Mbali Precious Mabaso CA(SA) is the founder of and mentor at Isikhuthazi, a programme meant to encourage, educate and empower CTA students, ITC and APC candidates. She is also an audit portfolio manager at Nedbank Group Limited
Mbali repeated CTA and APC twice, only passing on her third attempt. That experience has helped her to identify areas that CTA students and ITC and APC candidates may need assistance with in preparing for their assessments. This has led her to start a mentorship programme, Isikhuthazi, in 2021 after she had qualified to become a chartered accountant in 2020. The programme started with four mentees and grew to over 100 in 2021, with both ITC and APC candidates. On social media, they are reaching out to more than a hundred aspiring CAs(SA).
What does ‘Isikhuthazi’ mean?
‘Isikhuthazi’ is a Zulu noun which means ‘the encourager’. An encourager is a person who can inspire others with hope, courage and confidence to reach their full potential.
What inspired you to start this programme?
When I was an audit manager at SNG Grant Thornton, I had the privilege of working with young professionals on various engagements and I discovered my passion for mentoring. As an audit manager, you don’t just manage engagements, but you work with a group of young professionals who have diverse backgrounds and circumstances. This requires you to be more of a mentor than a manager because you have been entrusted with the role of nurturing and training the CAs(SA) of the future.
Through feedback sessions with the young professionals, I realised that a lot of young professionals do not have a mentor that they can talk to and they end up walking through the journey with no excitement and motivation, which does not lead to favourable outcomes in their board exams. I was then able to identify a gap and I formulated a small support group of young professionals I worked with on various engagements so that I could help where I can by assisting them with exam technique skills and the necessary soft skills one needs to develop and grow in their journey. The feedback I received has been phenomenal and it has led me to pursue my passion for mentoring and assisting aspiring CAs(SA) achieve their dreams.
What is your objective?
The core focus of Isikhuthazi is to encourage, educate and empower aspiring chartered accountants to believe in themselves, believe in their dreams and never give up on their dreams.
- Encourage by aiding others to be more determined, hopeful, and confident
- Educate by imparting important knowledge that will assist others in their growth and development
- Empower by assisting others in realising their strength to conquer anything in life
How are you running your programme?
The mentoring initiative consists of live online interactive sessions, pre-recorded online sessions and one-on-one sessions focused on assisting mentees with enhancing their soft skills, professional skills, technical skills, and exam technique skills. The live sessions take place on weekends, and in each session a CA(SA) guest is invited to share their CA journey to inspire the mentees by encouraging, educating and empowering them. The one-on-one sessions cater for the individual areas of concern they need assistance with either in specific modules or general guidance.
What are some of your highlights?
In our first APC group that registered for mentoring: of the 56 that wrote, 43 passed achieving a 77% pass rate for the first APC intake. These mentees are now eligible to register as fully qualified CAs(SA) and other mentees are pursuing international opportunities.
What are some of the challenges you face in your programme/project?
I do what I do with love, joy, peace and happiness. When you do what you love with a grateful heart, miracles happen. Indeed, I have been blessed with tremendous support from all the guests and co-hosts who have helped me in hosting the live sessions, so all I have seen is an abundance of support.
How would you encourage others running such a programme?
Do it with passion or not at all. Knowing what to do is certainly important but knowing why you do it fuels your motivation which is your passion. Passion keeps you going no matter what. Passion makes a way, passion creates opportunities, passion makes the journey exciting and fulfilling.
What is your key message to your participants?
I always encourage the mentees to be a blessing to others by encouraging, educating, and empowering others. By uplifting others together, we create a better future for ourselves, our families, our communities and our country.
What is your greater vision regarding this programme?
- Short term: CTA mentoring − This year, CTA mentoring will be launched to assist CTA candidates in being successful in obtaining their postgraduate qualifications that will unlock their entry into the ITC and APC assessments.
- Post-articles career guidance − I have realised that there is a need to provide guidance before trainees sign off regarding the various opportunities that are on the market for them so they can make well-informed decisions about their career paths before they sign off.
- Long-term: scholarships and bursaries − Offering funding to aspiring CAs(SA) who need financial assistance to complete their undergraduate and postgraduate studies.
Anyone interested in being part of or supporting this programme can find us on the platforms below:
- Website: http://www.isikhuthazi.co.za/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/isikhuthazi_/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Isikhuthazi
- LinkedIn: https://protect-za.mimecast.com/s/2kx3CY6YWKI35PDoI0_bu1?domain=linkedin.com
COMMENTS FROM SOME OF THE MENTEES
My experience on the mentoring initiative was nothing short of amazing. Most motivational or inspiring stories come from people well established in their journey that you cannot relate with. With this initiative, we got stories from young professionals that recently walked the journey that had similar experiences that I could relate to, for me that was very inspiring and practical, which is what I needed to push even harder.
The programme assisted me in building my confidence, trusting my knowledge and believing in myself, which was a difficult task because of the anxieties I had from being unsuccessful in my first attempt. In addition, I also learned to be able to understand the bigger picture of the case study and to make links which made it easy to link information of the day to the pre-release because of the in-depth understanding of the case study.
I will definitely recommend this programme to others. It was the best decision of my life and contributed significantly to my success: today I am a CA(SA).
My experience was phenomenal. The presenters put you in the shoes of a newly qualified CA(SA) in the sense that you are taught how to make real-life decisions and be practical in the solutions that you provide in your responses to the tasks, thereby adding value to the entity.
The biggest thing I took out from the programme is the fact that we are often taught in the board courses that ethics will never be a trigger. However, from this programme I learned that there are ethics involved in every decision that the entity makes. For example, for an investment decision you might find that an entity does not meet the solvency and liquidity test, which is in breach of the Companies Act.
I would definitely recommend the Iskhuthazi APC mentorship programme; it is life-changing.
When I started with the sessions, it was a really bad time in my life, as I had experienced loss in my family. The mentorship helped to get my spirit back up and became more motivated to get back to studying and preparing. In the end, I passed.
The sessions nicely summed up the topics we went through during the board course. The focus was on the most important information we needed going into the exam. The sessions especially helped me improve my exam technique. The sessions started just in time for the supplementary exam sitting, and I was able to utilise all the knowledge and skills I had gained to pass and qualify to write the exam. I also loved how Mbali did not bombard us with information. All the sessions were essential.
This mentorship programme also created a community. Besides having Mbali to talk to, we had special guests we had gone through this journey before and other mentees who were more or less going through the same struggles as me. I will definitely recommend this programme to others.
I wholeheartedly recommend candidates writing APC join the Isikhuthazi initiative. I struggled to connect what I was doing in preparation for the exam with how to use it on the day, as well as keep up my confidence levels. In her mentoring, Mbali showed us how to approach each part of the preparation and eventual exam, while working with us separately on individual issues. Mbali helped me realise that I can pass APC − all I needed was someone who believed in me to make me see it.
Compiled by Mpho Netshivhambe