Articled clerk Xolani Ndawonde inspired by CFO South Africa

Articled clerk Xolani Ndawonde got in touch with us to let us know how CFO South Africa has motivated him while he completes his studies.

Tell us a little about your background. Where did you go to school and what initially inspired you to become a CA?
I was born in Hammardale, a very small township in between Durban and Pieterrmaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal. I received all my education there and finished matric at Isibukosezwe High School. Funny enough, I never really knew anything about chartered accountancy until I was doing my grade 11. My father, whom I looked up to, told me a story about a guy he knew from his childhood who was a CA. He travels and works overseas from time to time and gets to drive all the fancy new cars. 

After matric, I had little information about NSFAS and all other bursaries available, so I took a gap year. As I was sitting at home, watching the news, I saw this gentlemen dressed so smart, speaking so nice. You could tell he knew what he was talking about. They were discussing MTN’s footprint in Africa, and they said he was from EY. Out of curiosity, I googled EY and found out they are an auditing and assurance firm. 

From that day, I started googling SAICA, articles and CAs. I started emailing auditing firms when I heard you can do articles straight out of high school. Very few replied though and most of them promised me articles if I can register for a B.Compt through UNISA. Grant Thornton was one of them. 

The following year, which was 2012, I registered with UNISA for B.Compt CA stream. While I was applying for my articles, I was also looking for bursaries. By the end of the year I had two options: I was either going to be part of Thuthuka Bursary Fund Scheme, which was an initiative between Thuthuka and Varsity College, and also had a scholarship offer from the Jacob Zuma Foundation. The Jacob Zuma Foundation wanted to send me to the American University of Nigeria, which is owned by a former Nigerian Vice president Atiku Abubakar and a potential presidential candidate for Nigeria’s next election. He’s a very close friend of former president Jacob Zuma, so I accepted the scholarship, because it was a great opportunity for me to experience something different than I was used to. 

Two years into the scholarship, I got sick with malaria. I believe it was a blessing in disguise. I had to drop out and come back to South Africa and decided to go back to UNISA to continue my degree. I also applied for articles, of which I got a position at my current firm, Aitken Lambert Elsworth, and the rest is history. 

Was it hard to find a place where you could do your articles?
Before going to Nigeria, yes, it was very hard. When I came back though, it was not as hard. I only sent my CV once, to the firm I am currently at, and I was called for an interview. Before that, I had to send it three times to the same firm, sometimes not even getting responses. I got a list from SAICA for all registered training providers in my area and I think I sent it to about eight or nine. I was offered an interview by one, and three said they had already hired trainees. The rest said they don’t take undergraduates. 

Have your articles been what you expected?
A big no! I had this mental picture that articles would be terrible, with your parents always on your case and you would never get to spend time with your family. The only thing you would do is work, work and work some more, even though you haven’t progressed to that level of responsibility. But my firm has allowed me to adjust gradually, without forcing me to do big tasks, because I am still just doing my degree. However, I do see my senior being stressed about deadlines and meeting the budget, so I know I am also heading there. But it’s not as hectic as I thought it would be. 

What are your plans for when you complete your articles?
Because I am doing my articles at a small firm, I might go to a bigger firm after my articles for two years. You know, so I can get the feeling of auditing listed companies. That’s what I am looking at. 

Will you continue at your current firm after articles?
I am not really looking at spending my entire life doing auditing,. I love being a CA more than I love being an auditor. So for that reason, I will not continue at my current firm after articles. 

Where do you hope to end up? What is your ideal job position? 
I would love to see myself being a CEO of a major listed company one day. 

What is your strategy to become a CA?
I am currently on my second year of my five-year training contract and third year of my studies. I am looking at completing my CTA and writing ITC within the next three years, along with signing off my articles and writing APC after my training contract. I am not really rushing myself into anything, I just want to take my time and enjoy the process. I don’t want to try and do everything at once, because I have seen working while studying is not easy. You need to take your time and move at your own pace, run your own race, don’t look at what other are doing. 

Do you have any advice for people going into their articles?
I could write an article about this one! I am just going to keep it short and simple. Only you know what you are capable of. I know when you first get into articles, you meet all kind of people, the smart ones and those who think they are smart, the dreamers and the hard workers. You meet all types of people, even working with clients. The best advice I can give you, is to just know who you want to associate yourself with, because I think during your articles you get influenced more by those you associate yourself with, more than by those who are in senior positions. So just choose the right people. 

What inspires you to keep working?
Life can always be better than what it is right now, no matter what the circumstances. 

How does CFO South Africa inspire you and help you to stay focused?
Reading inspiring stories of how people have made it to where they are, what they are continuing to do on a day-to-day basis, and reading about their thoughts and understandings makes me excited about the future. I try to put myself in their shoes, just to keep myself inspired and to make a goal as visible as possible. We all look up to them and I want to be them one day. Having this opportunity to read about them is exciting. 

What do you like to do in your free time?
I go out with my friends, partying. I like having a good time. It always helps me to be more focused and less stressed after a good weekend out.