23 October 2023 

Written by Milpark Communications 

McDeal de Vries (39) might appear to be a fairly regular man in his late thirties. He’s a father who has a good job to pay the bills and looks after his family. But in so many instances, a first impression of a person can be far different from who that person really is. Behind every person is a story and McDeal is certainly no exception.  

Employed by the Department of Correctional Services for 18 years, McDeal has been working in the HR department of the government organisation since 2017. A year prior to joining the HR team, he completed an Advanced Diploma through the University of the Western Cape’s School of Governance. 

McDeal’s dreams, however, didn’t stop there. He recently completed his year-long Postgraduate Diploma in Public Administration from Milpark Business School in June. Based in Paarl in the Western Cape, the online access to his course made it easier for him to create fewer disruptions in his life while seeking to upskill himself. 

For McDeal, doing online courses was a new challenge. “I was used to a class environment. Online is difficult – it’s good and bad. The bad side is you have to be on time for class and sometimes you forget that you have class and then you have to rush home. And then load shedding steps in. And domestically, you have to sort out things. But the good side is that you can go back and watch the recordings. So, if you miss something or you need to revisit content for exams, you can rewind, pause and make notes.” He also notes that it does take discipline to tackle the online learning scene. 

He also says that a benefit is that whatever assistance he needed was given to him promptly. “What I found with Milpark is that it was easily accessible. “When I sent emails to staff, it would take less than 24 hours for them to get back to me. Even if I sent something during the day, they would reply in the evening after hours.” 

However, on his journey to obtaining his diploma, McDeal was dealt a hard blow in his life. “During this year, I experienced my father’s sickness, which led to his passing in January [2023].” But that wasn’t the only thing that caused pressure in his life. 

“I had a baby that was born in April and on top of that, on the day that the baby was born I had to submit an assignment as well. So, the whole academic year was full of ups and downs in terms of my personal life.” 

There were times when McDeal had to rush to the hospital to visit his father and sit in the car to attend classes. “When the baby came, I had to go into a room and close the door, but I also needed to hear the baby. Again, I had to discipline myself with online learning and work because sometimes I had to take work home. At times, I had to leave the work because there was something I had to do for class. When we were doing group work, I had to be cognisant of the fact that I had to respect that person’s time. Discipline must be there between work, studying and family. There also needs to be communication with the people at home.” 

McDeal gives credit to Milpark for giving him the space to deal with everything that was going on in his life. “Some people might say, ‘This is your thing, handle it. You applied, no one invited you to apply.’ They were very accommodating. Because of their professionalism and how they handled all the students, for any course, I would recommend this institution.”

McDeal says the course content has translated into his professional life well, especially when it comes to dealing with policies. “With regard to public policy, that is what I’m doing every day. So, I look at situations and think, ‘What does the policy say in terms of that?’ It’s like how do you interpret what it says in this policy and how do you implement it. Will it disadvantage the person or will the department be disadvantaged?” 

In terms of his career, McDeal sees himself spreading his wings and taking a different path – either still within government or in the private sector. “I also see myself doing a master’s degree in 2024. Because I’m in HR, I see myself doing a master’s that is aligned with that. I’ve been in HR for seven years and what I’ve picked up is that there are some gaps. I would like to be more of a helping hand for the employee than only disciplining them if they violate the rules.” 

McDeal’s experience is reminiscent of the fact that although hardship is inevitable in life, the trick is to push through the discomfort because at the end, you gain strength because of it. In the words of former monk and podcast host Jay Shetty, “I didn’t know what I was made of until life turned me inside out.”