With over 10 years of experience as a financial services professional, including corporate and investment banking, treasury, funding, and liquidity management, CA(SA) Thina Tembani (35), from Johannesburg, is currently the executive assistant to the head of the banking division and CEO designate of Rand Merchant Bank, and to the COO of the banking division. She admits she wanted to become an actuary growing up. These days, she is grateful she made another choice.
‘Success and development do not occur in isolation. Everybody needs someone to look up to and to learn from, and someone to give back to and help along the way. Don’t wait for people or opportunities to cross your path. Find mentors, coaches, and peers who can support you in your journey. You cannot do it alone.’
‘I was quite passionate about mathematics and commercial subjects such as economics and accounting in high school, so becoming a CA(SA) or an actuary was an obvious choice for me. I ended up choosing to become a CA due to the appeal of having opportunities across various industries, as actuaries tend to be concentrated in the insurance sector,’ Thina explains.
‘I chose to study a Bachelor of Business Science at the University of Cape Town, followed by a postgraduate diploma in accounting, and then served articles at PwC and qualified in December 2012.’
Thina also holds a master’s degree in development finance and an advanced certificate in emerging markets and country risk analysis from Fordham University in New York.
Growing up in East London in the Eastern Cape, Thina now realises that the biggest challenge she had to face in her life was not having enough role models. ‘The journey to qualifying as a CA(SA) requires a lot of patience and resilience. You can easily become despondent as the journey is long and paved with a lot of challenges, especially because the syllabus becomes more complex as you advance through your studies. What I found lacking in my journey was access to those individuals who had already achieved what I was aspiring to, particularly African women. I used to spend many evenings on the African Women Chartered Accountants (AWCA) website being inspired by the women who were the only example of people who looked like me that I could look up to.’
For this reason, Thina decided to join the AWCA organisation. ‘I joined the AWCA through a colleague who was volunteering there. Initially, I joined the school visits and student chapters sub-committees. I then went on to join the stakeholder alliances portfolio a few years later.’
At the moment Thina serves on the board of the AWCA, heading up fundraising and stakeholder management. She also serves on the board of the AWCA bursary trust.
The AWCA is a non-profit organisation founded in 2002 on the premise of mutual support and personal development of African women chartered accountants. They believe it is their responsibility, as individuals and as leaders in corporate South Africa, to develop and nurture the future leaders of the country in order to achieve sustainable economic development and transformation.
The organisation does this by identifying and developing young girls who aspire to become CA(SA)s for entry into universities to pursue a degree that will allow for them to enter into the profession. They also nurture and train black women who are completing their articles, as well as newly qualified black female CAs(SA). Lastly, they focus on leadership development for black female CAs(SA) to groom them to hold key decision-making positions in corporate South Africa, as well as the public sector.
‘My work at the AWCA is my way of giving back to those coming behind me. As I mentioned, I really found the journey to qualifying lonely at times, due to not having enough support or role models who look like me. I believe that there is a lot of strength in numbers and my involvement in the AWCA allows me to leverage networks for mentorship, access to opportunities, and mutual support as I navigate my career.’
She hopes that the work of the AWCA will continue to contribute to increasing the number of black female CAs in South Africa. ‘While we have come a long way since the organisation was founded, we still have a long way to go. I hope to not only contribute to increasing the pipeline, but also to see many of these women go on to become key role-players in corporate South Africa.’
For Thina it is important to share her knowledge, skills, and experience with others because she believes no one can succeed in isolation. ‘Sharing knowledge not only strengthens the individuals, but the team is better off as well,’ she smiles.
Her dreams for her own future are just as inspiring and worthy. ‘I’d like to continue to focus everything that I do, on making an impact, whether in my career or through the work that I do in the AWCA.’
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic still ripples through Thina’s life. ‘It made me more aware of the fragility of life and the importance of seeing the beauty in every moment. Life is short and we should spend it living well. Since COVID, I have definitely elevated my self-care, and I make more time to spend on things that are important such as being there for family and friends. I am also more in touch with my spirituality.’
Through the years, Thina has learned the importance of balance in her life. ‘More recently I’ve learned about the principle of work/life integration – balancing personal and professional obligations and bringing them together in a way that benefits both. Having previously suffered bouts of burnout, I’ve found this way of life beneficial, especially in the fast-paced demands of corporate life,’ she says.
In her role as an executive assistant at Rand Merchant Bank, Thina supports the CEO in shaping and delivering on the strategy of the business, managing key projects, and providing technical support to key stakeholders. She enjoys supporting senior female executives in the bank and her vast experience within the industry helps her to bring both strategic, analytical, and technical insights to the roles that she occupies.
Although she had to complete her CA(SA) journey in lonely isolation, Thina started her life journey under the watchful wing of the woman who, to this day, inspires and motivates her. ‘I really look up to my mom. She is the epitome of wisdom, strength, and resilience. She had to raise me and my brothers as a single parent after my father passed away when I was just seven years old. She is my number one supporter and source of inspiration.’
Thina’s advice to young female CAs(SA)
on fulfilling their potential
- There is no substitute for hard work.
- Be curious and do not be afraid to fail.
- Lastly, take charge of your own career. Don’t wait for people or opportunities to cross your path. Find mentors, coaches, and peers who can support you in your journey. You cannot do it alone.
- Balance your personal and professional obligations and bring them together in a way that benefits both.
- Develop as you lead.
- Remember to give back to those who come after you.
- See the beauty in every moment. Life is short and we should spend it living well.
- Share your knowledge, skills, and experience with others because no one can succeed in isolation.