Mothers are powerful role models for daughters. Witnessing their achievements can be inspiring, instilling a sense of confidence and ambition in their children. It was Thuto Masasa’s mother who motivated her to study and choose a profession
’My mom started out as a rural nurse and became a physiotherapist with a master’s degree from Stellenbosch,’ Thuto says. ‘That spurred me on to sign up for a BCom. My grades were good, and my professor suggested that I follow the accounting stream. That was the start of my journey.’
In her third year, she was assigned a project on JSE-listed companies. There she discovered that many CEOs were CAs(SA) first. Working as an intern for a week at EY in Durban gave her another glimpse into the profession. After completing her articles at Deloitte, she was transferred to the London office. Today she is a partner at BDO South Africa and head of the advisory business.
‘I have been blessed in my career. I have a passion for learning and for Africa and its development. By becoming a CA(SA), you acquire a degree of leadership authority simply as a result of your qualification. You also gain a multi-level understanding of business and are sometimes pushed out of your comfort zone. The upside is the privileged access you gain to companies and sectors, which grows your knowledge of commerce broadly and quickly,’ she says.
‘My roles to date have allowed me to influence the perception of African women in our profession, through working abroad and engaging with overseas colleagues, and through my understanding of what it takes to be a successful black female leader.’
Thuto’s achievements have earned her a number of accolades, including the 2016 International Accounting Bulletin (IAB) Young Accountant of the Year and The Accountant (TA) awards.
‘It was challenging to learn how to apply soft skills, something which we were not taught,’ she says. ‘Also, the barriers are real for black women. Because there were few role models in the industry, picturing success was not easy. I had to assert myself and my role, and continuously perform ahead of my peers. There have also been missteps along the way. It may be a cliché, but I have learnt from my mistakes and I’m always ready to admit my faults, reflect and move forward.’
Thuto’s biggest inspiration is the youth of South Africa. She plays a role in the development of young people through an experiential leadership programme at GIBS and their spirit, she says, blows her away. She also mentors young people through the African Leadership Academy, which enables young people to develop the skills, mindset, and networks to enable transformational change across the continent.
‘As a positive role model, my job is to show what good looks like. That includes demonstrating the challenges as well as the successes, and how to cope with both. I firmly believe that all young people need in this country is opportunity, and if I – and BDO – can offer that, we are doing the right thing. BDO is a learning organisation; we see ourselves as people helping people achieve their dreams. That is our purpose, that is what we do.’
Her number one piece of advice is to say ‘yes’. It’s an attitude that leads to personal growth, relationship building, and a positive reputation. Embracing new challenges and opportunities demonstrates flexibility, adaptability and a willingness to learn, which enhances career prospects and increases job satisfaction.
‘By expanding your skill set and being viewed as a team player, you can establish yourself as a valuable asset to the organisation,’ she adds. ‘Take every opportunity that comes along: even the most menial jobs allow you to build relationships and trust. And what you learn along the way could become your differentiator. Today, there is a need for young people to seize the digital opportunity. For young women, in particular, data analysis and data science are exciting and very promising fields.’