Deshnee Naidoo: Chief Executive Officer, Zinc International (Vedanta)

Deshnee Naidoo is a chemical engineer by profession, and has held the post of Chief Executive Officer: Zinc International at Vedanta, which operates zinc mines in South Africa and Ireland, since 2014.

Deshnee Naidoo, chief executive officer: Zinc International at Vedanta Resources.
Image: Vedanta

After completing her schooling, Deshnee completed a BSc in Chemical Engineering through the University of Natal (1997), as well as a Certificate Programme in Finance and Administration through the University of the Witwatersrand (2004). After completing her degree, in 1998 Deshnee received a bursary from Anglo Platinum, where she started her career as a learner official metallurgist at Anglo Platinum’s Precious Metals Refiners in Rustenburg. When she left the Anglo Group 16 years later to take up her current position, Deshnee had progressed through a variety of positions in operations and at Head Office to become CFO of Anglo American Thermal Coal (appointed in 2011).

What is the greatest challenge you have faced in getting where you are today?

There have been a few challenges I have faced. I had to break the graduate stigma as I progressed through the ranks. I was also pressured to stay in the technical discipline to progress my career, rather than going after more ‘general management’. And then, as a woman, being overlooked for positions in what is a largely male-dominated business.

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment, career-wise, to date?

I think my biggest achievement is having three daughters before my 31st birthday. Career-wise, I would have to say being Anglo’s first non-CA CFO and being Vedanta’s youngest – and only – female business CEO.

What advice would you give young women looking to work in your industry?

  • Don’t stereotype. 
  • Don’t be constrained by what you think about what you find in your industry today. Think about where the industry is going and what you can do differently. 
  • Think as big as you can. Don’t constrain your views to the roles that women have occupied in the past; know no bounds as there are no limits. 
  • Start preparing for your success by building and nurturing your networks as early as possible. 
  • Build up your support network – you and your partner working as a unit is critical to both your success and that of your home.

14 Aug 2017

By Robyn Grimsley
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