A real asset to her department

04 May 2004

Smooth operator: Aayesha Patel.

Dependable, hard-working and caring are just three words used to describe this week's Five-Star Staffer.

Seen as a "real asset" to the department of information systems, Aayesha Patel has been mentioned numerous times by students in course evaluations as being extremely approachable and very helpful.

Patel carries the administrative responsibilities for the department's postgraduate courses. Not only does she administer the part-time postgraduate diploma (35 students) and the part-time honour's degree (20 students), but she also oversees the full-time honour's (80 students), master's (12 students) and PhD (12 students) programmes.

In addition, she organises research seminars, public presentations of students' work, the department's annual research report and she manages the postgraduate library.

"Everything under Aayesha's responsibility works so well and most of these duties are carried out without even asking her to do so," explained head of department Professor Derek Smith.

"For example, one of our honours students got married last weekend and to my surprise, Aayesha had taken the initiative and sent her departmental greetings. Graduates often send Aayesha salutations from all over the world. She is well liked by everyone in the department."

Patel, who has been a UCT staff member for four years now (two years were spent in management studies), attributes her success to finding an environment and profession that she enjoys. She is also quick to point out the importance of her electronic diary.

"I've found my niche area and I wouldn't want to move out of the university surrounds. All my colleagues have contributed towards creating a pleasurable working environment.

"It is essential that I diarise everything. Without my electronic diary I would be lost - it is one of the biggest secrets of getting my job done."

Faced with the challenge of bottlenecked deadlines, Patel says that planning and communication skills are crucial if things are to run smoothly.

"Being able to assist everyone and meeting deadlines are very important in this position. I believe it is not what you say, but rather how you say and do things that make a difference.

"I see the students as my clients and I go out of my way to ensure they feel special," she said.

To this end, Patel is passionate about sending e-mail birthday greetings to all students.

"It is wonderful to remember special occasions in people's lives. It costs nothing and it is important to acknowledge when something good has happened to someone."

(To nominate a Five-Star Staffer, please e-mail Helen Théron.)

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