Having plied her trade as a national training manager, Vianca Pretorius CA(SA) swears by coaching and mentorship.
The capacious lobby at SAICA’s national headquarters is a scene of veritable busyness: scouting videographers on the hunt for perfect shots, a keen make-up team on standby … and Vianca Pretorius, SAICA Top-35-Under-35 alumnus, is a picture of focus as she wraps up her video shoot.
Dressed in a navy power suit, a modest Vianca won’t tell us how much it set her back, but we know it’s an expensive buy. ‘You know what, it’s just a trendy Forever New suit,’ she chuckles. ‘It’s beautiful though. I also like it.’
We quit propriety and compliments, asking her to sum up the past ten years, and as she relives her experiences, it’s easy to see that she’s a Type A personality.
‘The profession calls for it,’ she admits. ‘I think being in the profession sometimes is difficult, but that is what you need to do, especially being an external auditor. The independence and the discipline in terms of delivering and making sure that sufficient and appropriate audit evidence is obtained … I think that’s just the character that you need to have to ensure that you report to shareholders and issue the correct audit opinion.’
Top 35 experience
In 2014, Vianca was selected as one of the Top 35-under-35 chartered accountants in the SAICA Top-35-Under-35 competition. The experience was a shot in the arm, she says, adding that it opened her eyes to the idea of coaching and mentorship.
‘Being a finalist provided me with a platform to reach out and coach other young prospective CAs(SA). For me, success is making a positive difference to other people, especially seeing others grow, succeed and thrive as a result of my own small contribution.
‘I believe it is important to have courageous coaching conversations with leaders that you identify with, to provide you with an opportunity to ask the right questions for you to enable your goals. Sometimes, you just need someone to ask you a different question to enable your goal.’
Since then, she’s been involved in a plethora of learning and development initiatives, travelling the SADC (Southern African Development Community) region where she provided training and mentorship.
It’s just as well. The Top-35 under-35 also highlights the difference that CAs(SA) make in their communities and/or in the profession. By her own account, Vianca sees herself as a difference maker and is quite intentional about her role in giving back to her community or business.
Leading as a woman
‘I am still very involved in the development of people at my workplace (BDO),’ she says. ‘This is also the nature of the profession that I am in. I am the dedicated oversight registered auditor (ORA) of the firm with the responsibility to sign off prospective future registered candidate auditors (RCAs) to register as auditors with the Independent Regulatory Board of Auditors. Through this process, I provide input and feedback to future candidates.’
The past decade wasn’t without highlights, she says. ‘In 2020, as part of the SAPSA (SA Professional Services Awards), I received special recognition for my contribution to the South African professional services industry. The special commendation in the Woman Professional of the Year category was granted by SAPSA, which is sponsored by Sanlam and W Consulting. Women in leadership is something close to my heart, and I believe women can bring something different to the boardroom table.’
But there have been life lessons. The most important business lesson she’s learned is transparency. ‘Put everything on the table, and don’t wait for tomorrow: sort out the problem today. Ask if you do not know the answer,’ she says. ’It is important to provide feedback to people that work in your team. I believe that providing feedback increases productivity.’
Vianca is a partner in the audit division at BDO Johannesburg, and her career was destined for the big time when, in 2010, she was appointed as a national training manager. By 2013 she had been appointed to the partnership.
It’s all about balance
Looking back over the past decade, she admits that her outlook on business and life has changed. ‘For me, a balanced life is important,’ she says. ‘After I read The 5 AM Club by Robin Sharma, I quite liked the concept, which splits the first hour of your day in three parts: 20 minutes exercise, 20 minutes plan, and 20 minutes to educate yourself. I must say, this is setting the tone of my day and if I do not get to this, my day feels unorganised.
‘Furthermore, I have learned that to be a good leader it is important to have an adaptive leadership style. If you are working with people that are high in motivation and technical skills, you need to empower them and not micro-manage them, otherwise, you will lose them. Similarly, new managers sometimes need micro-management, and if you just empower them and not give guidance, you will also lose them. So, adaptability is key.’
Vianca is quite realistic about the goals she sets for herself. While she’s been disciplined enough to achieve all her goals, she, however, encourages young professionals to take stock: taking it one day at a time.
‘As you move into your career, it’s important to reflect back and set goals accordingly in terms of where you want to move to,’ she says. ‘I would say that I’ve achieved all the goals I set for myself in the past 10 years. I’m very comfortable about where I am in my career at the moment. But it’s important to remind yourself that you are not confined to just one thing − you need to grow.’
She also preaches patience. ‘Sometimes your small contribution can make a big difference,’ she says. ‘Age and experience are key for a business, but passion and skill is what businesses are looking for and that is what the young generation can bring to the table. This is an opportunity where you can showcase what you have contributed to the profession and to add value through sharing positive contributions.’
What of the future? ‘The idea is to further contribute to the profession,’ she says. ‘I am currently a PhD student at the University of North-West. I am very passionate about the topic of critical thinking in the audit environment. I am looking forward to sha[ring my contribution to this topic and to see how this will make a difference.’
With that, she turns to the camera crew for another round of shots …