FM Lebo Nkuna on family and finance

Pilanesberg Platinum Mines FM Lebo talks about motherhood, management, and the mining industry.

She is bubbly, energetic and passionate about her family and her job. Lebo Nkuna shows that it is indeed possible to be a woman in a leadership position and to build a thriving family.

She is a mom to a 12-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son and says that her children are her biggest motivation. Very often professional women are forced to sacrifice motherhood, or their professional ambitions take a backseat while they are raising a young family, but for Lebo it was different. Becoming a mother catapulted her career and made her even more ambitious.

“I was actually more laid-back up until I became a mother,” admits Lebo. “When you have a daughter, you realise that you are going to be her benchmark and that her benchmark will be based on you. That motivated me to push myself to the next level.

“I remember holding my baby and deciding that I had to reach higher and that I needed to elevate myself. It is then when I decided to study further, and I did my master’s degree. For my son, I will be the blueprint for other women in his life and I need to be someone that they can respect and look up to.”

Lebo says that she wouldn’t be able to be in her position and to raise her family without her amazing support system. “My husband is always there to help and when I’m busy at work he just steps up and fetches the children and takes them to after-school activities, etc.

“I am also very blessed with my mom. She is awesome. I never realised just how supportive my mom is until I had kids and I needed to be the supportive mom. I also have a wonderful, caring sister and thanks to them, I can do all of this. I can have a career and I can balance motherhood with a demanding job. And my children are not left feeling behind with an absent mom.

“That is also why I try so hard to focus on family time during the weekends. I want to give them as much love as possible.”

The mining industry
Pilanesberg is not her first foray into the mining industry. She worked at Anglo American for a couple of years before moving to SBV and now she’s back in the mining industry and has been with Pilanesberg for a year now.

“The PGM sector is an exciting field,” she says. “Not one day is the same. I can say a lot of things about my job, and ‘boring’ is not one of them. There are so many aspects to this business. Finance, to be honest, has evolved over the years. The times have changed from just writing debits and credits in a ledger; finance executives are now business partners.

“Our team, for instance, is part of production meetings because one cannot offer financial advice when you don't know what’s happening in production. We are not simply bean counters,” she says.
Lebo works at Sedibelo’s Pilanesberg Platinum Mines (PPM), and they are in a fortunate position to be growing.

“We are scheduled for our first blast for an underground mine in September. That is going to be a big day for us. So it is exciting to be part of the project. It is such an uncharted territory of growth, and it is great to be part of a field that is alive with possibilities. We are also changing our Enterprise Resource Planning system and we will be the first mining house in South Africa to use IFS software.”

It is not really challenging to be a woman in the mining industry anymore, says Lebo. “The industry has been transformed since first introducing women to mining. We can really see the difference. It is now more evolved and there were several exercises and programmes in the past to integrate women into the industry. So, in the year 2022, I can truly say that I feel quite welcomed as a woman in this industry.

“I have never felt like an endangered species. Men probably thought at one time that mining was their space, but not anymore. I also think that men like our environment where the company encourages a family life. It is a space where you can call in and say that your child is sick and that you will be working from home. It has been a welcome evolution for both sexes.”

Lebo says the finance team is a close-knit group and she praises their CFO, Elmarie Maritz. “Elmarie has mastered the art of giving strategic direction and letting you be. She is not someone who micromanages. She teaches her team to take a step back and get out of the details and view a problem from a holistic view.”

On paragliding and goals
Weekends are family time, and usually involve a movie of some sort, she says. They often have family movie nights, but they also recently bought bicycles to become a more active family. The Pilanesberg area offers many scenic routes for outdoor enthusiasts.

She may be a homebody, but adventure activities such as bungee jumping and paragliding are on her bucket list. She would also like to travel overseas, and the Maldives tops her list. As a devout Christian, she would also like to visit Israel and the Vatican City.

What would surprise her colleagues about her? “How domesticated I am! I can literally spend the whole weekend indoors,” she says. “Besides my closest family, I can go for weeks without seeing anybody else.
“When it’s family time, I don’t even check WhatsApp, I don’t have an Instagram account and my Facebook page is dormant. I am not big on social media; I am only on Twitter for the news.”

Her short-term goals are learning as much as she can, and to be able to manage from a strategic point of view. “The higher you go, the more people there are to manage, and it is important to be able to give guidance at a strategic level. Once I am at that level, I will look for the next opportunity to grow.”