When Zama Khumalo arrived at university in Pietermaritzburg, her short-term goal was to qualify as a chartered accountant. “I wanted to finish my degrees and land a prestigious training contract,” she says. “I wanted to qualify as the best CA in the country. My main motivation was the fact that there are so few women leaders in our country, and I felt that achieving this first goal would take me some way towards making a difference in this area.”
One day, during her first year, Zama was chatting with classmates after a lecture when somebody asked her who she had signed with to do her articles. “I said I hadn’t been signed yet. One of the students mentioned that she had signed with PwC, and everybody reacted with surprise and envy.”
The reaction of her fellow students stayed with Zama. “It was so clear that PwC was considered to be something truly special – that it was an elite firm that took only the cream of the crop in for training,” she says. “I decided that I wanted to train in that environment. I wanted to be part of something that special.”
“PwC’s interest and belief in me was a great motivation throughout my studies.”
At the next career day on campus, Zama was ready. “I’d done my research and felt quite comfortable approaching the people at the PwC stand. I spoke to somebody from Human Capital and told her that I really wanted to join the firm. I received a very warm reception and was told that they would contact me,” she explains. “Soon afterwards I received a phone call and was invited for an interview and I was on my way to becoming a trainee – and as a cherry on top I was even offered a bursary.”
Zama says that PwC has been incredibly supportive since day one. “Their interest and belief in me was a great motivation throughout my studies,” she says. “I knew that I had to do well and stay ahead of the pack, because I wanted to repay their trust in me.”
Zama describes her training, which started at the beginning of 2016, as character building. “You’re sometimes thrown into the deep end and you have to sink or swim,” she laughs.
“The knowledge you gain at university is only the foundation. Articles allows you to put that learning into practice. It stretches you and no two days are ever the same. Luckily, our training is of a very high calibre and the managers and partners are always available to give you advice.”
There are a number of examples to illustrate the many ways in which the partners interact with and offer advice to trainees. “I recently told one of my colleagues in the Durban office that I had an idea that may add a helpful dimension to our training,” Zama recalls. “The next day, one of the partners stopped by and asked me about my plans. I explained my idea and he was incredibly supportive. He reminded me not to be stopped by what I thought other people may say. If you want to do something exceptional, he said, it’s really up to you to go out and make your dreams come true.”
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