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Sharmla Chetty hopes to be role model, bring empathy to new role as CEO of Duke Corporate Education

Sharmla Chetty succeeded Michael Chavez Oct. 5 to become Duke CE’s fifth CEO in its 21-year existence. Courtesy of Duke CE.
Sharmla Chetty succeeded Michael Chavez Oct. 5 to become Duke CE’s fifth CEO in its 21-year existence. Courtesy of Duke CE.

Activist and leader Sharmla Chetty hopes to “build on a legacy” as the new chief executive officer of Duke Corporate Education.

Chetty succeeded Michael Chavez Oct. 5 to become Duke CE’s fifth CEO in its 21-year existence.

“I am thankful to [Chavez] for his exemplary leadership and thankful that he will continue to lead in his work with clients, providing the consistent excellence and thought leadership he has brought to companies around the world for 15 years at Duke CE,” Chetty said in a press release

Chetty grew up in South Africa and has been an activist since a very young age.

“I was expelled at a very early age because I was an anti-apartheid activist,” Chetty said. “I was going to study law, but being expelled, I went and studied at another university. Eventually, I applied to go into banking and they loved to take a candidate like me, that was different.”

Chetty transitioned from her role as head of Human Capital Development at Nedbank to Duke CE to fulfill her aspirations of generating social impact and making a difference. She founded the Duke CE South Africa office in 2007.

Chetty previously served as Duke CE’s president of global markets, North America, Europe & United Kingdom, Asia and Africa. She is currently a board trustee for the AVI Group of black shares scheme, chairperson of the BCG Development Trust and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. 

Chetty was a recipient of the 2016 Award for Entrepreneurial and Academic Excellence on the African Continent as well as a finalist for Business Woman of the Year Award in 2016 for education. She is a founding member of #MillionYoungMinds, a movement that streamed Sophia the Robot to over 7000 schools, reaching over one million South African youth on the topic of artificial intelligence. 

“Leadership is no more about command and control, it’s about showing care and empathy, being relevant in a time like this,” said Chetty. “Gone are the days where you can delegate and say this and that, [nowadays] you have to show up, you have to be a role model—people need to see you as a visible leader.”

Sharmla holds a Master of Business Administration from the Henley Management Business School and a Master in Management and Executive Coaching from Wits Business School. She also studied at Johannesburg University and has a qualification in Human Resources Development.

What is Duke Corporate Education?

Duke CE was created in 2000 and is associated with the Fuqua School of Business. It is a global provider of corporate executive education, operating in over 80 different countries. Duke CE is also the lead partner in Dialogue, a journal for managers and leaders.

Duke CE’s headquarters are in Durham, with offices in London, Johannesburg and Singapore. Some clients that Duke CE has worked with in the past include Jacobs, Standard Chartered Bank, MTN Group and AstraZeneca.

“We have the ability to co-create and transform organizations at a high level, using education [and] leadership as a lever to become a force multiplier,” Chetty said. “Themes like … cybersecurity, and diversity and inclusion are interwoven into a strategic leadership program, helping [our clients] to transform their business strategy.”

From a Duke basketball experience in Cameron Indoor Stadium to an agility simulation training with NASA astronauts, Duke CE offers programs that merge traditional classroom experiences from leadership and business experts with interactive experiences. 

“One of the experiences we can bring is the Duke basketball experience where the leaders [of our client organization] will come to Cameron Indoor Stadium and work with a set of staff from Duke Athletics and the Duke basketball team to actually train them as part of a hands-on visceral basketball experience where they are work on teamwork and collaboration skills,” said Christine Robers, chief marketing officer of Duke CE. “There would be reflective moments where they will debrief what worked and what didn’t work. How do you deepen and build trust within the team?”


Jazper Lu

Jazper Lu is a Trinity first-year and a staff reporter for the news department.

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