Isabel Ramirez

Isabel Ramirez

Enterprise: ERG Africa

Position: Deputy Commercial Officer


Thinking outside the box

I come from a home of modest income, but I have always had big dreams and aspirations. I believe one should always chase one’s dreams – especially those that society thinks a woman is unlikely to achieve.

I was born in Colombia in a small city of around half a million people. When I was younger, I was always interested in medical science, and I ended up studying for a nursing degree. I didn’t finish it though, because I was introduced to the world of business. Supported by my natural talent for learning new languages, my international business studies laid the foundations of my career.

At university I was very committed to my studies and sports. I was awarded an academic scholarship as well as winning many prizes from my karate competitions. I represented my province in the national championships. The prize money from these awards provided me with the opportunity to truly broaden my horizons. With that, I decided to travel to the United States for two years and absorb as much as I could whilst being there.

When I returned to Colombia, I started my own business. This was an important time for me – not only did I start to develop an entrepreneurial mind-set, but also the ability to adapt to new and unexpected situations and environments.

Two years later, I decided to push my boundaries again. I wanted to make use of my language skills to look for global opportunities to grow and develop myself further. Not long after taking on the task, I found success. A major gold mining company offered me my first job in logistics. I worked very hard and was promoted regularly until I reached a managerial position in the Commercial Department. I learned that maintaining healthy relationships with co-workers is vital to any successful career. I was very lucky to be able to experience meaningful relationships with colleagues who encouraged me to have faith in myself.

I met my husband there and in 2014 we moved to South Africa, his home country. I joined another resources company as a consultant in their Supply Chain department and discovered that entrepreneurial skills are much sought after, even in a corporate environment. This is especially true at ERG Africa (ERGA), which I later joined in 2015. ERGA is a fast-paced business environment, constantly changing and always challenging. I loved been pushed to think outside the box and adapt to new situations. ERGA’s senior

managers constantly supported my career goals and aspirations. In the three years I have been with the company I have been promoted from project consultant to Category Manager, and recently to Deputy Commercial Officer of the Procurement Department. I really believe that procurement is the backbone of any important, large company, because all transactions route through this hub. It’s therefore vital that our team is responsive and strategic in our approach to sourcing and managing suppliers.

I thrive in my work, but I also believe in balance, and I love the way my husband and I have been able to explore and experience the world, together. Fishing, for example, has become an activity that has brought us closer together as a couple. My natural curiosity about how things work, led me to immerse myself fully into the sport of fishing, and soon enough I began catching my own fish. In my first few attempts, I wore kitchen gloves to avoid touching them, but now I have become somewhat of an expert. As of recent, I began entering fishing competitions!