Ndahambelela Ndoroma

Age: 31 • Operations Manager CA (Nam) • Old Mutual PLC, Namibia

“As a woman in leadership it is important to inspire and build others up.”

Ndahambelela Ndoroma qualified as a CA at age 26, and she admits it was not a walk in the park. What this young leader has learned is that the success journey is unique for each individual. She learned earlier on in her career that people stumble along their way; however, the most important thing to remember is picking yourself up and coming up with better strategies to achieving your goals. As operations Manager at Old Mutual Namibia, she is responsible for overseeing various sections in her division. She measures her business unit’s success by running various data reports on productivity and technology usage and analysing trends against business targets. Read our interview with this young leader below.

1. You are a qualified Chartered Accountant; can you take us through your journey to attaining your qualification?

As a student in primary school I always wanted to be a doctor. When I got to high school I was introduced to accounting and a new dream was born. I loved accounting and my teacher was Awesome! It was simpler than maths and required a constant balance, for every debit there must be an equal credit.
I decided in grade 9 that I was going to be a CA. I always wanted to attend the top schools. My parents made great financial sacrifices to make my dreams come true. After St. Paul’s college for high school I went to the University of Cape Town.

To assist my parents, I obtained a bursary from KPMG. I worked every holiday at KPMG during my time in varsity. I enjoyed earning and spending my own money. I obtained my BCom accounting degree in 2009 and started my Articles at KPMG in February 2010.

I decided to tackle my Honours (CTA) degree part time with UNISA. In hindsight I should have stayed the extra year in varsity to do honours. Working and studying is not for the faint hearted. I decided to do a bridging year first, “level one” and it was a breeze! So when I began level 2 I thought “I’ve got this no sweat”. I was so wrong! CTA is not to be underestimated. I failed the level 2 exam and I was devastated. No one had passed in our firm that year. The day the exam results came out I emailed the partners and told them why I had failed, what I needed to do to pass and what I needed from them in order to make my CA dream a reality.

We set up the CTA Classes at KPMG the next year. I ordered us some lecture resources, videos and notes from a South African provider and we set up our study group. We all passed the CTA exam the following year through motivating each other and team work. My articles were signed off in January 2013. Audit articles were three very difficult but rewarding years. My Audit firm was small but had large clients, so as a trainee you were exposed to more complexities than your peers at other firms. My expectations of articles were way too high when I began. Audit Articles are not glamorous, you do not get paid bucket loads of money contrary to popular belief. You are a TRAINEE and you work hard, it is mentally and physically straining. Add studies to the mix and you can only imagine the stress…but it’s ALL WORTH IT!

I passed my Board 1 and Board 2 exams and became a CA in February 2014 at the age of 26, one year later than planned… I learned the hard way that plans don’t always work out your way and that everyone’s journey is different. What matters most in your journey to success is picking yourself up, regrouping, coming up with a new plan and executing it.

2. As operations manager at Old Mutual Namibia, take us through your “typical day” at the office?

My “typical day” starts with a cup of tea and a scan through the paper for any interesting news. I then check my to-do-list for any urgent pending matters that need to be attended to and work out a plan of action to tackle them. I have various tasks and every day is different and I’m always learning from new challenges coming up.

I study the sales reports and meet with the sales team weekly. Any system, process or program issues are communicated and an action is put in place to address them. I am responsible for minimizing costs by ensuring that resources and assets are used in a cost-effective manner.

I sit weekly with my managers for Retention (keeping existing business) and New business processing (writing new business) where we discuss the challenges in their space and come up with workable solutions. As part of this meeting, my team reviews their workload and tasks for the week ahead in order to make sure we have addressed all the concerns from the operations and the sales force with respect to campaigns, materials, asset allocation, corporate and risk governance processes, connectivity etc.

I engage weekly with my external service providers to ensure all my processes and procedures are running smoothly and any new initiatives and projects are on track and in budget.
At Old Mutual we are customer centric. Our customer is number one to us. I monitor daily any customer complaints and comments and attempt to resolve them in our planned number of days. I run various data reports on productivity and technology usage and analyse the trends against our business targets.
I liaise with legal and corporate governance to address Risk governance matters pertaining to our business operations.

I attend meetings with Client services, marketing, finance, properties, HR or actuarial on items related to their deliverables on any action or initiative in my business unit.

3. Being a young woman in a leadership position, what are the top skills required to lead people effectively?

I think it is important to be respectful to people and their diversities. It is important to be kind but strong. As women especially black women, people are quick to underestimate or undermine you, it is important that you are knowledgeable and equipped to do your job. You should be purposeful, authentic, resourceful and meaningful. As a woman in leadership it is important to inspire and build others up. Be true to yourself and your values and stand for something.

4. What qualities do you look for when hiring fresh graduates in your organisation?

I look for smart witty personalities who are ambitious, passionate and opportunity-driven with a positive attitude and a proven track record of a strong work ethic.

5. For a young person considering Finance as a career and they have got no mentors within their reach, where can they get in depth information regarding this field of study?

They may obtain information on becoming a CA from ICAN, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Namibia or from SAICA the South African Institute of chartered accountants. ICAN have printed materials at their offices and a wealth of information on their websites. One can also just google; “how to become a CA in Namibia”.

6. What is your view of having empowered women in society?

The empowerment of women is vital in society. They are the nurturers of our societies and their contributions and points of view are invaluable. I have been blessed in my life to have grown up and engaged with strong powerful female figures starting at home with my mom and to have had the encouragement of a father who always made me believe I am as capable as any man. We in Namibia are not short of female role models. Stalk (research) them on LinkedIn and see what their journeys were like and be inspired. I do that all the time 😀

7. Dating and pursuing studies in high school and varsity, what is your opinion on this?

I was very sheltered in high school and in varsity I was more concerned with catching up on my lost party days and my studies. I only seriously dated when I started working. Looking at the younger generation, “the millennials”, and from my own difficulties in balancing studies and a social life in varsity I have come to realise that it is important that students learn to balance studies, fun and sport. A balanced childhood will more easily translate into a successful balanced varsity experience and career.

8. When you don’t have pressing deadlines at the office, what do you do for fun?

I enjoy spending time with my boyfriend, family and friends. I enjoy playing with my dog Laila. I love trying out exotic recipes for my loved ones to taste. I enjoy binge watching awesome series. I try to work-out and travel as much as possible. I am passionate about continuous learning and being creative so you will most likely always find me studying something extra or teaching myself a new skill. I am also very big on having entrepreneurial pursuits and running small businesses related to my passions and interests.

9. Finally, if you were to go back in time, what would you do differently in terms of your career?

I would have stayed at varsity another year to do my honours full time. I would have remained at KPMG after articles and become an audit manager. But so many wonderful opportunities came from making these choices that I think I would rather not have changed a thing.