Young, black, ambitious. Don’t tell me what I can’t achieve


Dorcas Dlamini has known her curious spirit since childhood. It has been the driving force of her life, prompting her to look behind the ordinary and discover how things work. When she was four, her innate self assurance gave her mother the confidence to enrol Dlamini in school two years early. An eager student, she progressed to matriculate at 16, and launched straight into the challenges of adult life, where there were greater mysteries to unveil.

Dlamini started studying towards a degree in web design, but realised that her greater interest was in business. Deciding that the best way in was through the bottom, she accepted a junior position with Protea Hotels by Marriott when she was 19. At the time, Dlamini knew nothing about the hospitality industry, but the fast-paced environment piqued her curiosity, pushing her to learn as much as possible. Within her first year in the sales department she was named the company’s top coordinator.

“If you have a great attitude to learn, you can go far,” says Dlamini, who by 30 had become the hotel group’s youngest ever director and the first black woman to serve at that level of management – a true symbol of South African success. “From a very young age I wanted to do more than was in line for me,” she explains. Many doubted her, questioning how a young black woman would survive the male-dominated hotel business. Dlamini maintained her focus, never losing sight of herself or her dreams. But she would never have succeeded without the help of others, as the mentors who guided her along the way put her in reach of the next step in her journey.