Currently working as a junior quantitative analyst at Ernst & Young, Moshal alum Thapelo Lekgoathi attained his BSc honours in maths at Wits. Yet he only focused on academics from grade 10 onwards, after his teachers noticed his potential.
Growing up in Tembisa, Thapelo saw school as a means to an end. “In grade 8 and 9, I wasn’t into school,” he recalls. Yet his teachers intervened and opened a world of possibility. “In grade 10, my teachers sat me down and told me I had potential, which I didn’t know. They said I could really do well if I focused. One teacher made me meet her son, who was doing engineering science. He told me about things that I’d never really considered before. After that I had a change of mindset and I focused more on my work. From then on, I knew that education could be my way out of the way I was living back then. It helped me a lot and I put my whole focus on studies.” Thapelo then developed a passion for maths and pursued it further at university.
Adjusting to the workplace
Having entered the working world in January this year, Thapelo is on a new playing field. “The workplace is like school on steroids,” he says. “You’re expected to perform on whatever project is given, and always give 100%. You also have to communicate with people from different backgrounds. It’s been a tough adjustment but I’m getting used to it.”
Moshal’s alumni programme has been a real support, says Thapelo. “When I was at university, they offered a holistic support structure and I always had people I could talk to. I had problems around my communication skills, so I went on training sessions for that, which really helped.” When it came to applying for jobs, the CV writing support Moshal provided as well as the weekly sessions and interview preparation with his coordinator were invaluable. “Even now as alumni, we meet monthly with Jemima and talk about our experiences at work and what we’re hoping to achieve. I really like that.”
Helping at home
Having gone to a public, non-fee-paying school, Thapelo was unsure as to how he’d fund his university studies. “I lived with my Dad – my mom passed away when I was nine,” he says. “After that happened, my younger sister stayed with my aunt, so it was just me and my dad in the house. My sister moved back in when I was in first year, so now it’s the three of us at home.”
Thapelo’s dad and sister are really proud of what he’s achieved. “Given the circumstances I was in, my father was really happy that I went to university and got the Moshal scholarship. It was his proudest moment regarding me at the time and now he’s proud that I’m working and that I’m able to support my family.”
Thapelo most strongly identifies with the Moshal value of integrity. “I’ve realised that it’s a struggle to maintain your integrity especially when you come from a different environment,” he says. “Different people do things differently and their integrity can become questionable. But it’s one thing I really stand firm on.”
Thapelo plans to pay it forward through tutoring. “I’m passionate about teaching,” he says. “After I matriculated, I went back to my high school and did tutorial sessions during the holidays. Now I want to tutor more actively. I’m thinking of organising tutorials for the first years on the weekends with the support of Moshal.”
The right response
Regardless of where his future lies, Thapelo wants to rise to the top of his field. “The goal is becoming highly skilled in what I do. I’m in the consulting space right now – it’s a great place to be and I’m learning a lot. I’d also like to explore banking. Ideally, I want to become an expert and be one of the go-to people in my industry. Everything else will fall into place after that.”
The fact that he’s someone who always finishes what he starts, bodes well for the future. “I’m the type of person that doesn’t like leaving things, the moment I start something I need to follow through on it. I want to make sure that whatever I’m doing, I do to the best of my ability. That’s helped me in achieving most of the goals that I’ve set out for myself.”
Your failure or success depends on how you react to the situations you face, Thapelo believes. “My pastor in church says: “It’s not what they say about you that matters, but how you respond to it.” That inspires me. When you go through a lot, people tend to say a lot of things about you and you might end up not believing in yourself. Your response goes a long way in determining what kind of person you are and whether you fail or succeed in whatever you choose to do.” Armed with this way of thinking, it’s clear that Thapelo is on the path to success.