We shine the spotlight on Siphokazi Melamane, an ambitious and bright business development manager at Sasfin.
When Siphokazi Melamane was a young girl, her mother pulled her aside and told her that she was her father’s pride. “I need you to go out there and get anything and everything that you want,” she said. “I want you to make yourself, your father and myself proud.” Siphokazi lives by those words and draws strength from them whenever things are difficult.
Her father passed away when she was very young, leaving her mother – who was only in her 30s – to care for four children. “My mother hasn't had an easy journey. The way that she carried on despite various challenges, and the way that she pulled us through all those years is an inspiration to me. That's also where I got to see how a person balances family, work, and life. I’m inspired by the way she prioritised family while encouraging each and every one of us to go out there and be the best that we can be.”
“I’m inspired by the way she prioritised family while encouraging each and every one of us to go out there and be the best that we can be.”
Being the best she can be, is something Siphokazi aims for every single day. She’s earned multiple qualifications, three of which she earned while working, and it is her focus on personal development that she is most proud of. She began her studies at UCT, where she earned her undergraduate degree. She then moved to Johannesburg where she began working at Stanlib, while simultaneously furthering her education. She did a Postgraduate Diploma in Management through the Wits Business School, a Postgraduate Diploma in Financial Planning through the University of the Free State, and she’s currently finishing her MBA through the Wits Business School. “[My studies] have tested my resilience, determination, and leadership skills. There's a lot of introspection that I’ve had to do, and I needed to be very honest with myself at times. Through this process I have learnt a lot about myself, where I really want to go and what kind of leader I want to be.”
Siphokazi is a natural leader who’s stepped up in each role she’s held, when given the opportunity. A few months into her job at Stanlib, her team leader pulled her aside to tell her that she’s the best newcomer they’ve had, but she warned her: “Don’t let that get to your head.” At PSG, she received a performance award known as PSG Genius. Similarly, she was lauded for her outstanding performance at Nedgroup Investments.
When asked what advice she’d give young girls wanting to go into male-dominated industries, she emphasises the importance of just doing your best. “Remove the focus off the industry being male-dominated and focus on what you need to do. Persevere to be the best that you can be in every position you hold. Focus on the end goal – what it is that I need to produce, whether it's male-dominated or whichever environment it is.” Secondly, she says, seek advice: “Seek advice from people who have career paths that you can draw from, seek advice from people who have been successful in similar positions or those that you aspire to be in.”
“Remove the focus off the industry being male-dominated and focus on what you need to do. Persevere to be the best that you can be in every position you hold. Focus on the end goal.”
Ironically, one of the biggest challenges she has faced working in a male-dominated environment has not come from men, but from women. “It is sad, but it's something that I would like to highlight as a woman. If we talk about being proud of being women, wanting to encourage young women and girls to be successful, to be in any environment and thrive, we need to live by it and not just say it. Because if you just say it, you end up being a woman who puts down other women, when you should be doing the opposite.” Much like she handles all challenges thrown at her, Siphokazi focuses on the end goal and doing her best with the job at hand, noting that through challenges, we can grow and become better people.
“If we talk about being proud of being women, wanting to encourage young women and girls to be successful, to be in any environment and thrive, we need to live by it and not just say it.”
Despite this, she’s had a number of female mentors and role models who have been there for her and shown her what type of leader she wants to be.
Years back, she attended a seminar where Nonhlanhla Mjoli-Mncube was presenting. She spoke about what it takes to be successful in the corporate world. Nonhlanhla’s advice was about having the courage to speak up and stay true to yourself, which has influenced the way Siphokazi handles herself. “You need to be tough, because if you're not tough, you're not going to make it,” Nonhlanhla said. “You need to be able to have the courage to stand up for yourself. The courage to voice your views.”
Another woman who has impacted her is Charlotte Mbewu, who she says saw her potential. “The first time we met, she was Head of Unit Trust at Stanlib. The next time I bumped into her, she was the COO of PSG Wealth. After starting a job at PSG, it was mentioned that Charlotte said, ‘whatever you [Siphokazi] touch turns to gold’. “For a person of that calibre and position to say something like that! I drew so much inspiration from, and that I had to pull through whatever challenges that I face in my journey. I need to keep producing commendable work because there are people watching. You never know who's watching.”
Today she works as a business development manager at Sasfin with a focus on asset management and securities. She’s been here for just over a year, during which time she’s gotten to work closely with clients, an interaction that she loves most about her job. “You meet different people and there's a lot that you learn. You learn how to deal with people, and how people think. You learn how to help people through challenging times and how to show your clients you care.”
That care, she says, comes down to building strong relationships and getting to know your clients, “taking the time to listen, to engage – especially since in this day and age, people want to get things done quickly. It’s important to understand aspects of their lives such as what their goals are and what they enjoy outside of work. It's building that relationship and seeing that there’s more to people than what you see on the surface. Establishing good relationships has had a positive impact in the way that we work and in the way that we interact.”
“Establishing good relationships has had a positive impact in the way that we work and in the way that we interact.”
When asked about the idea of “having it all”, Siphokazi says you can indeed have it all, but not necessarily at once. “You can be successful at your job, have a happy family life and be able to do what you want to do for leisure. You just have to make time for them and prioritise.” For instance, while studying and working, she’s had to make temporary sacrifices in other areas of her life to allow her to achieve her goals. She’s inspired by Nonhlanhla, who is not only a successful businesswoman, but married with children. “She is proof that you can have it all, focus on what needs to be done and just keep pushing through.”
And that’s exactly what Siphokazi plans on doing, as she prepares her journey for leadership.