Changing your circumstances starts with a dream - Ngubane & Co's Sihle Ndzimbomvu

Sihle Ndzimbomvu is an Audit Manager at leading black-owned accounting firm Ngubane & Co, a gold partner of Finance Indaba 2017. She heads up the training department, ensuring that there is continuous skills transfer and staff development.

Sihle has always wanted to be a professional, since she began walking to school in summer and winter. She describes herself as a black girl from the rural area of Umzimkhulu with big dreams. Becoming an auditor was not the obvious nor easiest career path for Sihle. But her resilience, her motivation and the support from her family have helped her to persevere. Now, with the assistance of Ngubane & Co she continuous her successful career journey.

We spoke to Sihle about her upbringing, current role and transformation in the financial services space.

Please tell us about your childhood in Umzimkhulu, KZN.
"Umzimkhulu is a small town in the south coast of KZN - the town is filled with people from different villages in the surrounding area. My village is called Rauka and is ruled by Chief Bly.

"Rauka has quickly adapted to Western culture when compared to other neighbouring locations, which always made us think we were better off as kids. There is a bit of culture and a bit of Westernisation. In my area, there were a lot of educated seniors. I envied them. I am still studying today. I grew up in a society where we were taught to respect everyone equally. They say it takes a village to raise a child - I relate very well with that statement because to us, the respect you gave to your parent was the same as you gave to any elderly person.

"I grew up in a house filled with hardship, especially when my dad couldn't get us food and our grandmother had to chip in. However, that never took away the laughter, fun and also competition between me and my siblings. Most of us were involved in sporting activities and academics were very important to us. Education seemed as if it would be our ticket out of our situation. Our parents encouraged to finish school to better our lives. I was a hardworking student, but also participated in extra mural activities, such as netball, music and an agricultural 4H project. I used to travel a lot and that is when I realised I enjoyed meeting new people.

"What I miss the most are the days when we used to walk about two kilometres to fetch water. Those times allowed us to catch up with friends and neighbours as we would walk in groups. The laundry days in the river were the most exciting ones - we would play some games whilst waiting for our clothes to dry off and even take a swim to pass the time."

Did you always want to go into auditing/financial services?
"I was a child who wanted to break barriers and penetrate careers where there was a limited number of females. I grew up in an area where people I idolised were in teaching, nursing and law enforcement, which motivated me to want something different. My first interest was to be a pilot or a captain of a ship. However, after deliberations with my father I found myself lost. One day, as I was paging through an English literature book, I saw a description of the job of a chartered accountant. With my love for accounting I realised that's the career I want to pursue, even though at the time, I had no background in the industry."

What significant challenges did you face on your journey and how did you overcome them?
"a. Lack of career guidance - growing up in the rural areas during those times with no technology advancement or cellphones made it difficult to identify the career path you could take and develop an understanding of what is required to further your studies for a specific career and select the correct subject at secondary education level. Luckily, our school principal identified the gap and ensured that he invited people he knew to come and do presentations about their profession. These people were all from the same town.

"b. Unemployment as a graduate - after I completed my studies, I went without employment for eight months, if I start counting from when I finished my exams without employment and six months in a work readiness programme. I could not understand why were I struggling to get a job, even though I had an Honours degree. I emailed my CV to a number of places, went to a number of interviews, but had no luck and that started to take a toll on me. However, the support from my parents helped a lot. I then joined a work readiness programme that assisted me a lot and I still use the skills acquired from the programme today."

4. Tell us about the training and development programme at Ngubane & Co.
"I joined Ngubane in 2012 for the SAICA Training programme via the work readiness program and it was my first job, if I could call training a job.

"I learned a lot about myself during the programme in terms of the interpersonal skills, decision-making, articulation, diversity, adapting to any change and most importantly technical skills required for me to be a chartered accountant one day. What I appreciated is that I did not only get exposure in assurance only, I also gained exposure in HR admin, finance, strategy development, monitoring, etc. The exposure I received during the programme has assisted me in deciding what my next step in my career is.

"The demographics of client base has allowed me to see place I never thought I would ever visit and that was also a very good exposure.

"During the programme you receive a mentor that will guide and walk with you during the programme and assist in making things a bit easier.

"The environment has that warm, homely feel, everyone engages with each and that makes it very easy to work with people and adapt."

How important is training to Ngubane & Co, particularly in the context of advancing transformation?
"What I appreciate is the fact that Ngubane and Co is trying to close the gap between those who couldn't further their studies to get honours at varsity and allowing them to work (i.e. equipping them with the skills to either be CAs or also open their own practices/firm) and study to be come at the same time. This alone shows how important is the training in advancing transformation. This has assisted in closing the gap for previously disadvantaged individuals and has given us the second chance to fulfil our dreams.

"Secondly ,there are support academic classes outsourced to assist those who are still furthering their studies to ensure they capitalise on the opportunity and do well in their exams.

"Providing such an environment as a company shows that it is committed to advancing transformation in the unemployment rate and also the shortage of black CAs and I am one of the individuals that are benefiting from this."