Since its inception one decade ago, the Dell Young Leaders programme has supported more than 925 South African university students from low-income backgrounds through our innovative support model. Each of our graduates have paved their way through university and into a career and are currently employed or pursuing further studies across the 12 key industries in South Africa – from healthcare to consulting to engineering.
As we’ve detailed in previous posts, Dell Young Leaders Alumni are part of a lifelong community of skilled professionals who are looking for solutions that benefit more than just themselves. From being role models and mentoring current students, to supporting their families, Dell Young Leaders Alumni seize ongoing opportunities to give back to the programme and transform their lives and communities.
We recently sat down with Vincent, who has been succeeding in his consulting career since his graduation in 2016. Learn more about his challenges and triumphs in university, and how his career has shaped his family.
Tell us about your journey to university.
I grew up in a village 50 kilometers from Pretoria, South Africa. My community was very close and tight knit, but like many communities it’s riddled with crime, drugs, and teenage pregnancy – and that often becomes the norm. Youth finish school and that’s often the end of their education journey. The spark for me to want to go further was when I was in Grade 11. I decided that I needed to make a better life for myself, my family, and contribute to the betterment of my community. I have four brothers and a sister, and 47 cousins in my family – and most have dropped out of school. People told me university would be challenging, and it would be best to take the easy way out and not attend at all. My university attendance was a big leap forward for my family.
What impact has your university degree had on your life?
When I was in university, my residence was 20 to 30 meters from the graduation hall. Every year I could see the graduates with their families, tossing their graduation caps and celebrating. When I finally reached the graduation stage, it felt like I had climbed Mount Everest. For the first time ever, there was somebody that was going to take my family to the next level.
My degree has had a tremendous impact on my family. I’ve been able to build a house from scratch and bought things that we ordinarily wouldn’t have as a family. Beyond that, it’s assisted my family members and community in accessing opportunities for education. I’ve been a programme Mentor and gone to speak in my community high school about my experiences in university, which showcases to others that this path is possible.
While you were in university, how did you prepare for a career?
While in university I focused on my academics, but also paid attention to investments and societies to make sure I was a competitive applicant for job opportunities. Work readiness became very important to me, because it’s the second degree that nobody tells you about. The Dell Young Leaders programme helped me immensely in ensuring I was work ready.
Adjusting from a smaller village to a bigger city life was hard for me. My biggest hurdle was my final year of university, as I was anxious about securing employment for the next year. In university, you know what your plans are for the next year, and here I was unsure of my next step. I sat down with the Dell Young Leaders team and worked on my CV and attended several workshops and one-on-one coaching sessions to ensure I had a competitive edge for my interviews. This made a difference not only in my initial interviews, but when I received employment as I use these skills often in the world of work.
Tell us more about your career achievements.
My biggest career achievement to date is that I’ve made my way through consulting at an accelerated pace. I started out as an Associate, then an Analyst, then a Consultant. This would ordinarily take about six years, and I’ve done this in about 18 months. I’ve also been able to gain exposure to c-suite executives early on in my career.