Building better boardrooms with Violet Mordichai and TheBoardroom Africa

by Willem Verhoofstad, MedAccess Board member

Photo of Violet Mordichai, Board Apprentice at MedAccess in 2022. © MedAccess/Richard Wadey

When I look back to the beginning of my career, I’m fortunate to have had some key experiences that propelled me on in my development. Experiences like early exposure to senior leaders who gave me a greater appreciation of the decisions, processes, and dynamics that contribute to personal and business success.

And it’s this wide range of experience – both lived and professional – that are essential for 21st century boards, especially those that work across countries and continents. But all too often the very people whose expertise could benefit the business are overlooked because they appear to lack these experiences.

That’s why the MedAccess Board agreed unanimously to host a Board Apprentice through TheBoardroom Africa. As the designated mentor, it was my pleasure to work closely with Violet Mordichai during her 12-month tenure.

The experience was intense but rewarding for both of us. Violet brought new perspectives to our work with probing questions and new insights. She joined MedAccess at an exciting time for the company, as we welcomed a new Board Chair, worked with the team to develop our internal processes and system, and increased our visibility across many platforms.

We learned a lot along the way. Here are four insights that future apprentices and host boards might consider for a successful working partnership:

  1. A good match. A year flies by incredibly quickly so it is vital that the apprentice comes with a passion for the work of the company plus a basic understanding of their operating environment. This accelerates the onboarding process and ensures that everyone enjoys maximum benefit from the engagement.
  2. Learning goals. The apprentice should come with clear and realistic learning objectives. These should be aligned to their plans for future growth and, ideally, geared towards their next steps after their year-long apprenticeship. Alongside the desire to learn, the apprentice should be ready to ask questions. This ensures that not only do they advance their learning but they also bring new perspectives and insights to the host board.
  3. Openness. The hosting board should be as open as it can with the apprentice. This not only means full attendance at board meetings but also sub-committees where many important discussions that help shape board decisions are taken. The apprentice should have access to board papers to help them formulate areas of questioning in advance. The board should also facilitate access to the company’s leadership as part of the onboarding process to help gain insight into the organisation’s history and culture as well as current strategy and objectives.
  4. Mentoring. The host board should select a willing mentor to support and guide the apprentice throughout their tenure. One-to-one meetings before and after board meetings will enable the mentor to provide additional context on the upcoming discussions and give the apprentice the opportunity to address any areas that are unclear in a more informal environment.

Having the right apprentice partner is essential. The collaborative approach of TheBoardroom Africa played a key role in our experience. We worked closely on legal and contractual matters and the leadership team’s engagement was impressive and appreciated.

It was a pleasure to host Violet during 2022. We can look back together on a successful year, during which we benefitted from her questions and observations. I am looking forward to following Violet’s career as she looks to take on prominent roles in Africa and beyond.

Engagement with TheBoardroom Africa’s apprentice scheme has proved to be a valuable experience for MedAccess and I would encourage other forward-thinking organisations to look closely at the programme. The benefits to individuals and companies are clear: to create more boards that are fit for the 21st century.

Learn more about TheBoardroom Africa

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