Building her personal branding: Zimasa Tile
Zimasa Tile (29) from Johannesburg could be described as influential and inspiring, both in and out of the office. As a business manager to the head of investment banking South Africa (IBSA) at Standard Bank, Zimasa’s adult life is a far cry from the little orphan girl from Mount Alyff in the Eastern Cape.
‘Having a great career is a worthy pursuit, but I hope to make my contribution beyond this sphere,’ says Zimasa. ‘I hope to use my position and influence not only to make a significant contribution to the accounting profession but to also make a noteworthy social contribution.’
Zimasa is passionate about education and actively endeavours to make a difference in the lives of people both in the workplace and the community. ‘Having had a difficult upbringing myself, I know first-hand that a good education and active social contribution are needed to uplift our nation.’
Zimasa’s parents did not matriculate and passed away when she was a young child. ‘As a young orphaned girl, I faced various challenges. I learned about the chartered accountant profession on a career day. Although it was sketchy at the time, it was the definite birth of my dream. Having never met a CA in my life, I solely depended on my schoolteachers as a source of information and motivation. The first-ever chartered accountant that I met was my lecturer at UCT!’ she laughs.
With the encouragement of an aunt who took her in and believed in the beauty of her dreams, Zimasa matriculated with distinctions, was awarded a SAICA Thuthuka bursary, and enrolled at the University of Cape Town.
‘At university, I continued to excel academically, tutored accounting, mentored students, and participated in other leadership roles. I continue to mentor many young people from different walks of life.’ She also became a public speaker with a focus on career, entrepreneurship and financial literacy.
As her career evolved and work demands increased, Zimasa adopted the use of social media as a platform to share her life experiences and informative talks on important subjects, enabling her to contribute to society in a far-reaching and meaningful way.
‘Through my social media platforms, I noted increased requests for mentorship, which encouraged me to start a YouTube channel (Mrs Tile). I use this platform to motivate and inform people on topics of interest such as budgeting, saving, good and bad debt, property, marital regimes and CA(SA)-related career topics. One of the videos that I created on YouTube titled “My journey to qualifying as a CA(SA)” has had over 11 000 views. My channel has total views exceeding 100 000 views.’
Through YouTube, Zimasa reaches a wider audience. Her relation to career topics is inspired by her own personal career journey and she has made it her mission to create content that shares inspiration and knowledge with aspiring CAs. Zimasa is also invested in women empowerment. ‘I hope to inspire career excellence and tenacity to all women, challenging them to seize opportunities and to realise they have a voice and can use it to make a meaningful contribution.’
For her, CAs must develop their personal brand, specifically digitally. Digital branding is the process of creating and promoting your online identity and brand and drive greater exposure. In the context of professional services, you can think of your brand as the visibility of your reputation.
‘These days personal branding has become even more important in terms of building work relationships and even getting meaningful employment opportunities. Take LinkedIn, for example. It is no longer just about a profile stating your achievements. It has become about you, curating your content, to be relevant and to flag your skills and expertise.’
She explains content curation as finding great content that you present on your social media to your connections and followers so that it can be of value to them. ‘For example, if you are an investment banker, you can share your achievements such as public deals closed and your thoughts on market activity. Discussing these with other people create meaningful and engaging content with regard to the topics that are important to you. This is the way you connect with people and form meaningful relationships. You would be surprised by the opportunities that can stem from this. Therefore, it is no longer just a matter of copying and pasting your CV online. Interaction has become the most important thing. It is what will make you stand out from others.’
When you are building a brand, it is firstly important to identify your skills and expertise. Secondly, identify your target market – for example, potential clients, fellow CAs and employers. You must position yourself in a way that stands out, that is unique and distinctive. ‘You need to engage and share relevant content. Your feed must reflect your interests and your area of expertise. You do not always have to share your own content. You can share other people’s articles on your feed if it is relevant and will make an impact.’
Another of Zimasa’s great tips is that you need to be consistent and relevant in posting. ‘You can’t say one thing today and the opposite tomorrow.’
