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“Initially there is skepticism and resistance to a new author; However, continuous resilience yields results.” with Jesmane Boggenpoel

Initially there is skepticism and resistance to a new author. You need to muster up self-belief and knock on doors despite some lack of interest from gatekeepers. However, the continuous resilience and putting yourself forward for opportunities yields results. I had the pleasure of interviewing Jesmane Boggenpoel, an experienced business executive and former Head of Business […]

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Initially there is skepticism and resistance to a new author. You need to muster up self-belief and knock on doors despite some lack of interest from gatekeepers. However, the continuous resilience and putting yourself forward for opportunities yields results.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jesmane Boggenpoel, an experienced business executive and former Head of Business Engagement for Africa at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland and author of My Blood Divides and Unites. She has served on the boards of various South African and international organizations. She is a Chartered Accountant and holds a Master’s degree from Harvard University’s JFK School of Government. Jesmane was honoured as a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, is a Harvard Mason fellow and a shareholder and founding board member of African Women Chartered Accountants Investment Holdings. Boggenpoel has extensive global experience having studied and worked on three continents, as well as travelling to over 65 countries.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?

There were various things that inspired me to put a finger to keyboard on my story.

My inspiration for writing my debut book, My Blood Divides and Unites, is three-fold. First, I want to use my story and others’ stories to empower those living in marginalized communities to create positive change. Second, I want to tell the story of Apartheid as it impacted the Coloured community to an international audience because so much is still not understood about the Coloured community, in particular in this volatile time in South Africa’s history. Third, we’re at a time where globally the racial divide is greater than ever and sharing my story along with the stories of others from around the world and provides a message to all on racial reconciliation.

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

The most interesting story that happen to me since beginning my career, was when I was honored as a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum. I was truly honoured.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’ve learned a lot of lessons, and most of my lessons took place on the job. Throughout the process of publishing my book I learned: key terms for publisher agreements, fleshing out the manuscript and being comfortable with improvisation as you go along.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am spending a lot of time on speaking engagements surrounding my book. Since this is my first book, I didn’t know how much work and time would be involved with each step of the process, from writing, publishing and now promotion. It has all been so rewarding and exciting seeing it all come to fruition.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?

From childhood, I enjoyed speech and drama. I continued this hobby in adulthood and garnered certificates in acting with Trinity College London. Practicing improvisation was useful since as a writer as one fleshes out content one needs to feel comfortable with the dynamic nature of how content and material shifts.

Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

Story on my multi-faceted DNA. My DNA test brought me so much fact-based clarity and surprises.

For one, I had no idea I had any Jewish ancestry and was pleasantly surprised by the 6% dose of Ashkenazi Jewish. Once I found this out, I embraced it and did Jewish quarter tours in Romania and Hungary where I deduced my Jewish ancestry traces to. In April this year, I’ll visit Israel for the first time.

The breakdown of my African heritage also yielded surprises, I did not know I had so much African heritage across Africa. While I used a company called 23andme for the original test, I attained supplementary information from other genetic tests. For example, My Heritage DNA and DNA Land traced my African tribal ancestry in more detail, revealing as quoted from my book “In addition to the Khoisan of Southern Africa, my African ancestry takes me back to Somalia, Senegal, the Mende from Sierra Leone, the Mbuti and Bayaka from the Congo, the Maasai of Kenya, the Yoruba of Nigeria, and Akan from Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. Now, I truly feel I am African, with the blood of many peoples all across the African continent flowing through me.”

What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?

That everyone can be an inspirational leader. In the case of my book, it’s in the area of racial reconciliation.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a bestselling author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?

Initially there is skepticism and resistance to a new author. You need to muster up self-belief and knock on doors despite some lack of interest from gatekeepers. However, the continuous resilience and putting yourself forward for opportunities yields results.

Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?

I like different topics based on my areas of interest. I mainly read non-fiction books on technology, business and psychology.

How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?

I cover a sensitive topic on race. I feel many moderate people have avoided this topic. I hope my writing brings a different perspective, truth and healing.

What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?

Choose to write about something that really inspires you. The rest of the process can be mundane; such as, crafting out time to write, researching and locating sources.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. It’s going to take way longer than you think. I initially thought I’d have the book written in 9 months and it ended up taking 2 and a half years

2. Reading the manuscript multiple times really improves the content. I found that my brain works on the material continuously. As I read it numerous times and even while away from the manuscript I thought of ways to improve it and reflected more on my ideas. You need to give yourself the time to go through this process of refining and crystallization of ideas.

3. Have someone to bounce material off. My brother is fortunately passionate about our family’s DNA and our slave history — which I cover in the book. It helped to bounce off ideas and content off him. Having an outside perspective from time to time is great.

4. The balance between creativity and structure when writing a book. It is important to communicate your message engagingly and compellingly that resonates with your readers, and that takes creativity to some extent. However, making sure that your content is also structured in a way that allows the reader to follow easily. There were many times where I had to restructure and let myself to be flexible and open to changing the format as I went along.

5. When you apply your brain long enough to a problem, you’ll come up with a solution. For example, I wanted a title for my book linking to my blood as my genetic makeup. I brainstormed a couple of ideas and one day while I was driving in the car and the right title just pop into my head.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I want to start a movement around impact investing via technology. We can use technology to come up with innovative market-based solutions that solve problems affecting marginalized communities and emerging markets. I firmly believe that technology has the power to heal the world and reduce the ‘fears of lack’ or not having enough, which often fuels racial tensions.

Technology enabled investments are typically in the areas of health, education, agriculture, and finance. My book includes many examples from around the world on how technology can be used to solve many of the worlds issues. For example, the higher penetration of smartphones web in rural and urban areas with low income means that people in these areas can access to health, education, financial and agriculture resources. In Africa, there are already 100 million active users of mobile financial services (source: Africa’s Business Revolution).

In my book I mention, “the waves of new technology pouring out of innovators’ minds can help address many of the lacks the world faces. At the moment, sadly, much of this technological innovation is designed to address the needs of the wealthy and middle class, as well as those of large corporations. If we can turn more and more of this innovation to address the needs of the poor and marginalized, we will reduce a great deal of the lack that drives fear, and the fear that has driven history for so long….”

How can our readers follow you on social media?

· Instagram: @jesmaneboggenpoel

· Twitter: @jesmaneboggenp1

· Facebook: /MyBloodDividesandUnites

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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