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Big dreams and even bigger determination – the story of Saiba’s Wendy Mutshena

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Wendy Mutshena grew up in a small village called Mulima, outside Louis Trichardt in Limpopo Province, where there was no electricity or running water. Despite these inauspicious beginnings, she had big dreams and a huge determination to succeed.

Growing up in a family of four girls, Wendy always looked up to her sisters who set a high bar in terms of academic performance.

“I recall coming from school and dropping my bag to go fetch water in the stream before it was dark and writing my homework using a candle because there was no electricity,” she says.

After finishing high school, Wendy wasted little time seeking greener pastures in the city of gold (Johannesburg). She enrolled for a course in civil engineering with thoughts of a better life, but was quickly confronted with the harsh realities of a ferociously competitive job market.

After coming face-to-face with job scammers who demand a fee and promise placements (but then run away with the money) and no call-back from companies soliciting CVs, she finally landed a job as a lecturer and admin worker at a college.

Her big break came when she joined Saiba in 2015. She knew nothing about the organisation or accounting when she joined, but that quickly changed. She started out as a finance clerk and rapidly learned the ropes. Saiba recognised her potential and enrolled her on a bookkeeping course through University of SA (Unisa), after which she became a fully-fledged accountant.

As Saiba grew, she was promoted from the membership department to supervisor.

“I love working with people more than with numbers, that is why I moved to the membership department when the opportunity arose, and I have been happy here. I can relate to members and I put myself in their position when it comes to problem-solving, I always make sure that a solution is found. I love helping people and making a positive impact in their lives.”

Under the mentorship of Saiba’s CFO and CEO, Wendy rose through the ranks to her current position, membership manager.

Dealing with members and staff, she has had to the delicate arts of communication and effective leadership, something she says she is still working on perfecting.

“I love working at Saiba because it gives you room for growth. Saiba as an organisation is not limiting in any way, and as an accounting body, it is thriving like no other.”

Working from home

Managing a team from home has been challenging, but she keeps in touch with team members through social media, phone calls and regular meetings. “Although it is different from the previous years, I can no longer walk up to someone’s office or my team to discuss things, we have adjusted to the new normal.”

As a mother of two children aged four and seven years, Wendy has to remind them that even though she is working from home, she is still working – though they do pop in her office now and then.

Her greatest love is spending time with her husband and family, and “being a mother and a teacher to my children. I enjoy motherhood a lot.”

When not spending time with her family, Wendy attends to her vice-presidential duties at Toastmasters International, renowned as a training ground for public speaking and leadership.

“Toastmasters has helped me improve my ability to speak in public, and sharpen my communication skills,” she says.

As a leader, Wendy wants to be a source of inspiration to other people and especially to the members of Saiba. She hopes her journey from a small village in Limpopo to the bright lights of Johannesburg and Saiba will inspire others setting out on their career journeys.