At times it was difficult to keep sight of her dream to become a chartered accountant (CA)SA, but Ms Hlengiwe Ndlela never gave up and today she is one of the youngest audit partners in KwaZulu-Natal.
In 2008, Ndlela graduated with her Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) degree from UKZN in record time despite falling pregnant in her second year of study. She then secured a job as an accounting teacher for grades 10 to 12 in order to support her child while she studied for her Certificate in the Theory of Accounting (CTA) through the University of South Africa (UNISA).
One day, she received a call from the company that gave her a bursary in her second year of studies, Ernst & Young, Durban offering her a chance to do her articles with them. It was a call that changed her life as she was able to work and continue with her studies at the same time. In 2011, she passed her CTA and in 2018 she graduated with a Masters in Accountancy degree and is currently pursuing her doctorate.
At the beginning of July, Ndlela started her new role as Audit Partner/Director at Ernst & Young and Market Segment Leader for Audit KZN.
She describes this as a ‘full circle moment’: the same firm that gave her a chance at the beginning of her career called her back years later to head one of its departments.
‘I did not apply for my current role; I was handpicked! This is in no way bragging but proof that with hard work and by not expecting handouts, you may not have to interview for your next job.’
Until recently, Ndlela was an auditing lecturer and researcher at UKZN’s School of Accounting, Economics and Finance where she managed the Thuthuka programme, a bursary fund which assists disadvantaged African and Coloured students who want to study to become CAs. Ndlela’s students achieved a 97% pass rate in the 2019 academic year.
During the 2018 and 2019 academic years, she also co-assisted in the establishment and running of an intervention programme for African CTA students.
‘Being at UKZN as a young African CA, and lecturing to those aspiring to be CAs placed me in the best position to inspire, motivate and mentor a large number of the youth into confident individuals and professionals through sharing my story with them.
UKZN provided me with the opportunity to develop and showcase my dynamic leadership skills. Putting all these together, as well as the support and ability to research, made me a better person and an even better professional with a lot to offer to the industry’ she said.
In 2019 Ndlela won the Power of Professional Thinking Award at the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) ‘Top 30 Under 35’ competition and she participated at the Forbes Woman Africa ‘Leading Women Summit’ as a panelist in the young academics segment. She was recently appointed as the newest member of the board of directors and as deputy chairperson of the Advancement of Women Chartered Accountants (AWCA) KZN region.
She is also involved in 1Woman1Girl, a mentorship programme she co-founded with the goal of empowering women, one girl at a time. She runs Grade 9 career day workshops for over 900 learners, mentors high school girls, and collects donations of sanitary towels for primary school girls in a drive to keep girls in school in Inanda North, Durban.
To young women who feel as if their dream is unattainable, Ndlela has this to say: ‘I worked hard to become a CA. I took time to understand who I am as an individual, and remained true to myself. You can have whatever goal you seek to achieve regardless of where you come from, how you were raised and how little you have. I come from a broken home, was raised by domestic workers and I fell pregnant at a young age. But I am living proof that no dream is too big and no dreamer too small. Take a page from my book and be the best you can be.’