The only way to move forward, is together, says Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe CFO Tafadzwa Mahachi
Tafadzwa is passionate about mentoring and empowering young students and CAs, as well as his colleagues.
Thriving in an economy that is stable, where a steady environment pervades, is easy. But how do you build a successful career in the face of arduous circumstances? Tafadzwa Mahachi says it’s all about hard work, collective support and collaboration.
Navigating through a generation of turmoil
Having come of age during a period in Zimbabwe’s history that was fraught with economic and political challenges, Tafadzwa has had to grow a career in the midst of constant challenges.
He admits that accessing opportunities hasn’t always been easy, from getting an education to being a young professional. He says success in such an environment isn’t a simple equation, where effort equals reward: in fact, it’s often a journey where rewards are delayed if they come at all.
A chartered accountant and holder of a bachelor of accounting science (honours) as well as a postgraduate diploma in auditing, he says, “Growing your career in an unstable environment is difficult, and it doesn’t necessarily get easier with time. What has been sobering is working hard and becoming a professional, but for reasons such as hyperinflation, still struggling to take care of your family’s needs. Achieving basic things like acquiring a home or vehicle, are out of reach in that dynamic. You have to reckon with the fact that you are a professional, but it’s not reflecting in your standard of living.”
Despite the challenges, he insists he is one of the more blessed ones, “Many people who ideally would want to be productive and thriving in the professions they have chosen, are unemployed or engaged in survival activities. A lot of people have not been able to realise their potential, so I feel blessed in that regard.”
How sponsors accelerated his success
Tafadzwa credits the influence of visionary teachers from a young age, competent peers and strong leaders in the workplace, as individuals who have been vitall pieces of the puzzle of his success. He believes greatly in career sponsors, explaining that, “I got where I am because of people who looked out for me or saw my potential. Sponsors who advocated for me have had a powerful role in helping me advance.”
He says many people have played a hand in his development, some without being aware of how instrumental they were in his life. “I was introduced to the career of being a CA when I was at school. A former accomplished alumnus came and shared about the career and that experience had a huge impact on my outlook. I heard about how CAs were leading organisations and saw the route as a promising one in terms of career prospects.”
Once in the working world, he credits sponsors who have helped him along his journey as being instrumental in him reaching his goals. “Their support helped inspire me to persevere through the tough times, when I may have started to feel discouraged. They also equipped me with on-the-job and interpersonal skills that have enabled me to succeed both personally and professionally.”
Engaging and giving back
Having been massively affected by the goodwill and investment in his talent and abilities that others have made in his own journey, Tafadzwa is a great advocate of giving back. He makes it a point to groom young people in his organisation, saying, “I lead our Youth Forum, which is composed of all our employees under 35. On a quarterly basis, I engage with them, to ensure that their issues and questions are being addressed by someone senior.”
He mentors five or six colleagues at a time and says that it’s important to him to understand what is going on in their careers and goals. “When you rise to a certain level, some conversations can escape you. Yet knowing that insider information is what makes the organisation and their lives better.”
He also retraces his steps and has gone back to KPMG, where he first launched his career, to meet with young professionals there to reaffirm what they are doing in their career – a step he thinks is important in ensuring that there is a strong generation of CAs coming through. In addition, he participates in his professional body by giving talks and sharing his insights and reflections.
These interactions have exposed the main challenges of young people in the profession. The most menacing is what he calls a pandemic of uncertainty. “This has been accelerated by Covid-19, as well as Zimbabwe having its own unique issues. It’s extremely challenging for young people to face all the various challenges, and that is why it’s important that they have someone to talk to.” In his circle of influence, it’s a priority for everyone to reach some level of financial security because that will give them peace of mind and allow them to thrive and apply themselves.
Being an invested leader
“As a leader, I believe in encouraging my team to see that they have the innate ability to achieve great things within themselves. When people recognise their abilities and rise up to their genius, they can do more, and this in turn frees me up to be able to explore new areas for us to grow and excel,” Tafadzwa says.
He says growing a great team takes time, but when you give people space to show that they are capable, they stretch themselves, often beyond what they thought they were capable of.
“I believe in working with your team. We are in it together; we will succeed together and need to support each other to reach common goals. When it's crunch time, you need to lead from the front. You may assign people tasks but as a leader, you also need to show up when it matters, so that the team knows you’re in the trenches with them.”
“I was brought up in a family where hard work was what was expected, which was very helpful in a career like accounting where you have long hours.” He says especially early on in his career, he would often work through the night, only get home at 6am to change and be back at the client’s or chase a deadline at 8am.
“Even now when we have a big project like a system implementation and we are there as a team to monitor if everything is going well, it takes us well into the night. I have always been able to rise up to whatever is needed, willing to work hard and appreciating what it takes to get a job done,” he says.
Outside of work
When he’s not working, he’s reading on a wide range of interests, from economics, business, history and politics to anthropology; the history and science of humans and where we are going fascinate him.
He likes a game of golf and spending time with his two daughters who are 14 and eight, and his two-year-old son. He says being on lockdown turned out to be a blessing family-wise. Working from home has allowed him to spend time with his son, which he wasn’t able to do with his older girls, when he was spending much more time in the office and only seeing them when he wasn’t working. “With my son, I have been able to see many milestones, from crawling and walking and sometimes being the noisiest contributor in my online meetings. It’s been amazing seeing the growth.”
He likes hitting the golf course, “because of the exercise aspect, but the stereotype about networking is also true. You make a lot of connections informally, while busy doing something you both love. The customers that previously wouldn’t have easily had access to me can talk about issues and often bring to light interesting opportunities that I bring back to the office. I also enjoy the mental aspect of the game.”