A front-runner in a male-dominated industry

Earning success through hard work and exceptional determination

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Women can handle jobs that entail being in and out of the office, jobs that can sometimes require them to achieve outstanding results while getting their hands dirty just like a man. CEO and founder of Tenacity Management Service, Akhona Magongo Gunguluza is a leading example of women who earned their success through hard work and exceptional determination.

“As women, we should be confident to take up our rightful place, capitalise on our strength to work with people, be dedicated, adaptable and lead with integrity, which will in turn positively influence our career success in the industry,” Magongo believes a desire to do something that was not only different but challenging led her to quantity surveying, her love and passion has since grown from working with different consultants. Her fulfilment comes from watching ideas come to life.

She was eager to secure her independence through hard work from a very young age. The youngest of three daughters in a family of five, CEO and owner of Tenacity Management Services (TMS), Akhona Magongo looks back at her interesting childhood and her first brush with entrepreneurship. “I was never really interested in playing outside. My mom used to be a seamstress, who specialised in Xhosa traditional attires.  I used to enjoy helping her out with the sewing, particularly painting the garments for her. During that time, she was a primary school teacher and she used to sell biscuits so that she didn’t have to wait for payday to buy a loaf of bread or anything else that was needed in the house,” she explains.

“I asked for permission to sell biscuits for myself. She agreed and gave me the capital to start and that is where I would say my entrepreneurial interest began. I sold biscuits and expanded my business and also started selling chocolates at school for my pocket money. I would get money from helping my mom out with painting the Xhosa traditional garments. I was good at fabric painting and I enjoyed it,” she recalls.

Initially, she was convinced that she would either be a fashion or graphic designer but fate took her in a different direction when she got to matric. “In matric, we used to go through career books and that’s when I noticed quantity surveying which required Mathematics. My best mark was always in Mathematics, I decided right there and then that I wanted to study quantity surveying. The only thing I knew was that I would be in the construction industry counting building material. Later I found out that my cousin, Nyameko Magongo, also studied towards the same degree. He gave me a call one day and told me to give it my best shot, but he also cautioned me that the career I had chosen was not for weaklings. That startled me for a minute but I did not see myself as a weakling so I was good to go.”

Magongo went on to complete a BSc Construction in Economics at Nelson Mandela University. Starting her career in quantity surveying as an intern site quantity surveyor at a construction company in Port Elizabeth. In 2008 she moved to Johannesburg in search of better job opportunities, “I got a job opportunity in Johannesburg where I was a site quantity surveyor. Then in 2009 I decided I wanted to evolve in my career, my desire was becoming a registered professional quantity surveyor, I started working for a consulting company called Nonku Ntshona & Associates and managed to get my professional registration whilst at Nonku Ntshona & Associates in 2013. I then moved to a multi-disciplinary consulting company where I headed the Quantity Surveying team in four provinces.”

Following her father’s passing in 2017 she decided to start TMS, at first, she worked from her house. Then in 2018, she moved to their current offices in Johannesburg, later she was joined by her business partner Nthuseni Marageni, who is the business development director at TMS.

Nthuseni Marageni was born and raised in Sibasa Venda in Limpopo. She grew up in an extended family of 13, her dad was the breadwinner of his family. “One can imagine the drama, arguments and everything else in between that occurred amongst us as cousins. Now they are all blissful memories,” she says. She did not let anything deter her drive as she worked hard and obtained a BSc (Construction Economics) degree in Quantity Surveying at the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth. This is also where she first met Gunguluza.

“Magongo and I met in class and coincidentally we happened to be staying at the same residence. I’d literally walk down the passage to her room, we used to study together for our major modules and walked together to classes. Our friendship has since grown and now we have become more like siblings. I subsequently worked for Cadbury SA whilst I was still a student in Port Elizabeth. DDP Quantity Surveyors was the first professional consulting firm I worked for when I relocated to the City of Gold. Then De Leeuw Group Quantity Surveyors Johannesburg, interestingly that is where I had the most challenging yet fulfilling experience.  I got my most valuable career expertise there. As fate would have it, Gunguluza and I worked at Rendeals Four Consulting, it was our stepping stone, today we are here successfully running our own company,” she explains.

TMS is a Quantity Surveying company in the property and construction industry. They offer traditional quantity surveying services according to the services and stages regulated by the South African Council of Quantity Surveyors. Gunguluza is a member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors meaning they are not limited to doing business just in South Africa, but they can offer their services internationally.

“What makes us unique is that we are a young vibrant team, mostly comprising of young women in their youth. We are tenacious and complement each other with our varied skill-set and experience in the industry. We take professionalism and integrity very seriously, we ensure that our clients’ wishes are met and we apply ourselves to the work we do. Every project is different and we treat each client with the utmost care and the diligence they deserve. We like to think we add value by helping them think around the corners so they can foresee and manage potential risks and maximize their investment,” Magonga explains.

The company’s long-term goals are to become a multi-disciplinary company, a one-stop-shop for any client’s needs where we offer consulting and construction services in the property and construction industry. We hope to evolve into other industries like mining and gas. The short-term goals are to grow TMS to generating a turnover of at least 10million per annum in the next 3 years,” she says.

Amidst their success, they have had their fair share of challenges, the greatest being that they are working in a male-dominated industry.

“There’s an existing negative perception of women in the industry’s capabilities, we receive minimal recognition on projects, our careers are slow to progress and this results in the potential for career advancement being low. Women are undervalued in comparison to their male counterparts. Because of our gender, we face instances where one is restricted to clerical or administration roles as opposed to the full quantity surveying scope. For recognition, one has to continuously prove their competence in various projects and be assertive about pursuing the exposure that will allow you to grow,” she says.

“I feel women are still looked down upon in the industry because most of us are perceived to be less aggressive than men and that is seen as a weakness. There are many powerful women out there and some of them are very feminine, and they’re on top because they’re good at what they do. Women constantly have to prove themselves and sometimes you are not even given a chance to prove yourself, you get written off because your ‘potential client’ thinks you will not be able to give your best effort because you need to take care of the family, you’re going to fall pregnant or just do not have the capabilities your male counterparts have,” she explains.

In light of this TMS does its due diligence to empower women, by giving women first preference when recruiting, even though they do work with men. They have a firm belief that they need to empower more women to rise in this male-dominated industry.

Magongo’s advice to any young woman with the burning desire to join this sector is, “go in for the passion and love for the industry and nothing else because if you love something you’ll never quit.  There will always be motivated to keep at it even if there are challenges and it’s not as easy as it seems at face value”.

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