Women come into their own in law - Thethe Mokele

In celebration of International Women’s Month, we are profiling some of the exceptional Hogan Lovells women from around the world who are working with and on the African continent. What better way to celebrate these phenomenal women than finding out more about them and in particular, their journey in the legal industry.

Thethe Mokele is a partner in our Johannesburg office. She specialises in advising employers, contractors, suppliers, and professionals in the construction and engineering industry on various standard forms of contracts including FIDIC, NEC and JBCC.

What motivated you to choose a career in law?

I wanted a career that would allow me to help people; and make a difference in their lives and in society. Initially, my plan was to be a labour lawyer which would have allowed me to fulfil this purpose, but I am now in a completely different sector where my clients are corporate/business entities.

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in law?

Our biggest challenge is that the industry has been slow to adapt to a way of working which is accommodating to female professionals and which encourages them to stay in the profession. Prominence requires that we actually have enough females staying in the profession, being trained properly and moving up the ranks.

How did you get to where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way?

A lot of discipline and long hours, patience in my development and growth, and adaptability. I have an amazing mentor, who I worked for in my first rotation who became my sponsor and I report to someone who has nurtured my growth and developed my skills.

What lessons have you learned about leadership and mentoring others?

That you must be purposeful about what you want to achieve through mentorship, otherwise your mentorship meetings become nothing more than social coffee dates. It also helps to have a mentor who isn’t in your direct line of reporting, but who you respect enough to account to.

Mentoring others also force you to account to yourself because you cannot preach what you don’t practice.

What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?

Do not cheat on your dreams and goals. Put in the time, work hard, have the right attitude and treat the people you work with, with respect.

What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career?

That true leadership has nothing to do with authority or positions of power, but the ability to positively influence those around you.

Discuss a specific accomplishment you’ve achieved that made you thrive in the current position you are in?

There isn’t a specific accomplishment that I can highlight which speaks to why I thrive in the current position I am in, but what I have learned is that each experience and accomplishment (big or small) contributes to shaping your character and ultimately, your success. You should grab all the opportunities you are presented with, to learn new things and challenge yourself, especially in the early years of your career. I had to adapt and learn to work in a practice area I never even knew existed, but I am thriving because I have received training from one of the best practitioners in the industry, who challenges and stimulates my thinking and I am always willing to put in the hard work and to challenge myself.

How do you achieve work-life balance?

I am very strict with my time after hours. I rarely work at home in the evenings or over the weekend, unless I have to, as that is my personal and family time. I have recently joined the gym as well in an effort to balance work, life and health, because we tend to ignore our health when we are very busy or very stressed.

What has been the role of luck in your success?

I don’t believe in luck. I am very religious and I believe in the power of purposeful prayer, and that my success is part of God's plan and purpose for my life.

This article forms part of our Women in Law series. The first article in the series was authored by Carol Campbell, published on Africa Legal on 8 March and is reproduced here with kind permission from the publishers.

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