Boniswa Dladla is a transformation coach who lives out her own purpose every day. She studied metallurgical engineering, and worked as a process engineer in the mining industry, in both coal and diamond processing, extracting value and beauty from raw materials. With excitement and passion, she shares her discovery of her own purpose: helping others to evolve. She’s a firm believer in personal development, and is currently in the midst of her MBA through Regenesys Business School. Boniswa helps her global coaching clients (including in Namibia, Botswana, Ghana and South Africa) to explore their values and beliefs, transform their mindsets and find the sweet spot of how they show up in their relationships. This is her story:
“My career journey started out with my 17 year-old self seeking an opportunity to study a critical skill which would guarantee me a job after university. The first time I heard of my soon-to-be-chosen degree was during a bursary interview organised by my career guidance teacher. The bursary company were clear they were looking for candidates with good mathematics and science marks who were willing to study engineering. I chose a field of engineering that I had never heard of or ever knew existed prior to that interview! I chose it because it looked hard as well as exciting and I wanted to see how it could challenge me to grow. That is how I found myself doing Metallurgical Engineering. The company sponsoring my studies was a coal mining company.
The bursary was my gateway to the mining industry. Entering it also seemed very hard as the mining industry was and still is a male-dominated industry - it has taken great strides to encourage more women into engineering fields to enhance gender transformation. In those times you signed a contract to work back every year of study with the company that paid for your studies. So, I had a four year contract to work back, which made our time at university as bursary students very serious. We knew that failing could mean paying back the money which we knew our parents could not afford, so the most responsible thing to do was to focus on our studies. Read more to follow along my journey in the mining, diamond and now coaching industries...
Tanja Tippett has over two decades of asset management experience, after starting her career with a master’s degree in applied mathematics, followed by obtaining her Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation while working. During her career, she became an expert in asset-liability management, including fixed income and credit securities, founding and leading a Liability Driven Investments boutique in South Africa. Now she uses her experience in the financial services industry to prepare postgraduate students from different backgrounds for professional working life. This is her story...
“My Asset Management journey started over 20 years ago on the swap desk of an investment bank! I had just finished my master’s degree in applied mathematics and found the transition from studying to working challenging. This was towards the end of the 90’s and the trading desk environment was still very harsh, male-dominated and cut-throat. I did not do well in that environment – I was drowning! My first inclination was to doubt myself and pursue a different career. Fortunately, I had good friends who knew me well and who wanted me to succeed, and they all urged me to apply for a different position at an asset manager. It took courage to apply for a new position so shortly after I started. I had to come to terms with the fact that some might view it as failure, but with hindsight it turned out to be a good decision.
I moved to the Fixed Income team at South Africa’s largest asset manager. I immediately felt more at home, even though I still had much to learn. I was fortunate to have had a great mentor and teacher in my immediate manager. He generously shared what he knew, and gently guided me towards more knowledge and confidence. I quickly realised that if I wanted to succeed and become a technical expert, I needed to close what I perceived as my financial knowledge gap: I had a real fear of interpreting and analysing financial statements. Being in a fixed income team, that attitude was not going to get me very far in terms of my goal to become a technical expert! I decided to study towards becoming a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) to close that gap.
Learning and demonstrating my skills
Shortly after I joined the team, the local government issued their first inflation-linked bond. It was a new instrument in the South African market and my team had to upskill themselves in this financial instrument’s pricing, valuation, etc. I used this as an opportunity to demonstrate my abilities and skills, going above-and-beyond in my analysis to show that I had considered this instrument from all possible angles.
A few months later the first listed corporate bond was issued in South Africa and I was afforded another opportunity to learn, analyse and demonstrate my skills.
I believe that these two events are what allowed me to establish myself as the technical expert in the team and demonstrated my value to the team. They became the foundation for my progress. Read more for further reflections on my career experiences to date…
David Alexander has had a varied 35 year international career so far. During that time he has managed Life, Pensions, Health and General Insurance, and Reinsurance portfolios, underpinned by his actuarial background. His functional roles spread across technical, management, governance, non-executive director, and business development roles - sometimes in combination! Geographically, David has covered all parts of Asia, including as CEO of the Hong Kong branch of a global reinsurer, and the United Kingdom, where he is now a consultant and advisor. These are David’s reflections on the skills, experience and behaviours that helped him on his career journey:
“Interested in a varied career? My career story may be able to give you a helping hand.
Looking back, my father gave me some advice at a relatively young age that I should get myself a trade or profession as the basis of my career. It was only much later that I saw what a good investment that was. I happened to become an actuary, but you may be an engineer, a surveyor, lawyer, doctor etc etc. It doesn’t really matter, but he was right that having a profession brings with it an ethical foundation and some professional support as well the technical knowledge you gain through examinations and continuing professional development.
Any profession brings advantages in securing work and gaining the respect of your colleagues. It also brings responsibilities towards the public interest, your profession and of course your client(s). A highly regarded profession brings opportunities. However, whilst that qualification gives you a springboard for your career, you still have to deliver in your work life in order to continue making progress.
Opportunities also bring change, and that means stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new. You need to be motivated to take on the challenge and have some strategies to give yourself the best chance of success. The reward is potentially a series of engaging roles and development opportunities. These in turn lead to more substantial jobs and challenges. How far you expand your horizons and how substantial the roles you aim for is really up to you.
Let me tell you about some of the opportunities I was fortunate enough to come across and brave enough to have a go at and how I was able to be successful at them. Read more for my reflections...