GROWING up in exile in Swaziland Lindi Dlamini always intended to make a career in law.
Drawn by the intellectual stimulation of the legal sector, after finishing her law degree at 22 she landed a job in South Africa in a labour rights consultancy where she got her first taste of working with people.
"I had this social activist outlook on things. When I started working things were not as exciting as I thought they would be.
"The job was too much for me from an emotional perspective. So I quit and left for the US," says 37-year-old Dlamini.
In the US it did not take long for her to get a job in an insurance company. The job was to pave a way for greater things.
"They were recruiting graduates that they were going to train in various insurance departments. I was chosen to be one of the participants," Dlamini says.
After a year Dlamini was approached by an agency about a legal advice job at Liberty Life in SA. She ran Risk Benefits and Premium Administration for three years before she was moved to a newly formed medical aid section.
The medical scheme her department administered was later moved to Medscheme.
In limbo and not knowing what to do Dlamini, who was pregnant, approached the management and asked to run the company's compliance department. They agreed and she was appointed divisional director.
"I got bored with risk management so I mentored somebody who could do the job while I was looking for other opportunities within the company."
Moving across the organisation broadened Dlamini's view, priming her for the next step - managing the premiums and administration department.
By her own admission, it was an intriguing challenge. But the experience bolstered her confidence and prepared her for bigger things.
In May 2008, after just over a year, her boss decided that she should take over his job as the head of individual life operations, the biggest division in the company with more than 3million clients. She took her new responsibility in her stride.
"It was a big leap. That was growth in leaps and bounds. From running a department of eight people to managing 1000 people. A lot of people did not have faith in me, but my bosses trusted me."
In her role at Liberty Life Dlamini draws on legal and social skills in equal measure.
"My department is the heartbeat of the company. I am currently accountable for the strategic direction and business leadership of the entire individual life operations back office processing business.
"It is a lot of work but work becomes too little when you have a good relationship with your colleagues. It's very unusual in a business of this nature to be a one-man band," Dlamini says.
From the outset and throughout the process of melding talents and cultures, Dlamini applied that thinking to build teams of people who use their differences as inspiration.
"Inclusion and diversity of thought fuels high-performance teams and delivers innovation.
"The central question isn't 'my way' or 'your way'. It's allowing people to see a new kind of possibility - the chance to create a level of client value that hadn't existed before, and then create an environment in which smart people find the path to the right end state.
"Of course, that has to be managed. But you can manage it with a lighter hand if people are able to see and respect what each individual or group brings into the equation."
Dlamini says her legal background is important, but she finds herself relying on communication skills more than law.
"In the insurance world, you are only as good as your information," she says.
"To get what I need from different areas of the company, I've learned that it's better to be influential than authoritative."
Influential she is. With less than two years in the position, Dlamini has gained a reputation for tapping excellence.
She is passionate about staff development and upliftment. She is currently a mentor to three work colleagues, who look up to her and admire her for all her achievements and passion.
The married mother of one says she likes to make a difference in the lives of the people she works with. She says she believes in developing her employees.
"I believe that happy employees give good service. You cannot treat people badly and expect theteam to be happy."
Her outlook to life is the attitude imbued by a childhood spent in exile. She has always been a strong activist of "people first mantra".
For women just starting out in the corporate world, Dlamini advises them to choose an area where they are likely to see a lot of transactions.
With a long list of academic achievements, Dlamini has completed a BA Law , LLB and a Master of Law degree and she is also a certified financial planner.