Carry yourself with confidence

04 Jun 2019

Investec bursary recipient and CA Madelein Coetzee on the rewards of working hard, and what she’d tell her high school self.

Current position

Finance Executive, Bud Industrial Services, Midrand

Qualifications

  • BCom Forensic Accountant
  • CTA (Honours in Accounting) from North-West University 
  • Qualified as a CA at Investec 

First job

A waiter at Wimpy

Your top tip to young women graduates looking to enter the working world?

Carry yourself with confidence, even in intimidating situations.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received about your career?

Do what makes you happy and make an effort to meet new people all the time.

What book are you reading? Steinheist by Rob Rose

Madelein grew up in Vereeniging in a single parent, mother-run household. After finishing school at Hoërskool Overvaal, she was awarded a tertiary education bursary with Investec, which helps young South Africans with academic potential to study towards financial sector-related degrees at various local universities.
 
After graduating with a BCom from North-West University, Madelein then joined Investec, where she completed her CA. She talks to us about the value of education, the rewards of working hard, and the advice she’d give her high school self.
 

You came from a single parent household, where money was tight. What has this taught you? 


My mom taught us so much – more through leading by example than actually telling us what to do, which I think is much more powerful. She’s a strong, selfless, independent woman who never stops helping others, including strangers. She also taught us that money is a nice to have, but you’re still capable of anything regardless. She always encouraged us to meet people, make friends, and most importantly to learn, without anything holding you back. 


Your mother works for the Department of Education. What can be done to alleviate some of the challenges facing learners in SA?


The involvement of corporates like Investec is making a powerful change, but this is mostly with post-school students trying to get a degree. I think more should be done by government, private companies and even individuals to ensure kids get a good education from grade one, or even earlier. It’s the basic fundamentals that make a huge difference. 


How has your mother’s influence shaped how you see education? 


My mom works as an administrative officer for the Department of Education. She only got her matric, so I was the first person in my family to go to university.
 
Education opens doors: it enables you to do things and go places that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
I was able to get funding through loans and bursaries and secure employment at one of the most attractive employers in South Africa.

Madelein Coetzee
“Work hard, do what makes you happy and surround yourself with people who know how to be happy for you.”

Madelein Coetzee, Finance Executive, Bud Industrial Services

With eight distinctions in Grade 12, surely you had the pick of the crop when it came to bursary opportunities. Why did you approach Investec?


When I applied for the Investec bursary through Study Trust and went through a week of interviews, I was completely blown away. The people I met all loved their jobs and couldn’t stop speaking about their love for the place – it quickly caught on. That’s when I decided: I’m not only going to get a bursary with Investec, I’m also going to work for them one day. 


Why did you choose to study accounting? 


Accounting isn’t for everyone, but it definitely suits me and my personality: I’m a perfectionist and I’ve always loved numbers. There are so many careers out there where you can be happy – never do something because someone told you to, or just because it pays well. If you don’t love what you do, chances are you won’t perform well at all.

Madelein’s top CV tips

 

  • Make sure your CV is no longer than one page.
  • You shouldn’t have any time gaps in your CV. If you took a year off for whatever reason, state that, otherwise people always question it. 
  • Ask your references before you add them to your CV, so they can at least expect a phone call and have thought about or reflected on what to say about you. 
  • Make sure your referees carry weight and are people who you are in good standing with. That being said, never burn bridges, even when leaving a job for another. 
  • Always ask a mentor to proofread your CV and cover letter.
  • Be careful of what you share on social media. Employers are looking at public accounts and may misinterpret something you’ve posted and hold it against you.

Do you think growing up in a small town like Vereeniging put you at an advantage or disadvantage?  


I think a bit of both. I was very protected and not exposed to the threats of the real world, the power of social media, nor the levels of crime we see elsewhere. It also made me a little ignorant compared to kids from the best schools who grew up with dinner table conversations about stocks and the markets, currencies or politics… they were miles ahead of me in terms of “talking the talk”. But in a way, it also made me feel confident in who I am and what I’m capable of, without comparing myself to anyone else.


After you qualified with a CA from North-West University- you applied to Investec’s CA programme. What does your job entail now, and why do you like it?


As a finance executive at Bud Industrial Services, I do everything from basic accounting for head office to big consolidations of subsidiaries. Every day brings something new, and I get to learn on the job. My managers are truly incredible and are invested in seeing me learn, develop and grow. 


Do you think mentorship is worthwhile, and do you have one?


Yes, mentors play a very special role in your life, through both the good and challenging times. My mom has always been my biggest fan and mentor, as well as always giving me an honest opinion and being a solid sounding board. But you need more than one mentor in every stage in life. For example, your sporty friend can be your mentor to keep you fit and healthy, but a religious leader might help you navigate relationships. Never put a limit on who and where you learn from. 


How do you stay on top of your field? 


Networking. I find that constantly meeting new people and being in conversation with friends and colleagues is a great way to know what’s happening – even more so than trying to read the endless amounts of information published by universities and other academic bodies. 


If you could give one piece of advice to your younger high school self, what would it be?


Stop caring what people say and stop worrying about what they think. Work hard, do what makes you happy and surround yourself with people who know how to be happy for you. There is a place in the sun for everyone. Woman are often guilty of this – we think that if another woman succeeds, we have failed. We need to embrace ourselves and each other. 
 

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