Furthermore, Zimasa emphasises that you need to find a way to be authentic and not lose the human touch. ‘Yes, you are engaging online, but people will still form an opinion of who you are. The human touch makes the difference at the end of the day and will lead to meaningful relationships and possibly exciting opportunities.’
Following these guidelines will assist in creating trust in your brand among your connections and followers. ‘Trust is important because people will realise if you share something, it is something that you truly believe in and it is worth their time and effort. Don’t just share content for the sake of sharing. Content is king and must add value. If you have a strong brand, you should be able to leverage off the special capital that you have built.’
For Zimasa, especially aspiring or young CAs should be aware of the changes and the challenges that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will lead to. ‘The accounting profession will be impacted. However, CAs are no longer just number crunchers and there are certain aspects of an accountant’s skill set that will not easily be rendered redundant by digitalisation, such as strategic thinking. With that said, it is nonetheless important to set yourself apart and better position yourself for the future by building a strong brand, reading, and learning about a wider range of subjects and expanding your skills.’
Network your way to the top: Uwais Asmal
Uwais Asmal (35), from Salt River in Cape Town, didn’t know much about chartered accountants growing up. ‘There was nobody around in the area I come from who were CAs.’ In Matric, Uwais went to a KPMG event and immediately realised that is what he would like to become and fortunately received a bursary to study at Stellenbosch University.
Although he would not exchange his experience for anything, studying in Afrikaans had its share of challenges. ‘It was very interesting … In June of my third year, I thought I would fail all my subjects. A group of us decided to work together and luckily we all managed to pass, but I didn’t get the 60% necessary to do my honours. Instead of repeating my third year, I enrolled at Unisa through the National School of Accounting. I must admit, learning in English made a massive difference!’ he laughs. ‘I could finally actually understand what was going on.’ He started work at KPMG at 21 and qualified as a chartered accountant at 24.
Uwais currently serves as the head of advisory services at Outsourced CFO. ‘We help companies scale their operations, improve efficiency, improve cash flow and raise funding by providing specialised CFO services and cloud accounting services.’
Sharing his successes and failures online has proved to be very valuable. ‘At varsity nobody teaches you how to communicate, to deal with people and how to respond to people with emotional intelligence. Especially if you, like I do, come from a previously disadvantaged school where they don’t teach you about confidence or public speaking. There it is all about results because that is what will get you out,’ he explains.
Being an accountant came naturally for Uwais from a young age. It was the confidence and the networking that he struggled with – something he has worked extremely hard to not only overcome but to master and embrace it, and he is using this experience to inspire others. ‘Learning how to get out of my shell was very interesting …,’ he admits.
At varsity, Uwais was an introvert and did not have a lot of confidence. ‘And then you start mixing with these people who come from good schools and are confident, so you assume they are saying something of value. But you quickly realise a lot of them speak a lot, with a lot of assuredness, but they are not necessarily speaking sense, so just because you seem to know what you are talking about, doesn’t mean you do.’
These days, he is very active on social media platforms like LinkedIn, YouTube and Clubhouse. ‘At the start of 2019, a colleague introduced me to LinkedIn. I started looking for South African content, not even just accounting content but any content, and I couldn’t find it, so I decided to try and do something myself and see where it goes. I would never have thought then I would be where I am now! Most accountants are very afraid of making mistakes. But I was inspired to get out of my comfort zone and try something new, to not be afraid of failing, and it worked,’ he said.
‘Most CAs are very bad at networking. They tend to stick to themselves or their groups. But having worked for an asset manager in a business development role, I was forced to learn how to network. Even just meeting senior people or chatting to someone can make a massive difference where it counts. When you get to a certain level in your career, it is really difficult to make a move. The only jobs you can get is through people you know. The positions that you want at that stage of your career, the interesting, out-of-the-box or exciting opportunities, or even investment prospects, will not necessarily be advertised. It then becomes more about who you know.’
LinkedIn is a business-to-business (B2B) social networking site on which individuals, companies, colleagues, clients, competitors and organisations can connect as well as participate in online forums. ‘Connecting and engaging with the right people and creating content is what I have found to be most valuable,’ says Uwais.
