1 June 2021

My journey as a trainee - Mpho Makoko-Hottie

Mpho Makoko-Hottie’s first exposure to Thuthuka was at school camps. It was 2006, she was in Grade 11 and had already decided she was going to become a chartered accountant in high school. It was exciting to be part of a programme affiliated with SAICA and she excitedly took part in all challenges at the camp, proudly winning the platinum prize at the camp for the written word challenge and public speaking competition. To her delight, the prize was a laptop!

‘I attended the camp again in 2007 as a matriculant and also won (and defended my title) in the public speaking competition, but because I had already won the laptop in the previous year, the organisers decided on a small cash prize and a Thuthuka Bursary.’

Mpho did not take up the offer on the Thuthuka Bursary as with five distinctions she received a bursary from the Free State government for being among the Top 100 matric performers. Today she is a successful CA(SA) thriving in her role as a B-BBEE business analyst. Here is her advice to youngsters out there …

Advice to those youngsters aspiring to become CAs(SA): Put your best foot forward in everything that you do. Your work ethic, consistency and discipline will pay off once you get to university and they are second nature to you. There is lots of talk around disruption and technology and whether the CA(SA) designation will still be relevant in the future – fortunately we are guided by a proactive professional body (SAICA) that has undertaken a considerable amount of work to review the current competencies, curriculum and post-qualification learning to build pillars that are future-fit.

Wise words to trainees: Learn as much as you can. Do not treat your training as a tick-box exercise. Traineeship is a good time to develop and harness your strengths, to identify and work on your weaknesses, and to network and build relationships. The competencies that you gain will serve you for a long time to come, whether in corporate or as an entrepreneur. Invest the time in learning.

I had to rewrite my ITC exams. I look back at it now and regret just how hard I was with myself. I had never failed anything before, and it really impacted me. We will all fall at some point, the most important thing is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and put your best foot forward. It is important that we learn from our mistakes and take care of our mental health.

My definition of success is living a purposeful life – with impact and vigour. Success is being able to be intentional about making your dreams a reality and that as a result of doing so, your community will be richer for it.

I am currently a B-BBEE strategist at Allan Gray. This is a complete career change, as before this I had worked in the finance departments of various entities in retail, education and financial services doing financial reporting, management accounting and budgets. In 2018 I enrolled for an MBA at the University of Stellenbosch Business School, and a key take-out from my studies was about being courageous to do the things that I am passionate about and that add meaning to my life, and living my life intentionally. Transformation, small business development and financial literacy are subjects that I am passionate about and that I want to base my life’s work on. South Africa needs a transformed, transparent and accessible financial services sector and I chose this industry to be a change agent.

Two things stand out for me in my career and studies. The first is being part of the finance team that worked on the GetSmarter acquisition by 2U Inc for R1,4 billion. I am proud of that because Getsmarter was a true South African success story – a home-grown business built from the ground up. My second highlight is the thesis I wrote for my MBA which was published and co-opted by SAICA’s Health and Wellbeing Advisory Group on ‘How reporting on employee health and wellbeing can impact the business’ bottom line’. This study focused on the link between integrated reporting on employee health and wellbeing and business success and sustainability.

Learning is constant and rewarding. So many things are being revolutionised and disrupted by technology and innovation, including the work that we do. We do not only have to keep up, but we have to embrace the changes and find better ways to do things for the benefit of society.

Women face a lot of challenges in the workplace like gender bias, non-inclusive workplaces, micro-aggression, sexual harassment and lack of flexibility to enable work-life balance. Women should be champion platforms that raise awareness of the challenges they face in the corporate space and hold executives accountable. Women leaders should mentor young graduates as they come into the corporate space. Workplace policies should not just be on paper but must translate into tangible actions, and women need to be at the forefront of this.

What I love most about the CA(SA) designation is that it has not boxed me in. I have been able to be a business leader, a strategist and an entrepreneur. It has allowed me to do work in the most impactful and meaningful of ways within a range of roles that would not have seemed possible outside the designation.

Dreams for the future? I am a financial literacy enthusiast and activist − my plans for the future involve getting certification as a coach by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and also pursuing a PHD and building my coaching practice. I would like to ensure that financial literacy is in the education system from primary school and that it is accessible to everyone in a language that everybody can understand.

Mpho’s five tips for staying ahead as a trainee

Own your performance. Understand the competencies and performance indicators you are being measured on.

Build workplace relationships. The network you build as a trainee will come in handy when you start working or running your own business, whether as mentors, clients or strategic business partners.

Be proactive. Sometimes we don’t feel like it when we are trainees, but the work you do is important. Be proactive in doing your work and take active steps in learning as much as you can.

Always be open to new opportunities. Do not restrict yourself in terms of clients you work on or departments you do rotations in. Seek new opportunities and exposure to different things.

Be able to change and adapt. Position yourself to be agile. Business models are changing, industries are changing, the profession is changing.