On Tuesday 13 May Nedbank kicked off its Talks4Success initiative at the Alexandra Theatre in Braamfontein, discussing how to “Reach for your dreams” and “Make Things Happen”. The initiative aims to inspire a “can-do attitude” in young South Africans by introducing them to rising stars who talk about how they made it to the top.
A key speaker at the event was Siyabulela (Siya) Xuza, a Harvard engineering graduate and the youngest member of the Africa 2.0 Energy Advisory Panel. The panel challenges Africa’s brightest young leaders to find ways to meet the continent’s energy needs.
SIYABULELA XUZA: FROM MTHATHA TO HARVARD
Hailing from Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, the engineering whiz kid overcame the many obstacles and negative attitudes standing between him and his dream; he told the audience; “As a young South African growing up in the Eastern Cape with limited resources, culture was important to me as it inspired me.”
Talking about what sparked his interest in science and engineering, Xuza said, “At the dawn of South Africa’s new democracy I spotted the technological marvel of a Cessna plane dropping election pamphlets over my hometown. This ignited my curiosity for science and a passion for using technology to engineer an African renaissance.
“I believe science is a way to serve my culture and society.”
On his aspirations, Xuza said, “At the time I knew that I may not be able to predict what the future holds, but I had conviction that an education in engineering would be the key to achieving my aspirations as a son of Africa.”
Xuza used his mother’s kitchen as his base of operations to play around with chemicals. After being kicked out to the garage after an experiment got out of hand, he developed a cheaper alternative to standard rocket fuel; the invention earned him the grand prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2007. He later attended the Harvard University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, working with micro-fuel cells to supply electricity in remote and rural areas.
Recognising his astronomical rise in the science world, the Nasa-affiliated MIT Lincoln Laboratory named a minor planet, 23182 Siyaxuza, after him. Xuza takes the accolade seriously; a slide in his Talks4Success presentation read: Don’t tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon.
Xuza’s advice to young South Africans? “Be ruthlessly curious.”
THUBELIHLE NGCOBO: WHAT HAPPENS AFTER GRADUATION?
Nedbank graduate, Thubelihle Ngcobo, also shared her journey to success.
Ngcobo had studied marketing management at the University of Johannesburg and went on to complete her honours in logistics management, but after she completed her studies, she told the audience she had asked herself a common question: “What comes next, you know, where to from here?”
So, she said, she ” took the initiative” and applied for the Nedbank Graduate Development Programme, which receives up to 7000 applications.
The programme aims to attract and retain South Africa’s top graduates and focuses on continuous learning to develop leadership skills.
Ngcobo was one of the deserving few picked to participate; she said, “I served my twelve months. I’ll tell you now the twelve months on that programme were some of the most enriching, empowering and enlightening times of my career to date.”
Today, she is a digital product developer at Nedbank.
ATTEND THE TALKS4SUCCESS
To be in the audience and participate in robust dialogue with game-changers like Xuza and DJ Sbu, visit the Nedbank Talks 4 Success registration page to book a seat at upcoming events in Cape Town (29 July), Pretoria (5 August), Johannesburg (20 August), and Durban (17 September).