I was raised with my six siblings in the remote Muchipisi Village in Malamulele Township, Limpopo. My father abandoned us and went to start another family just before I was five. Because of apartheid, my mother never had an opportunity to learn nor pursue a professional career, so getting through each day was extremely difficult. Yet despite all odds, she never gave up and always encouraged us not to allow current circumstances to define us. She instilled in me entrepreneurial activism and taught me to believe in myself.
The tuition fees for my siblings were much more than my mother could afford. Thus, my elder sister and brothers had to migrate to the cities to find employment. Luckily, by the time I completed grade 12, attendance in public schools was free and I became the first in my family and first in the community to be admitted to the University of Cape Town. However, I had to go on a road show and sell 80 kg bags of Mopani worms to raise funds to attend University, and even then then the money was only enough to cover transportation.
That’s why I feel blessed to have become a Dell Young Leader, as all my uncertainties about the future and financial constraints were waived immediately. Owing to the incredible support and resources provided by the Dell Young Leaders team, I managed to overcome the odds and successfully earn the first university degree in my family’s history.
That’s why I feel blessed to have become a Dell Young Leader, as all my uncertainties about the future and financial constraints were waived immediately.
When the time came to find a job, the Dell Young Leaders career advisor helped us compile our CVs and prepare for interviews through intense workshops that simulated the real interview environment. The Dell Young Leaders team also started a new strategic project to promote the program: they created a brochure with the CVs of all the Dell Young Leaders, which was distributed to potential employers in South Africa. As a result, numerous employers contacted me for interviews, including KPMG South Africa.
The interview workshops with the Dell Young Leaders advisor prepared me well. I attended interviews with five different employers and received job offers from three of them, ultimately accepting KPMG’s offer to work in their Financial Management division. Getting the job felt like a miracle! I’m the first child in my family to be formally employed, and now I’m able to provide for my family. I’ve demolished the huts I grew up sleeping in and managed to build one of the biggest houses in the community – the first of its kind at home. I’m also saving money to finance my younger sister’s college studies that will begin in 2016.
The job has been a great experience, as KPMG’s Management Consulting is an environment of high performance standards. I often work nearly 10 hours a day so I can catch up with the markets without jeopardizing the quality of my deliverables. I work with some of the most talented individuals and the brightest minds I’ve ever met, and I’ve learned a lot from them about work and life in general. I’ve learned that I must work hard and defy the odds for everything I have and aspire to be. It’s not about how many times you get knocked out in life but how many times you dust yourself off and keep soldiering on.
My advice to new college students is to start researching the career path you want to follow and seek internships in that field. Focus on your academics and establish a track record of above-average grades, which will become an important talking point when applying for internships. Invest in yourself so that others will want to invest in you. After all, you need to believe in yourself before anybody else does.
Prayer Rikhotso is a Dell Young Leader raised in the Malamulele Township, Limpopo. He was accepted into the Dell Young Leaders program while pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Economics & Finance at the University of Cape Town. He currently works in the Financial Management division of the firm’s Advisory function, where his responsibilities include assisting senior finance executives and CFOs to optimize costs, improve finance processes and enhance revenue.
This post is part of a series profiling Dell Young Leaders. You can read the series introduction here: https://www.msdf.org/blog/2015/02/transformative-power-dell-young-leaders-program-journey-university-work/ and hear from other Dell Young Leaders here: https://www.msdf.org/blog/tag/dyl-profile/.