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MEETING CHALLENGING TARGETS:  Engaging 36,000 employees to acquire 10m customers for Barclays Africa (then, Absa Bank) at the beginning of the global economic downturn and during Group-wide downsizing. Target achieved in 2009.

TALENT RETENTION: Increasing talent retention by 45% when I led HR Communications during Barclay’s acquisition of Absa and the move of the former’s African operations from Dubai to Johannesburg (culture change). • Increasing Productivity: Transitioning Africa’s largest power utility (Eskom) from operating with a parastatal approach (low productivity) to embracing a Quality Management system across its African, South American, European & Asian footprint. ISO 9001:2008 Certification achieved in 2012.

SUPPORTING EXPANSION & CHANGE: Successfully supportingthe expansion of Africa’s largest mobile phone provider (MTN Group) into Africa, the Middle East, Cyprus and India where I managed in-country communication resources.

SUPPORTING EXPANSION & CHANGE: Gaining the buy-in of employees for the expansion of Italy’s largest mobile phone provider (Telecom Italia) across Africa and the Middle East.

MOBILISING EXECUTIVES & EMPLOYEES: Gaining widespread Executive and employee buy-in for CSR initiatives such as 67 Minutes for Nelson Mandela Day, Early Childhood Development Awards & Make A Difference Day (Barclays Africa).

WINNING AWARDS: Volunteering to manage other communication roles that weren’t covered due to budget & staff cuts, including Sustainability, CSR, Corporate Affairs & Innovation (Barclays Africa). Securing the Most Innovative Bank in Africa award by identifying the competition as an opportunity to position the bank and leading the submission process.

HIGH-SCALE PROJECT MANAGEMENT: Leading the task team for the hosting of the Ninth United Nations Conference on Trade & Development & related exhibition: 5,000 international delegates.


To head-up Internal / HR Communications and Employee Engagement for an organisation in the banking/financial, telecoms, utilities, higher education, travel, sustainability or non-profit sector.

It needn't be a leading' organisation, it's my job to get them there, if I operate in a receptive environment where communication plays a key role - as it should.

While the non-profit sector has not been part of my professional experience as such, I headed up CSR communications for the Barclays Africa Group and I would welcome the challenge  and opportunity of working within this sector. Often, past experience pales in the face of passion, enthusiasm and the ability to learn and apply very rapidly. Since non-profits also rely on corporates for funding, my global network and experience within corporates would be valuable resources. 

This is what one of my previous bosses had to say when I asked her to define my most valuable trait - to her:

"[The] quick grasp of complex material." (Dr. Julie MacLiam, Group Communication Manager, Life Healthcare).  

I'm an EU citizen, currently based in Italy. I am willing to relocate and travel for the right opportunity. 

Work experience


Head of Internal Communication

St. John International University

I’m currently developing and executing internal communication strategies for this American and international university to engage the Board, managers, employees, faculty members and students in positioning the University as a leading global higher education institution.

I work closely with the Chair of the Board, CFO and the President & CEO.

Achievements include securing dual-degree agreements with other leading universities and fostering collaborative ties with the EMUNI University and the Union for the Mediterranean

Mar 2013Mar 2013

Chief Internal Communications Advisor


I was contracted for a fixed-term period to lead the Quality Management internal communication team with the objective of engaging 39,000 employees and transition this parastatal power utility to operating as a competitive global organization.

I joined Eskom at a difficult time when operations were working in silos with an “us (operations) and them (head office)” mentality. Other major challenges were limited communication channels, varying literacy levels and a 471,000 square miles footprint.

My team and I successfully supported the attainment of ISO 9001:2008 certification (step 1 in becoming “one of the Top Five utilities in the world”) by the target date.

I lead a team of 7 senior resources and was responsible for budget, agency and supplier management.

Apr 2008Nov 2011

Senior Communications Manager

Barclays Africa (previously Absa)

I joined the bank at the beginning of the global economic downturn in 2008 when I led the company downsizing communication team. My psychology & business coaching backgrounds served me well in managing “survivor syndrome” (anxiety, depression & loss of productivity) effectively.

I increased talent retention by 45 percent. I crafted and implemented employee communication strategies to gain buy-in for the bank’s goal to acquire 10m customers – target achieved in 2009 in spite of the global economic crisis. I led the HR communication team from 2010 to 2011 during another major culture shift – Barclay’s acquisition of Absa and the relocation of the former’s operation from Dubai to Johannesburg.

