Like many ambitious young South Africans, Bianca Moepye matriculated determined to change the world. At the time, she wanted to become an economist, but as it so often does, life had other plans for her.
“I grew up in Joburg with a single mother who taught me to not only work hard, but that the only person responsible for your life is you – and I had big plans for myself. The problem was that we didn’t have the funds for university.”
While she figured things out, Bianca took a gap year and started working as a sales assistant at a Sandton fashion retailer. She was soon promoted to assistant manager, and by the end of the year her mom and grandmother had worked out how to pay for a Bachelor of Business Administration degree at Rosebank College. For the next three years, Bianca studied and worked, preparing herself for a career, although by then she had realised that she probably wasn’t going to be an economist.
“One of the biggest and most important lessons I’ve learnt since school is that life is all about trial and error,” she says.
“The more we learn and experience, the more we figure out who we are and what we want from life – but you have to be open to anything, because you don’t always know what’s a good fit until you’ve tried it.”
Bianca joined Sasfin through a learnership, and soon after placement, realised that the department wasn't the right fit for her, so instead of quietly keeping her head down, she spoke up. “I didn’t know anything about that area, and I wouldn’t have known if it was a good fit or not until I got there, but I believe that you have to ask for what you want in life, and because I spoke up, I was moved to a different division, which was a great fit.
“I am not a naturally confident person unless I’m very comfortable with a person or a situation, so I need to work myself up to the hard conversations, but I’ve always pushed myself. You can’t expect things to be handed to you – you need to step out of your comfort zone and put your hand up.”
Which is what Bianca has done time and time again, from approaching the Head of SME Lending and Strategic Alliances, Meagan Rabé, to become her mentor, to asking for more challenges over and above her workload.
“One of the things that Meagan has taught me, and which aligns with what my mother has always said, is that you have to fight for your own self. You have to keep knocking on doors, because you never know which one will open.
“What I really wanted was to join the product development and innovation team, but the head of the department kept saying no. He didn’t think I was a fit. I went back three times until he agreed to give me a chance, and it’s because of that persistence that I’m now part of this incredible team that is solving how small business access credit. A role was even created for me: SME Loan Consultant.
“This team is made up of so many people, from business analysts to product innovation. The traditional rules of banking don’t apply to SMEs, and so they’re changing the rules every week. I’m learning so much, and taking it all in.”
Your destiny is in your hands
Bianca’s advice for graduates is simple: Degrees and certificates will give you important skills, but you need to expose yourself to as many disciplines as possible to find out where your passions lie. “There’s no guarantee in life,” she says. “I count myself to be very lucky. I was able to study, I found a job and now I’m in a field that I love, helping small businesses. But I know others who haven’t been that lucky. The only thing to do is to keep learning. Try new things, knock on every door, and when you get rejected – and you will – get back up again. Never give up.”