10 June 2021

How Thuthuka changed my life

Zanele Maduna CA(SA) (28) is currently a senior fund accountant at BNP Paribas in Jersey in the Channel Islands but says she is transitioning from corporate life to full-time entrepreneurship. ‘For the past three years, I have been building No Valo Holdings, which consists of the No Valo Learning Centre providing coaching support for students and young professionals, and the No Valo Foundation which focuses on mentoring aspiring chartered accountants.’

On her Instagram profile and during interviews Zanele often repeats her mantra that she ‘will make it because I think I can!’ However, this sparkling young entrepreneur also needed some assistance to get where she is today.

Zanele grew up in Boitumelo, Sebokeng, and attended the Esokwazi Secondary School where she was an A+ student at the top of her class. Among the reasons for her good performance was the fact that her mother and her teachers’ work ethic inspired her to work harder.

She continues: ‘Before Grade 11, I wanted to be a gynaecologist, mainly because I wanted to empower women – and at the time I thought being a doctor who empowers women would be amazing. I just wanted to change the world. I didn’t know how I would do it, but it was my deepest desire.’

What were her greatest obstacles at the time – the things that stood between her and reaching those aims? ‘Some may say poverty is the biggest obstacle. However, the optimist in me knows that I wouldn’t be where I am without it. Even though my mom regularly struggled to put a meal on the table and we were living in an abusive household for a while, I had my mom’s love, happiness in the neighbourhood and support from my friends. It seems as though everything was meant to build my character.’

Her career decisions started to change when she attended SAICA’s Thuthuka development camps in Frades 11 and 12. Here she gained insights into the chartered accountancy profession.

‘It changed my whole life! Before attending the Thuthuka camp, I knew there was a light towards the end of the tunnel, but after attending the camp, the roadmap was clear and I knew who would help me to work towards my dreams.’

In her matric year, she applied to the Thuthuka bursary programme.

Thinking back, Zanele highlights one of her challenges when she started attending the Witwatersrand University (Wits): ‘I studied maths and science in high school, but only encountered accounting in my first year of university. Understanding the technical aspects of accounting was a challenge and I used to attend two additional tutorials in addition to the normal lectures so that I could grasp the concepts.’

Indeed, she says that attending university for the first time was an unusual experience. ‘Everything was new.