Formidable Woman Feature: Kholeka Zama

As we conclude Women’s Month, Communicare celebrates formidable women in its ecosystem and shares their career experiences.

Q. Take us through your journey as a Chartered Accountant, how did it begin and how did you know this was to become your career?

A.   I wanted to be a psychiatrist until I looked at the grade 11 biology file while in grade 9. The sheer volume and complexity intimidated me into choosing technical drawing instead. Looking at my subject choices, I could comfortably have selected a various number of disciplines.   Resource limitations dictated that I could only apply to one institution, I selected accounting at Wits and prayed on it.  I then followed it up with 17 funding applications.  When the only response I received was one invitation to a panel accounting bursary interview and one acceptance into BCom accounting, I realised that this alternative career choice has chosen me. So I embraced it since then and never looked back, even while I repeated my CTA three times before successfully qualifying as a CA(SA) (still within the 7 years it takes to get the qualification).


Q. What are the biggest misconceptions about a career in accounting?

A.   Although essential to every business, accounting is considered repetitive, tedious, and boring.  The reason why mathematics is the key ingredient in an advanced accounting career is that every strategic intent is justified through a financial assessment.  As an accountant, if you volunteer to apply your skills as part of a multi-discipline project team involved in innovations and strategic implementations within your industry, you realise that numbers are alive and tell a story very critical to decision making.


Q. What have been the proudest moments in your career?

A.    Handing over the keys to a Bothasig phase 3 tenant, knowing that a child will grow up in a safe resilient community as a direct result of a board room decision [I was part of], causing positive change in a young person’s life.


Q. What are some of the challenges you have had to overcome concerning double standards and expectations from other women?

A.   Single mothers are not able to lead successful careers.  I showed up in several meetings with my baby girl and still made a positive contribution without disturbing the meeting. It’s amazing how cocoon sling-front baby carriers allow for both mother and infant to get on with life with minimal stoppages.


Q. Are there any women you look up to, who somewhat charted the way for you in this field?

A.    Two women hold this space in my heart (Mary Vilakazi) and my mother.  Both have defied the odds and rose above any challenge that life has thrown at them.  The common thread is their ability to poke fun at their failures while running successful careers and balanced households.


Q. You have a scroll of leadership experience; what would you say you enjoy about being a leader?

A.   The understanding that leadership requires you to be a servant to others while leading by example.


Q. What­­ are key lessons have you have learned over the years, that you are determined to impart to the next generation of women?

Don’t ask for permission, don’t make excuses, and take accountability.

When pointing a finger, three fingers are pointing back at you.

When something doesn’t work out, focus on how you could have influenced a different outcome by approaching things differently.

Kholeka Zama Communicare board Chairperson, WESGRO Chief Financial Officer