EY is a multi-disciplinary global leader in professional services, delivering exceptional client services across four service lines: Assurance, Tax, Advisory and Transaction Advisory Services.
SAprofessionals.com spoke to Deputy Market Segment Leader Ziningi Khoza about her personal and professional journey thus far.
Tell us about your early life, professional development, and your role today
I was born and bred in Soweto, one of the oldest locations in Johannesburg, South Africa. With the little my parents could afford, they realised that a good education is the key to economic freedom. Understanding the hardships, and the sacrifices my parents had to make to secure a good education for my brother and I, this motivated me to work hard and remain focused. As a young woman growing up in Soweto, reading about influential woman that started off with little opportunities to holding influential, powerful positions, motivated and encouraged me to believe that working hard would afford me the opportunity to provide economic freedom to my family.
In 2000, when I was in Grade 11 during a school career discussion, my accounting teacher was telling us about her audit partner friend, who lived in Johannesburg and had a holiday home in Clifton Breach. To my surprise accounting was an option as a career choice, a subject I excelled in and loved, could provide me with economic freedom that would allow me to support my family. The sky was the limit I thought.
The next step along my journey of providing economic freedom to my family happened when I walked into the EY building.
I was hoping that all the hard work and dedication to my studies would secure me a bursary so I could go to university. I was interviewed by a partner- a young looking partner. I knew there and then my dream and goal would be to become a partner. The dream of being a partner, was not far off, nor was it an ambitious “crazy” idea.
In 2005 I graduated from the University of Cape Town with a B Com Accounting degree, and in 2006 with a Post Graduate Diploma in Accounting.
In 2007 I wrote part 1 of the qualifying board exam and I was successful on the first attempt.
In 2008 I wrote part 2 of the qualifying board exam and I was successful on the first attempt.
In 2017 (1 July), I was admitted as an audit partner within EY.
In 2019 (1 July), I was promoted as Deputy Market Segment Leader looking after our Consumer Industries Group Africa (“CIGA”).
What was your training like?
January 2007 was my first working day at EY. First audit, first deadline, first client interaction, first deliverable. My senior manager and supervisor at the time instilled the importance of working as a team, continuously asking questions, respecting each other, appreciating different viewpoints, asking for my opinion and thoughts.
With each passing year at EY, I accumulated the necessary experiences enabling my promotions through the ranks (from a trainee accountant to now Partner). The roles, responsibilities and experiences gained, enabled me to:
- Mentor junior staff members, assisting them with their career development within the firm, allowing me to articulate EY’s value, and highlighting to them the importance of their contributions and insights to EY.
- Manage teams and lead by example with energy and enthusiasm.
- Building networks with colleagues within the different services lines (Tax, IT and advisory)
- Connecting with clients and forming good working relationships with clients to understand their needs and provide them with tailored solutions.
What does your current role at EY mean to you?
- Coach, inspire and mentor junior members including recently qualified partners
- Role model to upcoming Chartered Accountants with a focus of retaining and attracting the best talent.
- Development of future leaders within the firm and industry.
- Drive revenue growth by:
- Participating in pursuits
- Developing and implement market plans to attract new business.
- Build visibility of EY Brand in the Market
You have had several academic achievements, which one stands out for you and why?
Qualifying as a chartered accountant, as a young girl growing up in Soweto, I never thought that my dream of becoming a Chartered accountant, contributing financially to my family’s well being would be possible. The qualification has allowed me to assist my family financially.
What advice do you have for students who are looking forward to joining the profession?
Remember you are embarking on your career journey – there will be bumps along the way, speed humps, potholes, road closures and detours, but eventually you will reach your first destination (qualifying as a Chartered Accountant). And then the Journey continues with other bumps and detours along the way but you will be prepared to embark on the second part of your journey, you have the confidence to navigate through that journey.
Enjoy the ride…it is worth it…
What has been the highlight of your brief career?
- US Secondment
In 2013, I was fortunate to spend 2 years in the EY Minneapolis (in the USA) office on secondment.
