I'd like to introduce you to Maureen Khumalo, being part of the IIG Roots and Wings Programme which pairs mentors and mentees, I have had the pleasure of spending time with this lady who has been a true powerhouse!
The Roots and Wings Programme requires that toward the end of the year, mentors and mentees get together for the final presentation where the mentees speak about their journey over the past few months. Yesterday's presentations, held at Constantia Insurance with strict Covid-19 compliance being adhered to, blew me away, not only do we have amazing young talent in the industry, the stories that the mentees shared of overcoming huge obstacles left me quite emotional.
Maureen has been one incredible lady and her story is truly inspirational, so I'll let her tell it.
"I am ME. Not the ME you think I am. Not the Me you want me to be. I am just ME".
I am not perfect. I’m working on MYSELF. Working to become the best version of MYSELF. I am working on MYSELF. To continue to expand my OWN SELF, through my own work.
In my own way.
My name is Maureen Khumalo. I am originally from Zimbabwe (Bulawayo). My parents passed away when I was 14 years old. Being raised by my 60-year-old grandmother, life was tough. She used to work for an NGO. There was nothing much to do with her salary because she had to raise 8 orphaned grandchildren.
Seeing how she was struggling to make ends meet I decided to drop out of school and help her around. I used to dye fabrics and sell them in our neighbourhood. In 2004 I decided to come to SA and look for work, so I was able to help my grandmother.
When I came to South Africa, I didn’t have any qualifications. I got my first job as a cleaner. Being a cleaner never stopped me from dreaming but it gave me the courage to think big, made me believe in a bigger future. I told myself that small steps keep you growing.
After working as a cleaner for Admiral Underwriting Managers for a few months I was given an opportunity to be an Admin Clerk. With that opportunity given to me, I chose to further my studies. I completed my Matric in 2010 and registered with UNISA to complete some Insurance courses.
I worked for them for 8 years with hopes to be promoted. That never happened. It really affected my confidence, I started to think that maybe I was destined to be a nobody. It was very hard for me to focus and continue with my studies again as I kept asking myself what good will those courses help me with.
In 2014 I joined AC & E Engineering Group. When I joined AC & E, I use to blame my circumstances for my failures. I had an excuse for everything. This was because of my experience with the previous company I worked for. Working in a company that was being run by a strong, independent and intelligent woman made me realize that nothing is impossible. My boss saw the potential in me and made sure that she teaches me how to underwrite and also encouraged me to be myself. Anne-Marie Fourie took me under her wing and mentored me.
I remember one of my colleagues used to tell people that I used to be a cleaner and I was not good for any position in the company. This colleague of mine thought she was burying me, not realizing that I am a seed. My boss saw how vulnerable I was, and then she used that to groom me.
My journey with the IIG Roots and Wings Programme has been a very informative and insightful one. Having to interact with another strong lady (Clodagh Da Paixao from Mulberry Marketing) made me decide to make the most of the future.
She helped me to grow through performing. She taught me how to strive to improve in my performance, how to engage my passion and talent. I gained my strength through my pain and my confidence through my failures.
She helped me to look deep within myself so I can find the real me. Taught me not to focus on my past and what I have been through, but to focus more on what I have achieved in my life. She made me realize that there is more to life than the eagerness to collect degrees and qualifications.
I have been blessed by having strong women in my life.
My Grandmother, who taught me how to be a strong woman.
My Boss (Anne-Marie Fourie) who helped me to redesign my focus and work hard towards my goals and dreams. Who believed in me when I had lost hope.
My Mentor, who stood by my side, held my hand and helped me to overcome my fears and also helped me to gain my strength.
Today I stand in front of all of you UNSTOPPABLE!!! UNSHAKABLE and UNBREAKABLE!!!
I AM ME!