Our very own Abu Karim joined Barloworld as a cleaner in 1987, and today he’s General Manager. Why? He’s committed to growing his skills, and we’re committed to growing our employees.
Still growing strong
From humble beginnings Abu Dawood Karim has grown as part of the Barloworld team, rising through the ranks and taking on more responsibility as years have gone by. Today he’s the General Manager in charge of Used Stock and Short Term Rental in South Africa, as well as the General Manager of Barloworld Handling in Angola. “I have just acquired this new challenge recently,” he says, “and I am looking forward to making it a true success with the assistance of my colleagues."
To get the bigger picture of his growth you have to go back to 1987, when Abu, now 45, was given an opportunity by the company. Here’s how he tells it:
“In November 1987 I travelled to Joburg for a job interview. As the first family member to leave home, this was a huge step. I’ll never forget the words of wisdom from my late father that night. He wanted me to live by two things: Firstly, to uphold the family name, and secondly, to always speak the truth no matter the circumstances. With their permission I travelled to Joburg that night, going in for the interview the next day. My journeyman gave me clear instructions that I was here for a diesel mechanic apprentice programme and nothing else. I was introduced to the interview panel team, a few rounds of questions were asked and I gladly answered. Then, the part I was dreading: I was told to identify a few engine components and items – a crankshaft, camshaft, water pump and an alternator. I knew nothing about mechanics and always aspired to be in the accounting field, but because of our limited finances I knew that this could never happen. I was honest with the interview panel and told them that I would not be able to answer their request. A few of them laughed out loud, but I told them that I was prepared to learn at any cost. About 10 minutes after the interview process I was informed that I should put on an overall and commence work immediately. This was the beginning of one of many more success stories in my career, all of which should be attributed to the blessing of the Almighty, my parents, close family members and the greater company we work for.”
Coming from a humble background meant that Abu appreciated any work available, and was always willing to grow and learn. “All that I ever wanted was to have a trade on hand which would have been sufficient for me to make ends meet for my family,” he says. “I also aspired to be like my journeyman, who was my trade tutor and mentor. He could fix any mechanical fault on any vehicle, first time.”
Abu’s first job at Barloworld Handling SA was at the Steam Wash Bay as a Steam Wash Cleaner. He was responsible for steam cleaning forklifts and components like engines, gearboxes, transmissions and steering axles. “I was always inspired to add value, as these units were leaving the premises with an expectation of client satisfaction,” he says. From there, Abu’s hard work and dedication to learning led him on a journey with the company, which was committed to seeing him grow. Early in 1989 he was handed an apprentice contract, and completed his N4 in Mechanical Engineering. In 1992 he qualified as an artisan. By 1994 he’d been transferred to the East Rand as a Contract Technician. “I was responsible for the maintenance of a total fleet of 60 units,” he says. In February 1996 Abu became a Contracts Supervisor, and by October he was promoted to an Area Contracts Manager.
In 2005 he was awarded the Parts Manager position, and in 2007 was requested to join the Handling Logistics department as a Logistics Manager. In 2010 he was approached to assist BWE Angola Hyster as a Hyster Operations Manager, where he won the CEO Award for the BWHSA division. In 2012 he returned to BWHSA as Logistics Manager, to look after the Angola Operation. In 2013 he was promoted to General Manager for the Central Region, as well as looking after the Angola Operation. That same year, the company sponsored his participation in the Leadership and Development Programme. “That was the highlight of my studies,” he says. “Lots of sweat, late nights, many weekends away from the family, hard work and ultimately, fun!! I just loved it.” His next move came in 2014, when he transferred to the role he currently occupies.
“Barloworld has been a leader and a true example of transitional changes from the old SA to the new SA,” Abu says. “It’s a remarkable and well established company to work for, and its roots go down even further.” He’s seen the company make a difference in the community through a bread scheme programme that operates every Friday in Boksburg, as well as donations of refurbished forklifts to the Orion School in Welkom and Belvedere School in Benoni – schools for children with learning disabilities – which will allow scholars to have an early start in a potential forklift driving career. And what motivates him every day? “Knowing that I have a committed, dedicated, aspiring team that will deliver no matter what it takes,” he says. “More importantly, not forgetting that each of them have extended family members that they look after.”
Having grown within the company himself, Abu has also been able to contribute to the growth of others around him. “I had approximately 22 qualified artisans and 6 assistants – all of whom were very hard working individuals. Eight of them have successfully been promoted to Area Contract Managers, a Technical and Training Manager, Product Support Representatives and a Regional Service Manager,” he says.
“The Barloworld group has excellent programmes and initiatives that make you want to achieve more than just fulfilling your daily job function. We have excellent programmes that the company offers through development and planning processes. I have attended numerous courses and have successfully completed them all,” Abu says. “Growth for any individual comes from within oneself. Anyone who is thirsty and keen to learn, is open to new ideas and is prepared to accept new challenges will ultimately succeed. The BWHSA executive team has played an important role in allowing me those opportunities to make these personal growths a reality for me and my career. A huge thank you goes out to all of them.”