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The Next Generation of Friendship

The relationship between Zimasa and Ntokozo started as purely professional through the Next Generation Women Leaders Award, but it has blossomed into a true friendship.

Zimasa is the founder and editor of The Corporate Canvas: Finance & Lifestyle News, an online magazine to help women early in their careers create their own destiny. She holds a LLB from the University of the Witwatersrand and a masters in Corporate Law from the University of Johannesburg, and started her career in financial regulation at Standard Bank Group.

Ntokozo is an associate in our Johannesburg office. She started in our McKinsey Leadership Programme after completing her bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of Johannesburg and her MPP in economic development at the University of Oxford.

Ntokozo and Zimasa inline
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What brought the two together? They were paired as mentor and mentee when Zimasa won a Next Generation Women Leaders Award last year. They’ve learned a lot from each other over the last year, but we think the friendship they’ve formed is the most inspiring part of their story.

Interviewer: Zimasa, what led you to apply for the NGWL award?

Zimasa: I came across the link on my LinkedIn feed and sent it to a number of my friends who are brilliant young women. I didn’t think I stood a chance! However, after repeatedly going back to the website and looking through the requirements, I decided to take a chance and apply. It wasn’t the money that sparked my interest – although the thought of some extra funds to build my business was very attractive. It was the networking opportunities and the prospect of having a mentor from an organisation that has bred some of the world’s best known CEOs. As a self-funded, self-taught entrepreneur, I knew those relationships could open so many doors for me and help me take my career to the next level.

Interviewer: Ok, so it wasn’t all about the money…but that certainly didn’t hurt! How have you used the award stipend?

Zimasa: Indeed! I used a portion of it for social media marketing. When I won the award, The Corporate Canvas Facebook page had 1,500 likes; now it has more than 11,000 followers. I also used the funds to fix technical issues on the back end of my website to ensure it functions properly and effectively. It’s very important that The Corporate Canvas has great readability and accessibility.

Interviewer: Sounds like you’ve made a lot of progress in a year, congratulations. Tell us more about your mentor, Ntokozo.

Zimasa: Ntokozo called me shortly after I learned I’d received the award to introduce herself as my mentor. She is absolutely phenomenal. I could tell immediately just how ambitious, dedicated and determined she is. She is a tenacious individual who works hard to achieve her goals.

Interviewer: And Ntokozo, what were your first impressions of Zimasa?

Ntokozo: I was equally as impressed! Zimasa is warm and friendly. She is strategic and focused. She has an entrepreneurial mind set and is very organized, which had already helped her to take her business off the ground.

Interviewer: How have you two interact over the last year?

Ntokozo: We meet regularly for coffee or lunch. It’s been really fun to see each other in person. Sometimes, I forget I know Zimasa because of the Next Generation Women Leaders Award; we get together now because we’re friends.

Zimasa: I know! I miss you when we haven’t spoken in a while. We’ve shared a lot over the last year. Ntokozo always listens to me and is there to offer advice or assistance whenever I need it – on any topic. 2016 was a busy and tough year for me. I work full time at the bank while growing my business and planning my wedding. Ntokozo helped me prioritize and find more balance. We’ve also explored opportunities for The Corporate Canvas and me personally. It’s been so helpful.

Interviewer: What else have you learned from each other?

Zimasa: Ntokozo has given me several ideas I never would have thought of myself. She has truly made me think larger and dream bigger and taught me how to set goals to get there. When I fall into the trap of comparing my site to other large and successful ones, like SheLeadsAfrica (which was coincidentally founded by a McKinsey alumna), Ntokozo helps me remember that I’m running my own well-progressing race. At the same time, we’ve done a lot of problem-solving around how to differentiate The Corporate Canvas.

Ntokozo: Zimasa has taught me a lot, too. Our conversations have helped me reflect on my experiences (inside and outside of McKinsey) and my progression through the firm. Our relationship has helped me develop coaching skills I use every day with my clients. I hope to be a mentor to another NGWL Award winner this year, though I know Zimasa and I will always keep in touch.

Zimasa: Yes, we have a genuine friendship. We make each other better.

Interviewer: Why do you think it’s important for McKinsey to sponsor the NGWL Award?

Zimasa: It opens doors for women, and helps build confidence. After winning the award, I feel I can conquer anything I set my mind to, and no feat is too large for me.