverse the digital wilderness so that they may grow and evolve. And that requires a genuine intention to build mutually beneficial relationships. When our students win, our partners win, we win, and society wins: Lives are impacted!

How would you describe your role as a vice president and general manager of 2U’s short courses?

My role lets me be both a steward of universities’ growth aspirations and a voice to the business teams in order to ensure alignment. Bringing everyone together on the same page can be rigorous work, so it’s an exciting way for me to create value. Every day is an opportunity to learn and teach.

A typical day for me involves having conversations with our university partners around developing new programmes and reviewing operations, opportunities, and challenges. I love having these discussions, being able to delight our partners and hear about students celebrating their successes from our programmes.

Engaging with university representatives is a great privilege and responsibility. Fortunately, I also have amazing support from my Programme Management team, my senior vice president Melindi Britz, fellow general managers, and our Short Course Leadership Team (SCLT).

What compelled you to join 2U’s Black Engagement Network (BNet)? What has been your involvement so far?

Black interests are close to my heart, as I recognise that we face many challenges, both in our lives and in the workplace. When Brad Adams, 2U’s chief university operations officer, came to Cape Town and presented on Mosaic, 2U’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) committee, I was motivated to get involved and find a way to “stand in the gap.” So I signed up—but what keeps me engaged is the warmth, positivity, and encouragement of the BNet family!

Kabelo today with his son (left); a younger Kabelo at graduation with his father (right)

In the U.S., February is Black History Month, whereas in South Africa, February marks the month Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years (specifically on February 11, 1990) and delivered a rousing speech on his resolve to end apartheid. What do observances in South Africa honoring the Black experience mean to you?

I appreciate the value these special days present and their importance in creating awareness. For allies, a simple form of honouring could start with asking one’s self: Using what I have been entrusted with, what can I do to advise, guide, comfort, or create an opportunity for a Black person on a daily basis, as often as I can?

In South Africa, we have various days including “Freedom Day.” This day commemorates the first democratic, post-apartheid, non-racial elections that were held on April 27, 1994, which led to Nelson Mandela being elected president. While voting was one of the first facets of freedom for Black South Africans, there are many other dimensions that some in our country still do not enjoy, including economic and educational freedom. So our work at 2U has the potential to bring about change and impact.

How would you characterize 2U’s approach and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)?

The vision is clear and set. And the people are here—a big shout-out to Millette Granville, our new vice president of DEI, and Illse-Jane Wessels, our international senior vice president of people! We need to follow through with implementation and with living it by introducing the DEI lens in all areas of our work. I am very confident in our leadership and visible support on all matters of DEI.

Personally, I have had the opportunity to sit in on DEI sessions at 2U and also with one of our university partners. The level of alignment was encouraging and demonstrates how high-performance organisations are leveraging DEI as an enabler of not only social justice but also economic performance and relevance.

It is important, however, to ensure that our people (especially junior staff) have accessible, safe spaces to receive advice and guidance as they navigate their careers. Universities and faculty are also going through their own changes as they recognise the need to deliberately create safe spaces for DEI and its implementation. As they transform, we as their partners must be ready to help them implement in areas that are within our control.

You’ve also been an active volunteer in your local community. Tell us about that!

Social impact has been important for me, although I feel I don't give enough of my time to it. Formally, I have been a founding volunteer with Bakwena Walk for Charity in South Africa’s North West province.

What’s interesting about this initiative is that it was started by my late friend Tsholofelo Mahuma. He realised that if, every holiday season, people could spend just one morning raising money for the less fortunate in their local communities, they could create local and immediate impact and still have fun and be merry. From this initial idea, the walk has grown to include providing school shoes for children, sports activities, and family fun days. It is currently in its tenth year!

Another area I am passionate about is working with startups on ideation, developing proof of concepts to help them get seed investment ready.

What has been a highlight of your experience at 2U so far?

Besides the amazing teams at 2U, I would say a definite highlight has been briefing my first short course, Teaching with Technology, and really responding to the changing education landscape. Seeing the passion and excitement from both the course convenor and our Learning Design and Development team has been wonderful!

Another big highlight has been the caring—having SCLT members check in to see how we are faring while working from home. And the 2U Business Resource Networks’ thoughtfulness in connecting spaces together, during times of distress, has been critical.

What advice would you give to someone just starting at 2U?

Take your time to take it all in, then lean back like a slingshot and launch! The possibilities are endless. Be present and speak up. You can! You are safe!

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