Uwais started by sharing articles and summarising ideas. Now he has almost 14 000 followers and is posting daily. He is not only sharing interesting articles, but he has started writing and posting his own opinions. ‘My content is a lot about what happens in the work environment – even my mistakes, for example, “this is how I responded in a certain situation, this is what I should have rather done, and this is what I’ve learnt”. I have even posted a video titled “Career learnings and mistakes that I’ve made”.’
He also does regular online video lectures as well as interviews with relevant role models like entrepreneurs and accountants, which has garnered a lot of positive feedback from his followers. The main aim is to inspire young professionals and to help them learn from the mistakes and struggles of others, so they do not have to make them themselves. ‘I am using it as a motivational tool, especially for people from previously disadvantaged communities, because we don’t have mentors and people who have reached these goals in our immediate surroundings. If you can inspire one person, they can pull their whole family out of poverty. And I think I have found my voice and my niche, which I never would have done if I were too afraid to fail in the first place,’ he smiles.
Apart from sharing content online, Uwais also regularly networks one on one with people from all walks of life. ‘I started networking with a large range of people at least once a day during lockdown and have since continued. A lot of them I came across on LinkedIn and have never met.’
According to Uwais, the most important thing to realise about networking is it is not what you can get, but what you can give. ‘You have to give first, and something of value. Don’t expect people to give to you. It is a relationship that you build.’
Furthermore, networking is a long-term game. ‘You are not necessarily going to get business or opportunities immediately. And that shouldn’t be the aim anyway. It is about growing your brand and getting (and giving) guidance along the way. That is the power of networking – that you can reach out and ask for help because you have got a relationship with someone.’
Lastly, it is important to reiterate that especially people who work in big corporates should aim to network outside their organisations. ‘There might come a time when you want or need to move and will then need a network outside of that organisation, so try to meet people from other industries and walks of life. Go to networking and industry events, get out of your comfort zone and connect with others. That is how you learn, broaden your network and get opportunities later.’
Having started out as an introvert, Uwais has bloomed into a networking master with a solid brand who adds value to countless people and inspires young professionals to be the best versions of themselves.
Don’t settle and remember your ‘why’: Khuthadzo Mbedzi
At 29, Khuthadzo Mbedzi believes we ought to be the best versions of ourselves in all we do. Currently, she serves as the chief financial officer at GC2T, a South African-owned company providing turnkey-enabled awareness solutions to defence, security and related technology customers.
Khuthi needed to learn the importance of tenacity, hard work, drive and adaptability very quickly during her career. ‘I wanted to go to acting school, but my mom saw acting as a hobby, not a career,’ she laughs.
In Grade 12, she was still unsure of what to do, but after attending a career day, she decided that she wanted to be a CA, even though she didn’t even have accounting as a subject. ‘Someone mentioned if you become a CA, you earn half a million and you make a lot of money. In my head, I thought half a million every month, but I’m still waiting for that! [chuckles].’
She admits her first year at Wits University was very rough. ‘It was so bad! I didn’t know what debit or credit was, even though I went to pre-accounting school. I was failing in that course even before the year started!’
Toward the end of her first year, she admitted to her lecturer that she was struggling, and got the reply: ‘I don’t think this is the career for you, because it’s only going to get worse.’
To this day, Khuthi does not know what inspired and drove her to continue her accounting journey. ‘I just pushed and passed my first year. I failed my honours, though. So, it did catch up with me eventually. I am not a genius; I am a bookworm and needed to work very hard to get where I am. I never gave up and I did pass my ITC and APC at the first attempt, even though my uncle passed away the day before my ITC.’
During various opportunities in her career, including a work-study programme and articles at Ernst & Young, a secondment in London, a course in presenting, and serving as a product finance manager, senior internal auditor, finance manager head, and finance executive, Khuthi excelled in the roles yet struggled to settle within the roles when they no longer fulfilled or challenged her. ‘All the roles did grow me and opened up my mind to new possibilities and I also realised that being a CA(SA) is my purpose as it provides endless opportunities, especially because South African CAs are the cream of the crop.’
