The Community Show featuring Helené van Tonder

The Community Show is a fun rapid-fire series by Threado. In this episode, get to know Helené van Tonder a little better!
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Priyanshu Anand
March 28, 2022

About the guest

Helené van Tonder is a community builder, writer, researcher, and project & operations manager, with specific experience in tech startups and media production.

Most of all, I’m someone who works hard to understand other people, and deeply values good communication and compassion in places of work. Seeing other people flourish is what brings me joy and fulfilment.

In this episode

Helené talks to us about her love for India, the fact that seeing others succeed is her favorite part of being a community builer, how coffees and people get her through the day, and a lot more. Truly the soul of a writer, she walks us through some of the things that make up her day, and her life as a community manager.

See for yourself👇

Episode highlights

00:46 - Early childhood.

01:06 - Favorite thing about being a community manager.

02:18 - What keeps her going through the day?

02:29 - You can healthy but never as healthy as Helené

03:42 - A classic!

04:08 - One of the greatest comedy shows ever.

04:44 - Her advice for young and budding community managers.

Video Transcript

Hritika: So hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of the community show, where we get to have a quick fun chat with community managers from across the globe. Today we have Helene, in the show. Why don't you introduce yourself for the audience? 

Helene: Hey, so nice to meet you, Ritika and hello to everyone else. My name is Helene . I'm originally South African. I've been living in India for two years, having a blast and I'm a community manager 

What is something that people don’t know about you?

Helene:I grew up in a very, very small town, basically rural South Africa. I think that would be it.

If not a community manager, what would you be doing?

Helene: Oh, I want to be a novelist

Hritika: Maybe you can still be a novelist.

Helene: I guess I haven't achieved that yet, but yes, that's definitely a dream. I love writing. So I'm hoping I get some time to do more of it soon.

What is your favourite part of the job?

Helene: I love speaking to people. Um, a lot of getting to know people and their stories and best of all, I love enabling people. So seeing other people succeed and thrive like that just gives me the biggest kick in life. I'm so happy when I realised that a community manager gets to do quite a bit of that. So it makes me very happy. 

What do you hate about your job?

Helene:I don't like competing with egos, so that's not fun. So, I love engaging with people. If somebody becomes  like an egotistical game, I'm no longer interested. So that's something I hate. 

What is the most common stereotype  you have heard about your job title?

Helene:I actually don't know. I guess it can be sort of a stereotype that you're just like having a party all the time, which is not the case.I think there's a lot. Sort of systemic thinking that goes into building communities, a deep understanding of people and humans and human psychology. Um, you often have to be sort of a very friendly and energetic person, uh, but you are not just running a party over, all the time.

What is that one thing that keeps you going throughout the day?

Helene: Meeting interesting people.So whenever I have a nice conversation, I feel totally amped. Um, and other than that, just good coffee. 

Your favourite snack to munch on during a meeting?

Helene:Ooh. I love  carrots or  any kind of vegetables, so carrots or cucumbers or whatever.

Hritika: So you are a health freak.

Helene: Um, yes, actually I worked in a startup at some point and we decided that we're going to promote health.Um, so we're not going to be heavy on drinking parties, ever share that we all call, but that's not the kind of culture we promote and we're going to have snacks in the office and we're going to make sure they're healthy snacks mostly. And I thought that was a wonderful sort of philosophy or way to  enable a house within your organisation.It was also often, healthy snacks are actually expensive. So if you want to buy nuts and stuff like that, it can get pretty expensive. So it's not a cheap way to go. But I thought that kind of got me onto healthy snacking as part of my life.

How do you unwind after work?

Helene: Ooh. I love reading and writing as I said, but I also like painting.I'm very bad at it.

I just started recently. I have no training whatsoever, but I realised that like having a brush in my hand and  sort of doing something that I don't feel any pressure about, like really gets me in a sort of relaxed state of float.

Your go to song on a difficult day?

Helene: Ooh, easy question. Bruce Springsteen Badlands

Coffee or protein shake?

Helene: Coffee.

Early morning meetings or late night events?

Helene:Oh, early morning meetings.

WFH or WF Office?

Helene:Can I say hybrid?

The TV show , Friends or Office?


Slack or Discord?


What’s that one TV series that you are bingeing on?

Helene:Um, so there's a new, I watch this show A Marvellous Mrs. Maisel, and they just have a new season also. Yes. That's where I'm at.

One superhero character that you relate most to?

Helene: Have you ever seen fleabag? I have. I love the show. So the protagonist of fleabag. I think it would be her.

What according to you is the most important thing when it comes to building a safe space in your community?

Helene: I think it's listening, and making sure people feel heard, not hurt like in homes, but feel listened to. So I think, if you can imbibe that.Then you're set up for success.

Your mantra for success?

Helene: The journey is always in words.

One advice to young CMs/people just getting started in space?

Helene:I'd say get a good mentor and someone that has the kind of character that you aspire to have. So like someone who has a good character and that you can learn in the sense of building your own character. So I think as a Community Builder, authenticity is the most important thing. And authenticity, I think on character or deeply tied and authenticity, isn't also just sort of a thing. It's still something that you can grow in. And I think to grow in it, sort of, you have to grow your character. Um, so having someone that really is a role model, if you're in that aspect, I think would help you a lot.

One community that you recommend joining?

Hritika:Those were my 9, 15, 16 whatever questions, and it was lovely having you, your answers were as beautiful as your cabin.

Helene: That's right. Thank you so much. Thanks for having me. I was pretty nervous eventually, but you're a great host. And I just want to say that I'm a huge fan of Threado and everything you guys do. I'm literally sitting sort of at the edge of my chair, for the OS to launch fully,and to start seeing all the amazing things you guys are building so big, shout out to Threado.

Hritika:Yay. I am going to use that clip somewhere, but thank you.

Helene: You're welcome. I really enjoyed this and it was nice meeting you. 

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