Gill Tauber, celebrating her 21st year with Barloworld, learned how to balance life and work.

Gill Tauber

A work life balance

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Talking to Gill Tauber, one realises that work does not have to be “a necessary evil”. You don’t go to work, come home and then squeeze life in. Gill has learned on her journey through her working career that work is part of life. Your career can be enriching, supportive and fulfilling if you add balance.

When Gill joined Barloworld Corporate Office as book keeper in 1993, becoming a cancer survivor was not on her agenda. Nor was running one Comrades Marathon, let alone 11! Yet her relationships at work were instrumental in not only taking her out of her comfort zone but also helping to transform her life.

The way she describes her current responsibilities as assistant financial manager in the accounts department immediately sets her apart. “My role is to produce accurate, transparent and timeous accounts and to ensure team engagement within the department so that targets are met,” she explains. It’s not about meeting targets, but about motivating and engaging the people in her department to do it as a team and to do it well!

“The most important thing I have learned working at Barloworld is that people are important. A company that seeks to attain goals and meet deadlines, has to respect and reward employees for their hard work. People will go the extra mile if they feel that they are appreciated in one way or another.”

But that’s not all there is to it. “Work-life balance is very important to me,” says Gill. “One cannot have one without the other.”

When she joined Barloworld Gill had been divorced for two years and it took some time for her to balance work commitments with being a single mother. “Sometimes I would work late to finish up a job and then get home to find my teenage daughter had cooked me dinner.” She felt the balance was not right and changed her hours, going to work earlier and arriving home earlier.

Sport was also part of her life and she ensured that her training was done around work and family times. “Once my children had gone their different ways (overseas now) I could concentrate on balancing the sport that I love with work.”

This love for sport was another unexpected result of her decision to join Barloworld and, once again, it centred around people. “Soon after I joined the company I met Pam MacTavish, who worked for C.G. Smith, part of Barlow Rand at the time. Pam persuaded me to go running in the afternoons after work. Not considering myself a runner at all, I thought this wouldn’t last.”

But Gill hadn’t reckoned on her own tenacity. “Nothing motivates me more than the thought that I can’t do it, especially on a personal level.”

Before she knew it she had joined Rand Athletic Club (RAC) and today she has 11 Comrades Marathons (90km between Durban and Pietermaritzburg) and 13 Two Oceans Marathons (56km in Cape Town) under her belt. These are the two premier running events in South Africa and both are world renowned.

But she didn’t stop there, adding two more impressive achievements to her tally in 2004 when she both summited Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and trekked to Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal. Everest is the world’s highest mountain and Base Camp, a serious achievement in itself, is where the mountaineers start the real treacherous ascent to the summit.

At her fittest and feeling better than ever, Gill met the news that she had breast cancer in 2006 with utter disbelief. “I really thought it was a mistake. I was strong and healthy, I had no outer sign of the illness, and there was no history of breast cancer in my family.”

“But then I dealt with it as I deal with anything in life that is thrown at me – I just got on with it. Acceptance of a bad situation is to make the best of it. Luckily I had caught it early so chemo and radiation treatment were unnecessary. I had a mastectomy, a reconstruction a year later and I was, as they say ‘back on the road’.”

Gill’s determination to make a success of the important things in her life kicked in yet again. Like running a marathon or climbing a mountain, she put one step in front of the other and triumphed over adversity.

As she approaches retirement and reflects on her 21 years with Barloworld, she believes there is nothing she would have done differently.

“I am very grateful for opportunities and support that I have received, mostly from my work colleagues, along the way. We live in a fast-paced world where demands are being made on us from every side. Many people struggle to maintain balance and my advice to colleagues is moderation in all things. Don’t overdo or pay too much attention to one thing at the expense of something else.”

It is easy to give up, but Gill has emerged stronger from every challenge through a positive attitude and a belief that anything is possible. “There is the mantra in IRONMAN that nothing is impossible, and that is so true in life as well.”

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