Saving Lives: From Passion to Daily Mantra

Introducing Lerato Thinane – or, as she is affectionately known in the MiWay offices, ‘Miss T’. Getting emergency services and police to the scene of clients’ darkest hours is what this young lady does for a living.  Lerato entered the workplace with a Psychology Degree and found that she had a passion for saving lives. It is in the insurance sector that she found her niche, getting help fast to those who need it most. Scores of people have had their lives and family members saved thanks to this powerhouse’s steely emergency response excellence.

Lerato Thinane is the manager of MiHelp, the 24-hour emergency services call centre.

What did you want to be when you were a child? How did your background prepare you for this role?

When growing up in Soweto, I wanted to be a nurse. I’ve always known that I am meant to be a life changer and that involved making people feel better about themselves. I also realised that I had a fear of blood and needles, therefore I decided to study Psychology. I obtained a BA Degree in Psychology and Sociology from WITS in 2005. In 2017, I attained a Life Coaching Diploma from CTA and a Basic Counselling Certificate from UNISA in 2019. After obtaining my degree, I started working as a Client Services Advisor at another insurance company and joined MiWay in 2009.

What does an average day look like for you? What attracted you to your current position?

I’ve been with MiWay for just over 10 years and am currently the MiHelp Manager – MiWay’s 24-hour emergency call centre. My position entails responding to emergencies, the day-to-day running of the department, and coaching and mentoring my team members. My main role is to look after my team and ensure that, together, we are there for our clients when they need us most. What attracted me most to this job was my love for people – imparting skills and knowledge to others. I identified my passion for helping others early on in my life and I enjoy walking in others’ shoes, hence MiHelp.

What do you find most meaningful in the work that you do?

What I find most meaningful is actually being able to ‘hear’ the smile in a client’s voice after I have responded to their call for help – be it stranded on the side of the road or assisting when a client has been in an accident – it makes a world of difference and gives meaning to what I do daily. I also love the journeys that I have walked with my team members. I have seen people grow from Advisors to Team Managers. I nurture greatness and feel a sense of pride when we produce great service as a team.

You respond to crises for a living – a stressful job! How do you break it down and handle everything?

I constantly ask myself the question, ‘why do I wake up in the morning?’ In tough situations, I remind myself that I am not doing this for me. My passion soon takes over and I realise that saving lives is a tough job and work is stressful but knowing that I played a small part in putting a smile on someone’s face makes it all worth the while. I try to have a good balance between my work and home life and spending quality time with my loved ones.

What was the best career advice you ever received?

Follow your passion and it will never feel like work and money will find you.

What are the most critical problems faced by people in your field in this country? How do you think these problems should be handled? 

Service. How does one provide service when it matters most and still add an element of human touch to your interactions? Great customer service comes first – as employees we are accountable for how we treat the public and our clients and managing perceptions. I have learnt that we need to deal with our clients in a respectful and dignified manner. Insurance is seen as a ‘grudge purchase’ industry – and it is up to us to provide the best service and to change the perceptions of people all while ensuring that our clients live their way.

What’s next for you?                                                                                                                                            

Firstly, I have two qualifications to complete. I am busy with the last module of Human Resources Management at UNISA and I am also on the GIBS Programme for Management Development (PMD), which focuses on the application of becoming an effective manager. Then, I would like to use what I have learnt and apply it to my current job. I want to continue to inspire people and tap into the coaching and mentoring space within my organisation and beyond. I am also a mentor to two young women who are starting their journeys in the professional world and I have complimentary one-on-one coaching sessions with them. My desire is to serve others and I want to see these young ladies achieve their goals.

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