I volunteered to manage other portfolios such as Sustainability, CSR, Corporate Affairs & Innovation that weren’t covered due to staff & budget cuts. I worked closely with the CEO, CFO, COO & Head of HR. I lead a team of 8-12 senior & mid-senior resources and was responsible for agency, supplier & budget management.

Jan 2007Dec 2008

Internal Communications Specialist

MTN Group

I was headhunted to lead the internal communication team during MTN’s expansion into Africa, Cyprus, the Middle East and India.

I gained employee commitment across Africa’s largest mobile phone provider’s footprint also by factoring-in various cultural, social, educational & religious differences. I influenced the expansion strategy at Board and Exco levels by providing communication advice and highlighting reputational and other risks. I drastically reduced loss of productivity and general insecurity in the system by(i) recommending that an inclusive (rather than take-over) approach be taken with our internal & external stakeholders (overseas operations) and(ii) informing on the "when, how & why" of the expansion and related organisational changes.

MTN is quoted as one of the most successful expansion strategies globally for adopting this approach.

I worked closely with the CEO and profiled him and his executive team in leading industry-related publications such as the Financial Mail. I lead a team of 15 senior resources and was responsible for budget and agency management.

Jan 2005Dec 2007

Account Director

Baird's / Edelman

I joined Baird’s CMC to also gain exposure to the agency's affiliate partner - Edelman - the leading independent global PR firm. I managed the Barclays, Anglo Platinum, BHP Billiton and MTN Group client portfolios where I led integrated communication, media & PR campaigns.

Achievements include drafting and implementing the global FIFA World Cup 2010 sponsorship strategy for MTN Group, launching the South African leg of the global Brandstorm competition for L'Oréal and minimising negative media coverage for Anglo Platinum and BHP Billiton during prolonged, country-wide mass action and strikes.

I achieved the latter by providing CEO and spokesperson communication counsel and drastically improving leadership visibility in the organisation.

This experience allowed me to identify one of the key factors that determine a company's success, or otherwise - a committed and fully engaged workforce - hence my move to specialise in internal & employee engagement communications. This then prompted me to become an accredited business coach.

In this role I led 4 mid-senior resources and was responsible for supplier and budget management.

Jan 2001Nov 2004

Communications Specialist


An urgent family matter called me back to Europe in 2001. I secured fixed-termcontracts with a leading global sustainable waste management company, Gruppo Gesenu, and the Italian Trade Agency - both in Rome. I led integrated communication, media, event and PR campaigns for both companies.

Achievements include raising Gruppo Gesenu's national media profile by 75 percent and bolstering visibility and international trade links for the Italian Trade Commission by 37 percent.

Jan 1999Dec 2000

Communications Director

Events Dynamic Corporation

I was one of the founding partners of this company. I ceded my company shares due to pressing family matters that forced me to travel less. In this role I secured major clients such as RAI International Television, the Southern Equatorial Ferrari Club, Airports Company South Africa, Aeroporti di Roma and luxury brands such as Alberta Ferretti couture.

I created and implemented integrated communication, media, PR & event campaigns that brought US$ 4.7m in revenue to the company over 2 years.

Achievements include the successful live launch of the RAI television network in Sub-Saharan Africa before a 2,000-strong audience and the launch of the Airports Company South Africa’s retail promotion where I exceeded the client’s airport retail target by US$ 2.5m with only 20 working days to implement the campaign across 5 major national airports.

I led 8 senior resources in this role and managed contractors, suppliers agencies and a US$ 2.5m budget.

Jan 1997Dec 1998

Internal Communications Director

Telecom Italia

I was headhunted for this role where I led the internal and external communication teams. I joined this company at a challenging time when it was expanding across Africa & the Middle East.

I provided high-level communication counsel to the Country Director and influenced the expansion strategy by sourcing key data such as regulatory information, social, cultural & religious differences across the company’s envisaged footprint.

As with other roles, I was responsible for all communication and media content – both online and print.

I led a team of 3 mid-senior resources and was tasked with agency, supplier and budget management. 

Jan 1995Dec 1996

Assistant International Marketing Director

Gallagher Convention Centre

I was offered a communication role in the Office of the late President Nelson Mandela, which role was frozen due to budget cuts after the first democratic election. I sought a communication role that would allow me to use my diplomatic protocol training, international networking & project management skills.