During those years, I had the privilege of working on a variety of clients, this contributed to growing my international networks by collaborating with my colleagues from different cities within the US and other global offices;
The experience gained from my secondment, allowed me to engage with people from different countries, form new friendships, demystify stereotypes, appreciate different cultures, experiences, view points and food.
The secondment opportunity reignited my dream to travel and explore different parts of the USA and the World.
- Meeting an incredible entrepreneur through EY World Entrepreneur Event
I was fortunate enough to interview an Ethiopian immigrant that moved to the US in 1992 as a refugee. He started a transport business (focused on school children) that was generating revenue of 12 million dollars per annum. His recipe for success was based on his belief of working hard, getting a good education and not allowing your circumstances to define your future. This resonated with me, as those words were my founding principles and serve as a confirmation that my journey was firmly rooted on the right path.
- Committee member of Ethnicity Peer Network
My ability to adapt to a new environment and culture, allowed me to be a committee member of the Ethnicity Peer Network. A programme within the US offices, to assist non-US citizens adapt to the US culture and environment. As part a committee member, I assisted with planning various activities and events. One particular event, was the EY World Showcase event, each member shared an interesting story about their culture, experiences and stories about their home country.
In another event, I was also a moderator discussing the importance of embracing diversity in the work place to achieve an inclusive environment.
- Leading EY Connect Day – Dress for Success
I had the opportunity to lead EY Connect Day (a day to volunteer). I lead the Dress for Success programme, an initiative to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools, this aligned with my purpose of empowering women and contributing to the development of women leaders.
What principles and values do you think are important for a young professional?
Interest, Commitment and Passion, Pride and Authenticity
- Interest: When you are interested in what you do, it will be easy to invest the time into your career.
- Commitment and Passion: You need to want it for yourself in order to succeed.
- Pride: When you submit your work or a project make sure you are proud of the work that was produced. You will not have any regrets and you can stand up tall with pride that the work you produced is associated to your brand of excellence.
- Authenticity: There are amazing leaders and captains in industry (referred to as greats); a common factor to their greatness and why they are successful was because they were themselves. They did not try to be anyone else or try to emulate anyone else.
Explain what contribution you have made to the company since joining it?
Over and above the initiatives I have been involved in as detailed above:
- my ability to connect with people, act as a role model allowed me to be one of the founding members of Masakhane Assurance Woman Forum (Masakhane is a Nguni word meaning let us build one another together). This was a program aimed at developing and grooming young women within audit, with the ultimate objective of creating future women leaders within audit and EY
- I participated in the Win Win Solutions 4 Africa, an executive leadership programme for women enterpreneurs, where we share best practice ideas and solutions for running their business.
Who stands out for you as a role model and why?
Industry: Phuti Mahanyele- Dabengwa (CEO of Naspers SA) – listening to her experiences of being a young female CEO, and working in the US inspired my desire to work abroad, and validated my belief that irrespective of your background or upbringing you can be successful and be a trailblazer.
Personal/Home: My grandmother – she was a widow with 5 children aged between 16 years and 5 years old. She never gave up, and continuously tried her best to expose her kids to other opportunities and ensured that her kids were not limited by their upbringing.
My mother: she had a tough upbringing, but she never gave up on her dream of studying and becoming a teacher. My mother qualified as a teacher when I was in grade 6, and continued to obtain an honors degree. She had 2 young kids (and a Husband),yet she never gave up. She dreamed of being an educator, and she did not let her circumstance stop her from pursuing her dreams.
Where do you want your career to be in 10 years time?
- To be part of EY Global Leadership
- Continuing with coaching and inspiring young leaders
- Publish thought leadership focusing on South African Consumers the impact of globalisation on the consumers.
When you not at work, what do you get up to, including family life?
I spend my time with my family including my nieces and nephews. I am also part of a financial committee at my church.
Where can people follow you online?
Twitter – @ziningikhoza
LinkedIn: Ziningi Khoza