How Faith Sithole took an opportunity and turned her whole life around.
At 21 years old, Faith Sithole was a struggling single mother of two small children working as a cashier to make ends meet. Having had both children in her teens, she faced isolation, pain and rejection which left her depressed and attempting to end her life. Her biggest aspiration was to work in a Woolworths store and maybe one day work her way up to becoming the store manager.
It was her mother who handed her an advert inside the Newcastle Advertiser, advertising bursaries for people wanting to study Information Technology (IT) through the Moses Kotane Institute. Uninterested in IT, she said no, but her mother insisted that she go and apply. Faith applied and got the bursary. That bursary, she shares, changed her life: “My thinking was limited. God knows what would have happened [had I not applied]. That's where things for me started changing. I became focused on studying and was one of the good students. I was one of the five people from the entire school that were promised an internship if we passed. By the time I wrote my exam and finished it, I knew that there was an internship secured for me. By the time I graduated, I had already started working.”
The Newcastle Advertiser cost her mother R7.50 and to this day, whenever Faith accomplishes something or has a moment to reflect on how far she’s come, she turns to her mother and says: “Ma, I don’t know how many R7.50s I owe you, because that R7.50 changed my life.”
“Ma, I don’t know how many R7.50s I owe you, because that R7.50 changed my life.”
She considers her mother and her father to be her biggest mentors and cheerleaders. As preachers, they've given her both spiritual and practical guidance. “Whatever decision I make, I always drive home and tell my mom and dad. They guide me and give me wisdom.”
Having her parents as mentors has inspired Faith to mentor others. She shares that she now mentors a handful of young people, “giving the youngsters what I never received,” she says, referring to guidance on writing and careers.
In addition to her day job, Faith hosts her own podcast and is a speaker, writer and published author. Her first book, Healing a Bruised Heart of a Broken Woman, was inspired by her experience as a teenage mother and won an award for the best upcoming female author in 2021. The second book is Silenced Victims Free Perpetrators, nominated as the best book in the educational category for 2022. She is currently planning her third book, where she’ll be sharing her daily practice – the method she uses to juggle her busy life.
Faith joined Sasfin two years ago and is the team lead: data analyst and scientist. Her journey to Sasfin was unconventional. When Covid started, Faith was working at ABSA, but when the project she was working on was cancelled, she was retrenched. A single mother of two, with no income, in the middle of a pandemic, was a terrifying place to be in and Faith posted a message on LinkedIn. She still remembers that post, which read: “I just got retrenched from my job. I don't know where my next meal will come from. I'm grateful that I have books that could help me generate some income. If you don't mind, please support me and maybe buy a copy. It will help a lot.” People started buying her books, but it was a message from an old colleague she worked with 10 years prior at MTN that gave her a lifeline. He told her to send him her CV, there was a project at Sasfin she may be suited for. Fortune was in her favour and the project happened to connect to the one she was previously working on, making her the perfect person for the job.
It was at Sasfin that Faith was able to overcome one of her biggest career struggles. She shares: “I've always seen myself as a leader, but it took me a long time to be given an opportunity and be trusted. [For someone] to say, Faith, take this piece of work, these are the people and lead them. It took me 35 years to be there. I always sat at work, in my corner on my PC, nobody knew what I was doing, nobody cared. I would dread going to the office because the effort that I put in was not recognised, and my suggestions were not heard. I got tired of that. Sasfin [has given] me that opportunity to take control of the work and lead.”
“I've always seen myself as a leader, but it took me a long time to be given an opportunity and be trusted.”
It’s that level of trust she shares that is her favourite part of working at Sasfin. “They can trust you with any piece of work. They trust my decisions, my thinking, my planning and my prioritisation.” By trusting, she says, they’ve created space for leaders to step up and be empowered. In addition, she shares the open door policy and the fact that she’s had the chance to meet senior execs – and that CEO Michael Sassoon knows her name – means a lot. It’s given her the opportunity to thrive and perform to her best capacity.
It’s a leadership style that exudes the characteristics she believes make up a good leader – having an interest in people and putting them first; after all, she adds: “Who are you leading?”
Single mom, team lead, author, preacher and mentor are all roles Faith takes on daily. When asked how she juggles it all, she explains that it all comes down to her daily practice. She makes use of every hour of her day and knows exactly where her time is going. Part of her daily practice involves nurturing every part of her – physical, spiritual, emotional and mental.
She does this by allocating time to filling her own cup – exercise, praying, connecting with friends and family and ensuring her mental health is well taken care of. As someone who has struggled with mental health, mental wellness is important to Faith. “I believe that if you are in the right mental state, you can make anything and everything.”
“I believe that if you are in the right mental state, you can make anything and everything.”
While Faith has many personal ambitions, it is her kids that drive her and get her up in the morning. “Everything that I do, I do it because I'm trying to provide a better life for my children.”
It’s her children that keep her going and she always has a picture of them on her desk. It was taken just before she left Newcastle to come to Joburg, and every time she looks at it, and how young they were, she remembers how far she’s come.
It’s remembering her journey and winning every day that makes her most proud of herself. “I thought being a parent was going to be this difficult, hectic thing. But seeing myself winning every day, with the struggles and limitations. Every day providing and making sure that my kids have everything. I get proud of that, I'm so proud of myself.”
When asked what advice she would give to teenage moms who may be in the position she was 15 years ago, she shares the importance of not looking at what could have been but embracing what is. “Sometimes we waste so much time on how things could have been. We waste so much time thinking that things would be different if their father was around. Things would be different if I was earning a certain amount of money. We spend so much time looking at how things could have been instead of being present. I've been there. You miss a lot of things. I don't remember the first words both my kids said. I don't remember when they started walking. I can't remember most of the things because I was not present. I was imprisoned in my past and how things could have been and I missed the present. So my advice would be that everything happens for a reason. Let it go. Focus on yourself. Focus on your children. Be in the moment. And don't forget to note everything that you want to see about your future. Write them and go through them each and every day before you go to bed. Go through them. You will see, slowly but surely, everything will start coming to fulfilment.”
“Note everything that you want to see about your future. Write them down and go through them each and every day before you go to bed. You will see, slowly but surely, everything will start coming to fulfilment.”
You can be sure that Faith is following her own advice and has a list of goals she’s working on every day. Because Faith Sithole is the author of her own story and that story is only just beginning.