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From R400 taxi ride to UJ to SA's Rising Star

Aug 02 2016 13:27
Lameez Omarjee

Brian Mahlangu (left) receiving the Banking and Financial Services Sector Rising Star Award 2016 from Standard Bank's Lincoln Mali (right). (Picture supplied)

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NEDBANK GROUP LIMITED [JSE:NED]

Last traded 259
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Cumulative volume 1257798
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Last Updated: 01/01/0001 at 12:00. Prices are delayed by 15 minutes. Source: McGregor BFA

STANDARD BANK GROUP LIMITED [JSE:SBK]

Last traded 190
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Cumulative volume 5128092
Market cap 0

Last Updated: 01/01/0001 at 12:00. Prices are delayed by 15 minutes. Source: McGregor BFA

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Johannesburg – When Brian Mahlangu heard he couldn’t go back to university to finish his honours degree, he collected donations from his community in Middleburg, Mpumalanga to take a taxi to Johannesburg so that he could register. Now as a senior software tester at Nedbank, Mahlangu was awarded the Banking and Financial Services Sector Rising Star for 2016.  

Standard Bank’s annual award show, now in its fifth year, identifies young talent across different sectors. Entrants are aged between 28 and 40. Winners are recognised for the work they have done and have a chance to participate in a leadership and development programme throughout the year. This gives them an opportunity to network across industry sectors. So far 200 individuals have been recognised through the programme which operates in both South Africa and Kenya.

“I always wanted to do my honours, but I was told I couldn’t go back to school because of a lack of funding,” he told Fin24. Mahlangu collected R400 from members in his community, and took a taxi to UJ.

“I slept outside UJ, waiting to register the next day.” He used the R6 000 left in his student account from the previous year’s bursary from the organisation Enactus, to register. Mahlangu said if he hadn’t done that he wouldn’t have graduated.

Mahlangu joined Nedbank in 2014 as a software tester and advanced to senior tester within eight months. His work involves identifying and reporting problems to make sure systems work. He is the eldest sibling in his family. He studied at the University of Johannesburg  (UJ) where he acquired a diploma in business management, a BTech degree and an honours degree in Strategic Management.

In an interview with Fin24, he shares more on his experiences and the journey to being named a Rising Star.

What does winning the Rising Star award mean for your career?

It opened a lot of doors for me, it helped me understand what I can achieve. When I work on projects and developing new products, I now have the confidence to approach people in higher positions. Before the competition, I would push my ideas, but didn’t have something solid to prove that I could do something. Through the competition I’ve learnt to do my best and do all I can.

What made you decide to enter the competition?

I won the Nedbank Achiever Award in 2015, I was encouraged to enter the Rising Star Awards. I took the opportunity to apply and kept running with it. It was an opportunity to gain exposure and build my career. The process started with essays, followed by a panel interview. I had to explain what was unique about me in the essays, and my managers had to confirm that.

 What was most challenging in the competition?

The interview stages. They asked me if I would leave a company if I got a better offer. I told them that it’s not about the money, at this stage in my career it’s about learning as much as I can. It is important to get knowledge. If you have knowledge then you’ll be able to get all the money you need. You need to learn how things work so that you can do things for yourself. Eventually I will leave the bank to give someone else an opportunity to learn.

What set you apart from your peers?

From my perspective, how I sold myself and where I wanted to be. Through working at a financial institution I have learnt to build wealth while I still can. I am also part of the social responsibility and occupational health and safety committee and the recognition committee at work. I am passionate about social responsibility. When I was at the University of Johannesburg, I was part of the Enactus organisation.

What are some of your dreams and goals, and how has winning the award changed that?

My current goal is to own my own investment company one day. I have a savings plan to get there. I am making sure I save to put my money where I want it in future, such as buying shares.

What value do you think you can add to the financial services sector?

I add value through the ideas I bring to the bank. I try and find ways to develop products which people need, to attract the mass majority.

How did you progress so quickly in your career at Nedbank within two years?

Just by working hard. I made sure I was always available to complete tasks. I put myself out there when things had to be done.

Do you have any advice for young people?

Listen to motivational speakers, especially those who have life experiences you can learn from. People have been through hard times, all we need to do is listen to their stories to learn from them. Be aware of your environment and the people you keep around you. Most young people want to fit in. Young people need to discover who they are.

 Who is your role model?

Dr Eric Thomas. He went from being a street kid to a doctor. He is motivating and inspiring.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t give up on your dreams. Go through the trials, once you get through it, you will realise it was worth it.

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