NGUBANE’S NOMA ASHOM – CHALLENGING THE NORM

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Established 24 years ago, NGUBANE & Co. Chartered Accountants is an accounting and auditing firm. Its service offerings have since grown to include financial advisory, forensic investigations, business and IT consulting.

SAprofessionals.com spoke to Ngubane’s Head of Assurance and Executive Director Nomathamsanqa Ashom about her personal, professional and entrepreneurial journey thus far.

Nomathamsanqa feels Ngubane should always be about the upliftment of the black professional and the eradication of poverty in our communities, something alien to the norm.

Take us back to your early life, your training, professional development to your role today

Chartered Accountancy was never in my mind. Having worked for our family doctor yearly from as far as I can remember for my holiday job, everybody around me assumed I would be the doctor in the family. I applied for my medicine qualification at the University of Pretoria, two weeks later I called my father with not so exciting news that medicine wasn’t for me. Thankfully my father was a progressive thinker. He asked for my back up plan. Meanwhile I had done some research and discovered that late registrations were still being accepted at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, I enrolled for a B.Com degree and did exceptionally well.

I fell in love with the accounting career when I got to PwC. One of my mentors was Sizwe Masondo who coached me, pushed me and challenged me to do better. He was brutally honest about the career which helped me settle in and feel at ease. While at PwC I gained enormous experience in the mining division where together with my mentor developed the training champion programme to help trainees who were not performing well. People came into the training program with different challenges, for instance, a good number were seeing a laptop for the first time. The programme was there to make the transition smoother for everyone and also ensure that performance was achieved.. I realized then that there is more to life; that one has to plough back and help others.

In 2010, I was seconded to work at PwC Lagos, Nigeria for about three years. Most of my learning and who I am today happened there. My emotions were stretched to the limit; everything was new and different and I must admit that the electricity black-outs now and again made me tougher. I was all alone in a foreign country and had to rely on my spirituality to help me through that time. My strength and boldness had to surface. I learnt the value of hard work, team work and Ubuntu – it was exciting to see a high level of unspoken competition and excellence given the trying times. I wouldn’t change that experience for anything. I understood the challenges that African economies face on a daily basis.

When I got back from Nigeria, I joined SASOL oil technical division. It wasn’t a good fit for me so I left Sasol and joined Vigil Chartered Accountants which was started by former colleagues and later started my own business, Taruwa Chartered Accountants. In 2016 I joined IRBA Education sub-committee where we are doing great work of looking after people in the profession who want to become Registered Chartered Accountants. It is a rewarding space in terms of giving back into the profession that I love. Towards the end of 2017, I was introduced to Ngubane & Co CEO Wilfred Ngubane at one of the annual Finance Indaba’s and the conversation started – how do we get young South African female professionals to take organisations to the next level. Twenty-three years into our democracy, how does the development of the Black South African Child happen meaningfully? After prayer and discussions with my family, I took the decision in February 2018 to serve at a bigger scale at Ngubane and to merge our two companies.

What does your current role mean to you?

The role comes with pressure, responsibility and a sense of joy. The role means that the people I serve need to hold me accountable for their professional growth. I need to be the light, even if it means starting with one person. I need to believe and live by that commitment to serve. You cannot fake it as people will through you. You cannot transfer what you don’t have, so I must always remain consistent.  What you say and do should be aligned with your purpose so that it is always truthful. It’s about getting together and making it bigger for everyone. I need to be asking myself these questions: Are we restoring confidence, are we giving hope, are we making a change?

What I am aiming to achieve in my role is a 100% pass rate of all our trainees who are currently studying. As a firm we maintain believe that not everyone can afford to study full time hence the reason we are still open to recruiting graduates who are studying for their CTA. We know it is not easy for them hence the reason for us to be more supportive as they try to strike a balance.

Have you had any challenges as a woman professional that you think differ from your male counterparts? How have you tackled them?

I believe in knowing your purpose and being able to fuse the different roles at home and at work. With a great support system, you will succeed. The more females we have at the top the more we will be able to craft a path that will work for everyone. Also, nobody has ever thought of the single fathers we might have in our teams and what struggles they face. I believe that there more we move to an output based environment where we make use of technology, virtual times, flexible working arrangements the more we can work towards eradicating the challenges faced by working parents.

You have had several professional and academic achievements, which one stands out for you and why?

I am honoured to be the Deputy Chairperson of the South African Auditing Profession Trust Initiative  (SAAPTI)  which  is a voluntary committee established by the audit profession in South Africa. The committee’s members include CEOs of both large and emerging audit firms. SAAPTI’s mandate is to identify proactive responses to the concerns prevalent in the financial markets and, importantly, the role that the audit profession has to play in adding value to such markets. I hope my service at SAAPTI will indeed assist in restoring trust and confidence that has been lost in our profession.

What advice do you have for students who are looking forward to joining the profession?

Be clear about why you want to join the profession. The profession is demanding but very rewarding. Remember that when all is said and done, you have to live with yourself. So treat yourself well, travel, fall in love and be the best human being you can ever be. Always remember to live for something.

What has been the highlight of your brief career?

There have been so many. At many points you learn more about yourself. The move to Nigeria pushed and stretched me. I discovered so much about myself and where I wanted to go. This opened a lot of doors for me.

What principles and values do you think are important for a young professional?

Honesty, hard work, integrity, having fun and team-work goes a long way.

Explain what contribution you have made to the company since joining it?

I believe I have challenged the norm and have brought in a new way of thinking and learning. I believe I have implemented new ideas and demonstrated the boldness to take on new challenges.

What is your management and leadership philosophy?

I teach and then allow you to do what you need to do. I provide guidance. I work based on deadlines. We meet at the beginning of the project where expectations are clearly defined and we agree on what needs to be done. Thereafter, we are all accountable to each other.

Who stands out for you as a role model and why?

My father for his work ethic and his emphasis on the importance of education. Having integrity even when things are not going well. When he was retrenched, he went back to university and studied with so much strength and that is where I take the strength from and knowing who I am.

My mother for being the sole provider when my father went back to university. Her strength in caring for us as a family and the community grounded me and shaped me.

My husband pushes me to be the best I can ever be; he is strong and yet so soft when he needs to be.

Finally, Sizwe Masondo who I mentioned earlier. He would say; “I am your friend, but we need to get things done”. He showed me how to be human and still lead.

Where do you want your career to be in 10 years’ time?

I take five-year cycles; so, for the two years at Ngubane, my role is to give back while contributing to take the company to the next level. I ask myself what I need to do to pass on what I know and what is good. When retirement comes, I am sure I will be happy not signing audit reports.

Do you think your organisation is a great company to work for? If so, please elaborate in detail what makes it different from others in its field?

It is a good place and one can see the greater things we can do to develop the black child. One can see that they are part of a great team with great potential.

When you not at work, what do you get up to, including family life?

I have two children; two and five years old. When I get home, I forget about work because they give me so much love. We travel a lot as a family and we read a lot together. I enjoy the down-time with my family.

Where can people follow you online?

I struggle with being constantly active on social media although I plan on making the effort going forward. People can follow the Ngubane website and all its social media platforms for the work we do. My personal Instagram is @MaNtshingila and twitter is @maNtshingila1

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