I led the task team for the hosting of the Ninth United Nations Conference on Trade & Development (UNCTAD IX); 5,000 delegates.

I managed a US$ 4m budget as well as suppliers, contractors and agencies. Prior to this role, I participated in the human rights movement in South Africa and was seconded to the Transitional Executive Council (TEC) to serve during the country’s transition to a fully-fledged democracy.

The Gallagher Convention Centre is the seat of the Pan-African Congress. 


Errol Smith, CEO Lorrenmor Group (Pty) Ltd. & Execz Executive Placements

I know Elena well. She is a highly intelligent individual who is meticulous, strategic and reliable. She draws on her vast experience for every scenario she is asked to provide insight into. Elena is extremely resourceful as a practical business science consultant for strategic positioning as she fully understands and grasps - Product, Processes, Systems and People inter-dependence. I can only recommend her to any organisation who wishes to hire her services.

Lian Robinson, Internal Communications & Incentives Manager, FIAT Group

I first met Elena as part of a project team. I was told that she was very knowledgeable about the communication practice within business. From the onset I respected her as a communications professional. Elena is smart, articulate, very direct in her approach, has attention to detail, is very confident both personally and professionally, she knows what is expected of her as a communicator, she delivers with energy and is very personable.

Penny Naidoo, Senior Communications Manager, Barclays Africa

Elena is very strategic and has an excellent command of the English language. She is an excellent writer and has excellent communication, PR and internal marketing skills. She is creative and has a passion for her chosen field.

Ruben Plat, Communication Manager, Sasol Shared Services

Elena is the embodiment of strength, courage and creativity. Never backing down under difficult conditions, she always stands up for what she believes is fair and just. She has a wonderful management style, great orator and is remarkably creative in English writing. It was an absolute pleasure working for and with Elena and I would do it again!

Slawek Justyrniaski, General Manager, Telesure Group

Elena is an ultimate communications professional. Her years of experience in the field give her the ability to provide strategic counsel that results in the achievement of the desired business objectives. She is multidimensional, with an ability to identify best possible solutions that address specific communication needs and implement the appropriate plan of action. She thrives on challenges and never backs away from an opportunity to solution a problem area. 

Elena has experience in applying her expertise in various industries and has worked in South Africa and in Europe. The combined experience lends itself to a different mindset that is truly international in its application. 
In addition to her being a seasoned communicator, she is a talented coach and mentor, who fully enjoys sharing her talent with others. She is an asset to any company that is lucky enough to get her attention.

John Dludlu, Head, Group Communication, Barclays Africa

I've worked with Elena Di Cesare for more thank a year since joining the Absa Group as its Head: Communications. Initially I worked with her in her capacity as Head: Communications for the Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Unit at Absa. In this capacity she served on the Executive Committee which I chaired. Subsequently, I worked with her in her capacity as Senior Communication Manager: Human Resources. Throughout my interactions with her, I have found her to be professional, pleasant and decent. She's been open, honest, forthright and transparent in dealings with me. I've deeply valued these traits - all of which are an integral subset of integrity, a key attribute from her as a colleague. One of her foremost strengths is her inability to divorce her personal values from the way she discharges her professional duties. She has a deep sense of wrong and right. I have found her input thorough and fair-minded at all times. She is a great mentor and an excellent coach. She is a good writer and corporate communications specialist. She retains my respect as a colleague and professional.


personal development – philanthropy – sustainability – photography – fiction & screenplay writing – hiking – cycling


Jan 1994Jan 1995

English Major

University of Pretoria
Jan 1994Jan 1995

English Major

University of Pretoria
Jan 1991Mar 1994


University of Pretoria

Psychology/Sociology majors


Apple Mac, MS Office, iWeb, AdobePagemaker, OpenOffice
Social media
Media relations
Project management
Intranet content development
Research & international benchmarkig
Measurement & analysis
Presentations, public speaking & spokesperson
Executive & team communication coaching
Content writer & editor
Reputation management
Crisis communications
International experience
Supplier & budget management
Agency briefing & management
Event planning & management
Best company to work for surveys
Employee surveys
Employee rewards programs
HR communication strategies & execution
Change management
Complex stakeholder matrixes
Communication strategies & execution
Employee engagement
Internal communications