Chemical engineer and Entrepreneur Ms Thandi Ngxongo follows her passion all the way, whether it’s in the technical field of the petroleum retail industry or in the food industry.
‘I have a very high risk appetite. I am fearless when it comes to taking educated and calculated risks. It is this trait that enabled me to be innovative, even during a pandemic, and open Thandi’s Kitchen,’ said Thandi about her latest venture, a Durban-based restaurant serving authentic, freshly prepared African food.
Juggling and excelling in many roles at the same time has always been the way that Thandi does things.
In 2017, she enrolled for a two-year Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree at UKZN while working as a senior leader at Engen; she was also six months pregnant with her daughter at the time.
‘I delivered my last born, Sinovuyo, during the exams and yet I passed all my modules with flying colours,’ said Thandi.
‘As you can imagine, my first year involved juggling school, breastfeeding and nurturing an infant. Then, during the second year, I was juggling school, family and work because my maternity leave was over. My husband made the load lighter by creating an environment that was conducive for me to focus on my studies.’
She said her MBA gave her skills to assess situations, analyse and develop practical solutions to business challenges. ‘I have grown in business understanding and management capacity,’ she added.
Her growth on both a professional and personal level saw Thandi graduate with her MBA cum laude in 2019.
Now, as an HSEQ Business Partner Manager, she leads a team of 12 direct subordinates scattered across nine provinces, and indirect subordinates in other parts of Africa where Engen operates.
She is also involved in providing delicious traditional meals to the community of Umbilo, where Thandi’s Kitchen is based.
‘Risk management is a real thing in life and in business. In opening this business with my husband, I applied my ability to think analytically about cost-effective, quality solutions that have minimum fallout, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic came as a shock to all of us and really took a toll on everyone, but I believe that we all have choices in life; we can choose to stay in a state of shock and get absorbed by it, or we can choose to rise above it and learn to live with the prevailing circumstances,’ said Thandi.
The go-getter who refuses to let anything hold her back, not even a global pandemic, advises women to live life on their own terms and not to be defined by society.
‘Being a woman in society is never an easy task. There are so many demands, wishes and expectations that many sometimes falter under,’ said Thandi.
‘I have personally encountered women who are lost, scared and have no idea what their contribution to society should be. I want to encourage you to be encouraged by love. All of us must use our journey of life including our business and careers to do work that fulfills us and, most importantly, that impact lives.’