Current position

Studying architecture at Wits University

First job

A sales job for a friend

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

It’s going to be hard, but you should always enjoy it – if you’re not enjoying it, you’re doing it wrong.

Your top tip to school learners wanting to go to university? 

Don’t let anything stop you – just go. 

What book are you reading at the moment?

An architecture textbook 

With an average matric, Thembelihle Dlamini realised that her dreams of becoming an architect couldn’t happen, as her results were not good enough to get into university. Not satisfied with this outcome, she applied and was accepted as a student in the Maths, Science and Technology Upgrade Programme at the Midlands Community College in KwaZulu-Natal which, in partnership with Investec, provides an opportunity for Grade 12 learners to improve their matric results in Maths, Accounting and Science for a full-time residential year. Thembelihle tells us more about the programme, what it taught her, and how it’s changed her career trajectory.

Thembelihle Dlamini – the architect of her own destiny

What was your journey to getting into the Maths, Science and Technology Upgrade Programme? 

I remember telling my mom that because my matric marks weren’t good enough, I wouldn’t be able to get into university and study architecture. Then I spoke to a friend and she had a cousin who had gone to the Midlands Community College to do the programme after Grade 12. I asked my mom to check it out and then submitted my application and I got in!

How did the application process work? 

I had to write an essay to motivate why they felt they should take me. I told them that I couldn’t get into architecture with my current marks, and I just didn’t see myself doing anything else – so I really needed this opportunity. 

What did you take away from the programme?

The Midlands programme is a full-time, one year residential course, where you live on the campus. At first it was really hard, especially living with other people – and the weather was bad! But as time went on, we got to be like a family, and it was really fun; it wasn’t just about upgrading anymore, the whole stay there became enjoyable. Besides maths and science, we also learned computer programmes. They taught us how to study and how to think about things, including our careers. So the whole programme really helped get to where I am today. 

Thembelihle Dlamini
Thembelihle Dlamini, architecture student at Wits University

Even if things are really hard, just don’t give up – you’ll find a way.

What would you say is the most important thing you took from the programme? 

The programme is actually for underprivileged kids, so it taught me that even if things are really hard, just don’t give up – you’ll find a way. 

Since going through the programme, how has your life trajectory changed?

At first I wanted to go to UPE because I’d heard about their great architecture programme, but when it came to applications, I applied everywhere – they encouraged us to do that, so that we’d have a higher chance of getting in somewhere. When Wits accepted me, I couldn’t believe it but took the opportunity.  

How is university going so far?  

It was very hard when I started, and it still is a bit challenging, but now I feel like I’m finally settling in and I think I’m slowly getting the hang of it.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? 

Ten years from now, I hope to have accomplished a lot, because you have to do a lot to actually become a proper architect. So that would be around eight years from now – in 10 years, I’d like to be working as a professional architect. 

How would you say your childhood affected who you are today?  

My mom was a single mother, so she became my role model because she taught me to be bold. She made me feel like I should never, ever think twice about what I want – if I want it, I should just go ahead and achieve it. While challenges were there, I never allowed them to stop me. I used them to actually do better, and I feel like these challenges have pushed me harder than maybe other people have been pushed. 

Investec women on the rise
Women on the rise

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