Tracy Sondezi (31) from Durban in KwaZulu-Natal is not one to back down from a challenge. She lives her life to the full and faces obstacles head-on, even when she is scared. Tracy is currently head of treasury, head of the goods not for resale expense control department, and group financial accountant at Boxer Superstores.
‘I had a strong acumen for commercial subjects since my primary school days. I knew that I was either going to pursue a career in commerce or become an artist. Two very different industries,’ she laughs. ‘Lest we say more, my dream of becoming an artist was very short-lived. I loved art, but seemingly art didn’t love me back.’
In high school, Tracy was eager to learn more about what being an accountant entailed. ‘I looked through the yellow pages and found a small company owned by a professional accountant who performed bookkeeping services.’
During her school holidays, she started shadowing this accountant. It fuelled her passion for the profession and she started researching more about the CA(SA) journey.
‘After intensive research, I found that the CA(SA) profession is what I was looking for – a key to unlock numerous doors in various industries.’
She faced the same challenges many South African children face. ‘Home had its ups and downs, but it was still home. I am from the generation where there were moments I had to study by candlelight because my mom couldn’t afford electricity, and sometimes there were instances of domestic abuse,’ Tracy remembers.
Having been raised by a single parent, she witnessed her mother’s adversities. ‘It would have been easy to just let go. However, I used this to motivate and fuel me for a better tomorrow – to be in a position where my mom no longer had to go through struggles. My mother sacrificed a lot to get me through school, and growing up I always knew that my way out was through studies. Hence, I ensured I achieved good matric results to earn me a bursary for tertiary education.’
Her mother has always been her motivation and inspiration. ‘She was my drive to succeed and live the life she envisioned for me. Now that I have my own family (a husband and daughter), they have added to my source of inspiration. They fuel me to keep being a better version of me – a version that will touch other lives.’
Tracy’s ultimate dream for the future is to find more females in senior leadership roles and corporate spaces. ‘I envision a world where there is no longer a pay gap between males and females. It warms my heart seeing more and more females occupying leadership roles such as the likes of Bongiwe Ntuli (TFG CFO).’
Her dream for herself is that she would become a highly influential executive in both the board room and in the development of South African youth.
In the words of Nelson Mandela, Tracy believes ‘it always seems impossible until it is done’. She lives her life by these words. ‘It keeps me going each time I set a goal or have a mammoth task to complete. It reassures me that if you put in the effort, you will get the desired outcome.’
Tracy also knows that as Wayne Gretzky said, you miss 100% of the shots you do not take. ‘We often undervalue our capabilities, experience imposter syndrome, or are too scared of what may go wrong. Don’t let anything hold you back. Go for what you want, even if you’re scared. I often remind myself that each time things don’t go according to plan, it presents me with an opportunity to learn and grow.’
Before the pandemic, Tracy says she thrived in her comfort zone. ‘It’s so warm and cushy there, with no curve balls being thrown at you. But there is also no room for growth,’ she smiles.
Three years ago, Tracy got inspired by a speech given by American television producer Shonda Rhimes. ‘She shared the story of her “year of yes”, where she said yes to everything that scared her,’ explains Tracy. ‘These days, the more something scares me, the more I am inclined to say yes. As a result, I have grown as an individual and in my career. Life truly begins at the end of your comfort zone!’
Tracy makes a point of practising gratitude every single day of her life. ‘We so often forget to be grateful for the little things. The art of gratitude reminds you of your blessings each day, which we shouldn’t take for granted.
She firmly believes in the importance of giving back and paying forward. ‘Someone paved the way for me and gave me an opportunity. It’s only right that I do the same for someone else. “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” – a person is a person through other people.’
Therefore she is an avid advocate for mentorship. ‘Looking back at my own journey, I wish the “younger me” had a mentor to guide me; someone I could bounce ideas off. As a result, I found it fitting to be the person the younger me needed for someone else.’
Tracy herself was a recipient of the Cyril Ramaphosa Education Trust (CRET) bursary for her tertiary studies and she remains an active alumna. ‘In addition, I was elected as a co-head of the strategy and evaluation committee of the CRET Advisory Board.’
She serves as a mentor at the Cyril Ramaphosa Education Trust and the Cyril Madiba Empowerment Foundation, and is a mentor to students in her personal capacity. ‘Mentorship helps mould and direct future lives and to me, this is one of the most powerful acts of service I could do!’
As alumni of the Cyril Ramaphosa Education Trust, Tracy and others have collectively contributed and have helped three students go to university. ‘A large percentage of our population cannot afford tertiary education. Giving back by taking a student to university is one that is closest to my heart. At the end of the day, we have given a student an opportunity to a better tomorrow.’
The Cyril Madiba Empowerment Foundation is a foundation that was established by their very own CRET alumni. ‘I am one of the mentors in the empowerment foundation. I mentor students and young professionals looking at pursuing a similar path to me.’
In both organisations, Tracy hopes to directly change the lives of future leaders. ‘These are the essential vehicles to implement change,’ she concludes.
Tracy’s tips for women in business
- In the words of Maya Angelou: ‘Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.’
- It’s very easy to walk in the shadows of the members of the ‘boys club’. Thus, it is imperative for us as females to use our voices and speak up, whilst maintaining our individuality. Never be afraid to raise your hand and voice your thoughts! Take up space!
- As females, we are often conditioned or raised to be sweet, stay polite and let things slide. It’s time to change the narrative.
- Lastly, it is important to have a support structure to re-enforce your strengths and assist you with challenges. Therefore the maintenance of a strong network and mentor is key to facing and conquering challenges head-on!