Coming from an underprivileged background, Nkululeko Mdlalose was determined to use his academic ability to change his circumstances and empower his family. Now that he’s qualified these goals are still a driving force.
Having studied at UKZN, Nkululeko got his post graduate diploma in accounting in 2015 before completing a Bachelor of Accounting. “I’m a qualified CA now,” he says. Nkululeko headed to Europe this year to gain international work experience. “I was on secondment in Belgium for three months from January until the end of March. It was a great experience.” While he then received a permanent offer from PwC UK for a senior associate role starting in April 2019, it was later revoked. “I couldn’t meet immigration requirements in time as I was in Belgium for short-term secondment and wanted to spend some time with my family before leaving SA,” he explains. He’s currently back in SA and in the job market.
Armed with the soft skills he gained from Moshal, Nkululeko’s sure to be snapped up soon. “I got the Moshal scholarship during my first year,” he recalls. “It was great, it helped me a lot financially in terms of covering tuition, accommodation and books – I was even able to buy a laptop. Moshal also prepares you for the workplace because you attend training and workshops, which all benefitted me a lot. The workshops helped me to overcome my shyness, and to develop new skills for the working world.”
Nkululeko grew up in Stanger, a small town in KZN just outside of Durban. “I have a big family,” he says, “I have two older siblings and two younger siblings so I’m right in between. My father works for a local company as a general worker, my mother is a housewife and runs a small shop. I’m the first one in the family to actually go to university and graduate and they’re all still very proud of me.”
“Going to university was so important to me because I wanted to change my circumstances,” he adds. “I grew up in a very poor environment. I remember when I was still in high school, I didn’t even have money to take a taxi to the school. I used to work for 5kms or so to get there. Going to varsity helped me change my environment, become a better person and empower my family.”
Based in Pietermaritzburg during his studies, Nkululeko also learnt a lot about independence. “My most important life lesson came from just being by myself,” he says. “I was far, far away from home so I had to learn to live by myself, how to cook and so on. All my life I’d stayed at home, I’d never been outside of Stanger. So, going to varsity helped me to look after myself and I learnt some important life lessons.”
Giving and gaining
Nkululeko says paying it forward is what’s most important to him when it comes to both Moshal values and life in general. “Paying it forward it empowers and helps the people behind you,” he says. “I believe that helping others helps you. It helps you to become a better person – you gain more by helping others.”
Nkululeko gives back in various ways. “During varsity I was a mentor, so I helped other students with their studies and gave them general advice on life. Every now and then I go to my previous high school to talk to learners there and empower them. I studied accounting so I give them career advice on how to become a CA. They say charity starts at home, so in the home I empower my younger siblings through my life and the time we spend together.”
Nkululeko says it’s his family that’s given him the strength to keep going when times get tough. “Even though my mom still doesn’t even know what a CA is, she’s always telling people about her son the CA,” he laughs.
En route to the top
Nkululeko doesn’t have a specific role model but says he looks up to various people, while maintaining an awareness that we’re all only human. “Everyone has a good side and a bad side, so I try to emulate their good qualities,” he says. “People I look up to include Martin Moshal in terms of his values in uplifting and giving back to the community. I’m also inspired by leaders including Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama.”
With plans to ultimately own his own company one day, Nkululeko takes leadership seriously. “Becoming an entrepreneur is my long-term plan,” he says. “I’d like to become a CEO of a large company first.” Nkululeko knows that it’s all about working hard and staying focused. And armed with the belief expressed in the quote “perseverance is the mother of success,” it’s clear that he has what it takes to make it big.