The significance of a first paycheck: Bongeka’s story

I heard about the Dell Young Leaders program in my first year at the University of Cape Town. Since I was already at University on financial aid, I was eligible to apply. The financial support and the laptops they provided were two of the main reasons I was interested in the program. When I got the call saying that I had been accepted into the program, I knew my life was about to change.

When I was growing up in the township of Umlazi in Durban, family life was very difficult. We had just enough money to cover our most basic needs and had to make the best of what we had. The biggest challenge our family faced was that my mother was unemployed. It was very stressful for her to raise three children and struggle to provide something as simple as daily meals. When my father died soon after I entered high school, we began to depend on my grandfather, a Pastor. It was hard for him to take care of both his family and my mother and her children at the same time. But we understood that there were some families who did not even have food to eat, so we were grateful that least we did not go hungry.

Dell Young Leaders Program

In my first year at University, I applied to the Dell Young Leaders mentorship program because it was a way to give back to the program and it was a great leadership opportunity for me. It was gratifying to know that, as a mentor, I could help motivate other students to achieve their goals.

As graduation grew nearer, the Dell Young Leaders program played a huge role in helping me get the interview for my first job at Unilever. They helped prepare me for the different stages of the recruitment process, and they organized career workshops that helped a lot in terms of drafting a CV and determining career goals. And, of course, I had the support of the Dell Young Leaders Team, who were always there for all kinds of support before and after my interviews, including negotiating contracts and one on one coaching throughout my first month on the job.

When I received my first paycheck, it felt unbelievable!

My first paycheck

When I received my first paycheck, it felt unbelievable! At first I was scared to use it because I could not believe that it was mine. I thought maybe the bank was going to send me a statement saying that money was incorrectly deposited into my account. I was so happy for my family because I knew how much this would mean to them.

I sent my first paycheck home to my mother and grandmother as a token of appreciation for raising me and helping me become the person I am today. I feel so proud that I can take care of myself financially and help my mother with the monthly household expenses. Having a regular paycheck has also given my family the opportunity to have some savings. I can’t begin to describe how it feels that I can now save money for the future and no longer have a financial barrier that will stand in the way of my dreams. My main goals are to continue with my studies while working and to help my younger siblings get as good an education as I have received. I’d also like to open my own business one day.

My advice

My advice to younger students who are entering the workforce is to be prepared to take on many responsibilities. Be true to yourself and don’t change who you are to suit a job title. Have goals and be persistent in following them. Keep a mindset that is focused on growth and be prepared to learn a lot on the job. Most importantly, remember that you have worked very hard to get where you are and you deserve to be there!

For more on Bongeka’s story, you can watch her interview here:

Bongeka Ndlovu is a Dell Young Leader raised in the township of Umlazi in Durban. She was accepted into the Dell Young Leaders program while pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting at the University of Cape Town. She is currently on the Future Leaders Program at Unilever, where she works as a Customer Operations Management Assistant.


This post is part of a series profiling Dell Young Leaders. You can read the series introduction here and hear from other Dell Young Leaders here