Celine Kotze may be a trainee at present, but she’s already giving back to South Africa’s CA community by shedding light on mental health matters with her podcast, iCAn Academy.
Many CAs have something in common: a drive to be the very best. That’s what nudges them towards a career known for its fast pace and challenging nature. Ironically, though, these very characteristics often make them feel out of their depth, especially while they are still studying towards their qualification.
Also ironic is the fact that while this feeling of being overwhelmed is widespread, few people feel brave enough to talk about it – and so they battle on alone, convinced that everyone else is doing just fine.
Celine Kotze is on a mission to change this. ‘If we talk about how we feel, we’ll not only normalise this state of mind; we can also help each other find solutions,’ she points out.
SOLUTIONS TO COMMON PROBLEMS
That’s the thinking that drove Celine to launch her podcast, iCAn Academy, earlier this year. Celine is herself a victim of the Type A personality drive that pushes people to succeed – and then leaves them feeling devastated when they (inevitably) encounter an obstacle that’s just too large to surmount. ‘As a high school learner, I was used to getting good marks. Although my parents didn’t push me, I defined myself through my academic achievement.’ It’s not surprising, then, that Celine experienced something of a breakdown when she found that she wasn’t able to uphold the same standards during her first year of studies. ‘My entire self-worth was built around my academic performance. I felt that without it, I was nothing. I experienced a very real sense of failure.’
Realising that this was, in itself, a problem was the first step towards healing. The next involved changing the way she looked at learning. As someone who enjoys research and finding out the reasons behind phenomena, Celine was fascinated to learn that she was stuck in a fixed mindset: a way of thinking that saw failure as a cul de sac, leaving her nowhere to go. She worked hard to change this to a growth mindset, where failure is understood to be part of a process rather than an end in itself. ‘I realised that I couldn’t be the only one fighting this battle. I wanted to share this insight so that other people could understand that what they’re going through is perfectly normal.’
LEARNING AS YOU GO
Although Celine is heading to Deloitte to complete her articles next year, she was delighted to learn that she would also be able to take part in academic articles, as she understood that she had the potential to make a significant impact on students who may be going through a similar experience.
While the face-to-face sessions that are part of training helped, she intended to spread her message to a larger audience. This is where social media came in: Celine admits that she’s not a big user of these platforms in her personal capacity, but she often tunes into podcasts like On Purpose and the Happiness Lab. That gave her the idea to introduce her own podcast, specifically addressing the disconnect that accounting students feel between their ambitions, their past achievements and their current reality.
iCAn Academy was introduced on Spotify and other streaming platforms in March this year, once Celine had written her ITCs, settled in as a trainee at North-West University, and got to grips with the technical aspects of podcasting which, she admits, are not her forte. ‘I had no idea how much work goes into a 10-minute podcast!’ she says. Her goal is to ensure that each episode is packed with information and, importantly, includes a lightbulb moment that will carry real meaning for people – which means that she spends a lot of time planning, writing, and rewriting her sessions.
Celine explains that much of her inspiration comes from her own experience: ‘I just think about things that I may have struggled with, and how I managed to overcome those difficulties.’ However, she also listens closely to the students she works with in consultation sessions: often, there is a thread linking the questions they ask, pointing to a common challenge.
Apart from providing pragmatic assistance with a very real problem, Celine says that one of the benefits of hosting her podcast is that she is able to tune into her creative side; this is important, she maintains, because humans are multifaceted beings and as much as she enjoys the research and science that goes into informing each topic, she loves being able to keep her love of writing alive, too.
She describes the podcasts as ‘a work in progress’: ‘I didn’t know much about these platforms when I started out; for instance, the impact of white noise came as a complete shock. I’m learning as I go, which appeals to my growth mindset. At the same time, the knowledge that no podcast will be perfect, no matter how much work I invest in it, helps me challenge the side of me that needs everything to be “just so”.’
To date, Celine has recorded around nine podcasts. Her goal is to move from monthly to weekly episodes, and she’d like to eventually feature interviews with subject matter experts.
In the meantime, though, she is gratified by the impact her recordings have. ‘My listeners’ feedback really keeps me going. One student told me he’d become a changed man because of what he heard on the podcast.’ She considers it a true privilege to be able to help people in this manner and is very grateful for the opportunities she’s had to connect with students while at North-West University. ‘One student was really struggling, until I reached out and suggested he change the way he approached his papers. He’s now passing – and it’s an incredible feeling to have been part of that.’
Although she’s loved the world of academia, Celine is excited about what her corporate career might hold, and she’s thrilled to be, once more, in a position where she’ll be opening her mind and learning once more – and, yes, facing failure is going to be a big part of that.
‘I’m really excited to see where my CA journey might take me. One of the reasons why I chose this qualification is because it opens so many doors. I’d like to take my interest in mental health further and might choose to concentrate on a career that allows me to develop this in some way – maybe by playing a role in employee wellness, for example. But I would also like to be able to nurture my creative side. The future is wide open at this point!’