As a young accountant who began her career with Coopers & Lybrand, Ramon’s first job in the new, post-apartheid South Africa was a secondment to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) for the 1994 general election that put Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress in power.
“It was an inspiring experience, but maturing at the same time,” recalls Ramon. “I was involved in setting up offices in nine provinces and it was truly satisfying for me to be involved in the first democratic elections. It was also very trying, because we had bomb scares and strikes to deal with, and we still had to run a smooth election.”
Her experiences at the IEC convinced her that she wanted to play a role in the commercial growth of the new country, and she rapidly rose to the position of Finance Director and, later, CEO of media giant Johnnic Holdings. This was during a critical period of transformation for the press and entertainment sector through the Black Economic Empowerment policies of the time.
She left Johnnic to take up the role of CFO at South Africa’s most important petrochemical firm, Sasol. This was a period of massive expansion and diversification for a company that was transforming itself to fit the new economic and political life of the country.
At AngloGold, meanwhile, she finds herself in a mining sector that has been battered by volatile commodity prices, the unstable value of the rand and divisive labor issues as firms struggle to modernize amid rising costs and harder-to-reach resources. As if that wasn’t enough, Ramon is also a Non Executive Director at telecommunications giant MTN, which itself has been through a tough period of labor unrest, management changes and a US$1.7b fine from the Nigerian Government.
It’s perhaps an indication of her character that, when asked about her uncanny ability to pick industries in turmoil, she simply says with a smile: “I guess I’m the type of person who enjoys a challenge.”