An up-and-coming female powerhouse within the fisheries industry, Shakira Naidoo laughs as she tells the story of how, despite her best efforts to explain the nuances of her role, her three children still believe that she works in a ‘fish shop’.
This tale is an excellent example of how most people in South Africa are under the impression that the fishing sector doesn’t extend much further than the fishermen at sea and the retailer when, in fact, the industry is as widespread and diverse as any other – if not more so!
Born and raised in Cape Town, 32-year-old Shakira actually happens to be a junior buyer at Atlantis Food Holdings.
“It has always been my goal to become a buyer, so I’m extremely proud of my achievements so far,” Shakira says.
“I work primarily with imports, and I’m thrilled that the main part of my job revolves around negotiating, learning, and arguing – it’s a bit of a back-and-forth some days, but who doesn’t like getting a good deal?”
Shakira entered the industry by chance at the age of 19 when she applied to join the team at the then start-up, Fish on Line, as a receptionist. She was astounded to discover the depth of the industry and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know its ins and outs.
“Like most people, I had no idea of the true scope of the industry. It has been a constant learning process. I love learning. It’s exciting. It’s an adventure.”
Shakira explored the many facets of the fishing industry under the wing of her mentor – someone who continues to inspire her to this day – Dean Stacey, Sales and Procurement Director, Atlantis Foods Group.
“Dean has always been a mentor and huge support throughout my career. He’s so knowledgeable about so many things. I learn something new from him every day, and he continues to push me to be better at my job.”
Shakira has come a long way since her industry debut, working her way up into many respected positions over the year, including stock controller, bookkeeper, assistant procurement manager, and most recently, into the starting position of her dream role as a buyer.
She talks about how it’s important to be hardcore and dedicated to success in this demanding sector, especially as a woman.
“This is a learned trait for me. In my personal life, I’m actually extremely shy and hate being the centre of attention, but who I am at work is different compared to the person I am on the outside. At work, I’m all about staying driven and getting things done. You have to be if you want to stand out,” Shakira explains.
“After all, the industry is all about passion – everyone who works here works really hard to get to where they are.”
Shakira hopes to be seen as an inspiration to other ambitious young women looking for an opportunity to make a name for themselves. Unfortunately, very few females will immediately identify the fishing industry as a gateway for achieving something extraordinary – a reality that Shakira hopes to play a part in changing in the future.