Failure has never been an option for her. At one point while some could have looked solely to Government for support she sold her assets to fund her education in Zambia and the United Kingdom (UK). So driven she is that nothing whatsoever has and could stand in her way. KEITEBE KGOSIKEBATHO reports on this extraordinary woman.
After being ushered through the highly guarded Debswana Corporate Centre gates and doors, we immediately rush up the elevator to the third floor where the Head of Audit Services, Tshego Modise’s office lies. At the door stands a pintsized woman with a beaming smile. She doesn’t waste any more time or show any disdain that we have kept here waiting; plunging right into pleasantries. “Hi am Tshego, I believe you looking for me,” she says with a welcoming gesture to the chairs. We get down to business – to unpack Modise who she is and how she ended up at the high position she holds.
Eldest of siblings
She tells us of how being the eldest among her siblings she had to set the tone, a lesson which was instilled in her so firmly by her father, who also taught her that even though she was a girl she could do anything. “My siblings had to look up to me, and as a result I was forced to excel in everything I did,” she says. It is this kind of upbringing that has contributed so much to the person that she is now. She tells of how she was nominated to be a prefect at school despite her tiny figure. Her success academically and her conduct, she says, was always used as a yardstick by her father whenever he counselled her siblings. She, however, admits that there was a lot of pressure in trying to maintain the standard; in between keeping her dad happy and staying on top of her game. But, she says, she has always kept her eyes on the prize anyway. “There is a lot of pressure and you almost sound like your own enemy because you are your own bench mark. You always have to do better than your last achievement. It’s like football you always have to do better than your last result,” she enthuses. In fact it has always been like that from an early age; after getting straight As in her Primary school leaving examinations, she knew she had to do even better at junior secondary school and at senior secondary school.
Her auditing career started with the then Price Waterhouse auditing and accounting firm (PWC) as an Audit Trainee Assistant in 1990 after her national service. She was so good that she was offered vacation jobs by the company while pursuing her BCOM (Accounting) degree at the University of Botswana until 1994. Upon completing her studies in May 1994 she joined PWC fulltime as an Audit trainee and progressed through to Audit Supervisor by August 1997 when she left to pursue further studies in Zambia and later in the UK in 1998 as a self-sponsored student. “I had become so passionate about the accounting profession, so I had to sell everything that I had and went to Zambia. Lord behold; while I was there, there was military coup and I had to come back and write my exam, after which I went to the UK still with my own money. It was good investment because look where I am now. So sometimes I think we depend too much on government; it had taken me through my first degree but now it was up to me,” she says. When she got back from the UK she joined Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) in June 1999 as an Internal Auditor. She left in May 2002 to join he current employer Debswana as an Internal Auditor.
According to Modise, she was at the time the only woman in the department, a scenario which she says had its own pluses and minuses. It came with pluses because as the only woman she brought in a different dynamic to the team or was almost a neutraliser, as she puts it. On the flip side, she says, her male colleagues were always mindful that there is a woman in the team. The way they relate to you, according to Modise, was: “You are always a woman first, and a colleague later”. However she says it was a challenge that she rose above because she didn’t want to be remembered as a woman who was once part of the team but rather a team member who brought in immeasurable performance. “You don’t want to be the weakest link despite your gender stories. You want to be equal if not more, so you put in 200 percent to perform at 100 per cent,” she insists. Being a self-confessed gender activist that she is, Modise praises her employer Debswana for always consciously balancing gender whenever making employment choices. In her team, she has always held gender empowerment as a priority and has even had male colleagues calling for females to be given preference when hiring to balance off the inequality. “There is something special about women and the kind of emotional intelligence they possess, because at home they multi-task so notwithstanding the workplace, their role is multi-faceted. You put them in a board room; imagine the kind of competence that they can bring against their male counterparts. Their inherent competence to conflict management is often overlooked,” she contends.
Outside of Debswana Modise continues to open doors and smash glass ceilings. She is currently a BICA Council Member and has served as its president and Vice President. She has also been a Council member and treasurer of the Botswana Institute of Accountants (BIA) holding the portfolio of Public relations, and has also serve as ACCA Botswana Network Chairman – had served four years from March 2004 in the committee prior to being elected vice President in 2007. She has also served as the First Botswana ACCA Ambassador in 2008 to 2010. Although she sacrifices her extra time and leave days to serve in these voluntary positions, Modise appreciates her employer for being supportive and generous in sharing with the nation the talents of its employees. She, however, credits her ability to balance work, family and voluntary services to the ability to plan and the support she gets from her family.
She advises other women to always have self-belief. According to Modise, women and young girls should always recognise opportunities and grab them with both hands despite their expectations. “I for one wanted to be a lawyer, but I happened to be given an accounting course. But did I sulk, no; I grabbed it with both hands and ended up loving it, look where Iam now,” she says. As if her hectic life is not alone enough, Modise says she cycles to keep fit. Although an activity that she stumbled upon, she is now addicted to cycling so much that she recently got herself a new top of the range bicycle.