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Vanessa Cowan


Vanessa is a change management and communications specialist, with over 10 years experience in these niche areas. She also supports people in dealing with change by coaching them through the process, to bring positive experiences and new opportunities.

She has worked with a wide variety of clients across diverse industries, managing the full change function for large scale, transformative projects through to smaller business unit initiatives. Clients include Distell, Metropolitan, Learning Resources, Eskom, Woolworths, Cell C, FNB Commercial, IU&A, FoodBank SA and Santam. In servicing clients, she has also worked with a number of international consultancies including Gemini Consulting, Competitive Capabilities International (CCI), IBM consulting and IQ Business Group.

Vanessa's passion lies in understanding, re-aligning and/or shifting organisational culture, so as to ensure that culture becomes a long-term source of competitive advantage for business.

Her approach is proactive and starts with putting people first.

Sample experience:

At Santam, set up the Business Change Unit's Change Management service offering and created a robust change management framework/model for enabling effective change. Currently acts as custodian of the change management function for Santam, at an enterprise level, for all programmes and projects.

At FNB Commercial, Change Management and Project Manager role for a contact centre re-location and culture alignment initiative. Successfully addressed a number of people related problems such as high turnover, absenteeism, low morale and lack of career development. Full change and culture intervention developed and implemented, with follow up involvement for a period of months thereafter (the success of this project was demonstrated through improved scores in an internal survey measurement tool).

At Cell C, change management stream lead for turnaround company-wide project. Was instrumental in bringing about large scale transformative and culture change. Culture change was orchestrated through a consultative bottom up approach that involved redesigning the organisational values and behaviours. The project resulted in Cell C setting up of a dedicated change function within the business, with internal resources up skilled to perform this function and reporting directly to the CEO. Further developed a robust change process, policy and best practice guidelines to aid the organisation in effectively handling any future restructuring. The overall Cell C project was successful in seeing the business revenues double and EBITDA triple within 18 months of the assignment.

At Woolworths, managed the full change function around the launch of Woolworths' first loyalty programme - the World of Difference programme. The primary objective of this programme was to create an organisation wide shift in thinking and behaviour about customer relationship management. This project was successfully rolled out nationally across Woolworths within an exceptionally short timeframe, generating support and excitement amongst approximately 16 000 Woolworths staff, in head office and stores.

At Eskom, fulfilled the change management and communications role for an HR Shared Services project. Change involved securing the smooth migration of two Eskom divisions into a new HR shared services unit.

Extensive past communications experience, in corporate media & investor relations, corporate communications and as journalist.


MBA (cum laude, Gold medallist) - Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town
Industrial Psychology Honours (UNISA)
BA - University of Cape Town
Certified coach, through Results Coaching Systems

Personal etc:

In her spare time, Vanessa enjoys anything that brings variety and new opportunities . she dabbles in photography, writing, travelling to new places, scuba diving and other sporting activities.


He who wishes to talk well must first think well.



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