Head-strong at Altech Netstar
Gill Jones, general manager of commercial sales, discusses her love for the transport industry, the hard work involved and passing on her knowledge to the younger generation. MARISKA MORRIS reports
Jones was appointed general manager of commercial sales at Altech Netstar earlier this year, and this headstrong, passionate woman already has big plans for the brand.
“We need to develop people, get the training and product knowledge right, and build on what makes Altech Netstar a commercial leader in the industry,” Jones says.
Her passion derives from more than two decades spent climbing the ladder in the logistics and transport sectors. She started her career as a temporary receptionist before being offered a position in a call centre. Later, she worked very successfully in sales.
“I just had this urge to get into the fast-paced energy that the industry was exuding. At that time I never put a single thought into a strategy, or where it would lead me,” Jones notes. However, she soon realised that the world of transport and logistics suited her bubbly personality and this inspired her to become more focused.
“The high-energy and fast-paced environment that the transport and logistics industry brings just resonated with me,” Jones comments. Once focused on her goals, Jones was soon promoted up the ranks. “I started at the bottom of the food chain and literally worked myself up year by year,” she adds.
She brings the same focus to Netstar and leads a strong team that strategically markets fleet and logistics solutions that will benefit the business, the stakeholders and, most importantly, the company’s clients. “My vision for the next three to five years is for Netstar to sell a whole suite of products across the telematics platform,” Jones says.
Part of why she enjoys working in the transport industry is the people. She notes: “The people are down to earth. There is also a lot of space for growth in the industry in terms of diversity.”
Along with her big plans to build the Netstar brand, Jones also hopes to assist less-privileged women by sharing her knowledge. “I’ve always been passionate about helping those who have the capacity and skills to do the job, but do not have the resources.”
“That’s what I love about the transport industry. While it has always been male-dominated, we are seeing more women taking to the helm and helping to develop other women to succeed,” Jones comments.
She notes that, while there are a lot of opportunities for women in the transport industry, it is not easy work. She advises women: “Get rid of false nails, kick off the heels and get ready to work; it’s not a glamorous industry. Be open to learning and be prepared to work long, hard hours.”
A good example of the long, hard hours Jones had to work is when she and the team at UTi South Africa (now DSV SA) worked 24-hour days for three weeks to respond to a government tender in 2012. This was the biggest education tender in South Africa’s history.
UTi South Africa, Paarl Media and Lebone Litho were collectively awarded this multi-million rand tender, which required this consortium to print, warehouse and distribute workbooks to schools in South Africa. A total of about 60-million workbooks were delivered each year to 26 000 schools. Two deliveries a year were made within a 35-day distribution period for each phase.
“Around 250 to 300 superlinks were used in a 35-day period during that time,” Jones notes. It is no wonder that this project – for which the team won the Logistics Achiever Platinum Award – is one of her most memorable. “In addition, presenting a paper on this Public Private Partnership, as keynote speaker for DSV SA at SAPICS in 2015, was one of the greatest rewards,” Jones says.
To succeed in the transport industry, Jones notes that women should have good emotional intelligence. “It is important to know when to be assertive and when to hold back,” she says.
Jones emphasises the importance of working as a team, noting the skills of team members, encouraging them to develop those skills and supporting them where their skills are lacking.
“It’s about Ubuntu; it’s about working together,” she adds, “If I can pass that on, it will be a great achievement.”
Jones hopes to share her knowledge and negotiation skills with the younger generation, which is something she feels all female leaders should do. “We need a lot more women leaders mentoring younger women to enable them to achieve their aspirations,” Jones concludes.