On the 1st of April 2020, Khuthi started in a new position at UAV and Drone Solution (a Bidvest Services subsidiary) as finance manager. ‘I started this role from home during lockdown. It was an exciting company and a great team. We had a great working relationship. But talk about diving in, in the middle of COVID! I never met my team face to face. There was no physical handover. It was intense and demanding …’
During September of last year (six months into her new role), Khuthi fell ill, and understandably so. ‘I was working crazy hours and I think, as with everyone, COVID affected me emotionally and mentally … It’s a blessing for us to still be standing now. It was a bit of a shock, with everybody falling ill, being completely alone, going through this change. And there is only so much support can do when people are not in the same room.’
When she fell ill, Khuthi resigned. ‘I had to focus on my health and at the same time I didn’t want to be selfish and leave the (work) ship without a captain.’
She used this time to complete her strategic leadership course with Gibs, as well as a life transformation coaching course. She was also approached by SAICA’s editorial assistant, Mpho Netshivhambe. Mpho connected with Khuthi on LinkedIn, initially looking for a CA in the tech space, but one thing led to another and Khuthi finally got to combine her passion for her profession with her passion for performing as the presenter for the Top 35-under-35 competition and has become an ongoing SAICA news presenter.
Unsure of what to do next after her recovery, Khuthi took to LinkedIn to share her experiences. ‘My passion lies with helping people and being on a strategy level and solving problems. That’s how my brain works,’ she explains. Her dream is to one day run her consulting company that addresses strategies and business controls and systems but starting out is not as easy as it seems to be, and she quickly realised she was not ready for this step yet.
‘LinkedIn is a powerful thing …’ she laughs. ‘I had written in January “exploring and awaiting my next best role” on my status.’ Shortly after, an agent sent her a message saying he has her ‘next best thing’. Within two weeks, she started in the exciting position of CFO at GC2T. She loves it because she can get experience in the very things her consulting company will one day do. ‘I love being a strategist and leader! Every single role that I have had, has prepared me for this!’
‘These days, people spend a lot of their time on LinkedIn and Instagram. Use it to inspire yourself – to follow other CAs and see what they are achieving,’ is her advice. ‘But remember, you have the power to choose who you follow and unfollow. You also have the power to decide what you want to feed your followers – what should people see when they go through your posts. Social media will give you what you go looking for. You must treat it responsibly.’
What Khuthi looks for is positivity, encouragement, peace and joy. However, authenticity and honesty are also important factors when it comes to posting. ‘You must be honest about the challenges, rather than just highlighting your achievements. This, in turn, might inspire someone else, rather than demotivate someone who may not be doing so well. Especially aspiring CAs must know it’s not all rosy − there are challenges and you will fail sometimes, but it’s all worthwhile. You can’t just want what glitters without being willing to put the diamond in the fire.’
Her advice to young and aspiring CAs is to remember your ‘why’. ‘It is OK to not always be certain. I have very rarely in my career felt like I knew what I was doing. But remember your “why”. Remember that this very moment is something you once asked for. That mindset changes everything. That, and staying positive. Invest in your personal wellbeing. Without it, nothing else can succeed.’
In your interactions with other people, be the best you can and make an impact, she advises. Every day is a new opportunity to kick ass and be the change you want to see. People must experience magic when they experience me, whether I am having a terrible day or a great day, because that is how I have defined myself. I give a bit of magic in any space I find myself in. That is what keeps me positive,’ she says.
‘Being a CA opens so many doors, including having an impact on other people. It allows and affords me to even do it on a greater scale. Much more so than I think acting would have done,’ she explains. ‘It can lead to absolutely anything when you put your mind to it.’
This interview was done a day before Khuthi’s grandma passed away. ‘She meant the world to me as she raised me and taught me life disciplines that helped me in my career.’ Khuthi knows her grandma was proud of her and would have wanted to see her grandchild on the ASA cover. ‘I will have to adapt and stay positive to move forward again in my new role as CFO. This is a tribute to the queen of my heart − my grandmother who was always proud of me and loved me dearly. RIP Sophia Nevhutalu Ndou.’