Thaba Tukela advises youth to be adaptable


As youth month drew to a close, we spoke with Thaba Tukela (28) who hails from Mthatha who is presently residing in Cape Town and completing his Honours degree while also working as a retail trainee on the Graduate Development Programme at Engen. He discussed with us a variety of topics, including education, his aspirations, ways to help young people, and more.

I’SOLEZWE LESIXHOSA (IL): What are five words that best describe you?

THABA TUKELA (TT): Ambitious, compassionate, faithful, flexible, and helpful.

IL: Why did you choose to study Food Science & Technology?

TT: I developed interest in knowing how food is preserved to prolong the shelf life. Luckily, I had a Facebook friend who was doing Food Science and Technology. She explained the processes and I found them interesting.

IL: After your undergraduate qualification, you did an Advanced Diploma in Quality Engineering. What does Quality Engineering entail?

TT: Quality Engineering aims to embed quality throughout the entire software development or manufacturing process, from initial requirements gathering to final product delivery. By implementing robust testing practices, promoting continuous improvement, and mitigating risks, Quality Engineers contribute to the development of reliable and high-quality products that meet customer expectations.

IL: You’re currently studying an Honours degree in Supply Chain Management. What do you enjoy about what you’re studying?

TT: Real-world impact – Supply chains are vital for the functioning of business and industries. Studying Supply Chain Management gives me the opportunity to understand how my actions and decisions can have a tangible impact on operations, efficiency, and customer satisfaction.

IL: What do you do at Engen?

TT: I collaborate with category managers on data cleansing, space utilisation, and sales data analysis. I manage rebates, rebate tracker, supplier contact information, space planning, GAP analysis, New Product Development projects, administrative tasks, stock management, customer account creation, supplier meetings, contract management, and purchase requisitions.

IL: What are some of the challenges you face studying and working at the same time?

TT: Time management, fatigue, limited availability for social activities, conflicting deadlines, and limited personal time. To overcome these challenges, I establish clear goals, prioritise tasks, and develop effective time management strategies.

IL: Last month was Youth Month, as someone young, what does that month mean to you?

TT: Youth Month serves as a platform to amplify youth voices, address their concerns, and foster an inclusive and supportive environment for their growth and development.

IL: Some young people opt to work rather than further their studies. Do you think there’s value in furthering one’s education in this economy?

TT: There is a significant value in furthering one’s education in today’s economy. Here are several reasons why continuing education is important: You get improved career opportunities, higher earning potential, enhanced knowledge and skills, adaptability to changing economy, networking and professional connections, personal growth and fulfilment, credibility, and trustworthiness.

While it is true that some individuals may achieve success without higher education, furthering one’s education can offer a structured and comprehensive learning experience, specialised knowledge, and professional recognition that can significantly benefit individuals in today’s competitive economy. It provides a solid foundation for long-term career growth, adaptability, and personal fulfilment.

IL: Do you think more can be done in high school to prepare the children for life after it or there’s enough being done already?

TT: In my opinion, there’s definitely room for improvement in preparing children for life after it:

1. Practical life skills: High school should go beyond academic subjects and incorporate practical life skills that are essential for adulthood.

2. Career guidance: Many pupils enter high school without a clear understanding of their future career paths. Increased focus on career exploration, job shadowing, and career guidance from professionals can help pupils to make informed decisions about their educational career goals.

3. Technology and digital literacy: In today’s digital world, it is crucial for pupils to develop strong technology and digital literacy skills.

4. Emotional intelligence and mental health: Schools should place a greater emphasis on nurturing pupils’ emotional intelligence and metal well-being.

5. Collaboration and teamwork: Collaboration and teamwork are essential skills for success in the workplace and building relationships. High schools should provide opportunities for pupils to work in teams on projects and assignments, encouraging them to develop effective collaboration skills, leadership skills, leadership abilities, and conflict resolution strategies.

IL: What is something you wish someone told you [about the ‘real world’] before you completed high school?

TT: It’s easy to just quit your job and feel justified. It’s a lot tougher but much more rewarding to step up and do everything in your power to improve things.

IL: If you could change one thing in society, what would it be?

TT: If I could change one thing in society, it would be to foster a greater sense of empathy and understanding among individuals. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, and it plays a crucial role in building strong relationships, resolving conflicts, and promoting social cohesion. By cultivating empathy, we can create a more compassionate and inclusive society where people genuinely care and support each other.

IL: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

TT: Personal experience, other people, and nature.

IL: What would you say are your biggest achievements thus far?

TT: My greatest achievement is completing my Advanced Diploma in record time even though there were so many challenges I faced in 2021.

IL: Who is your role model?

TT: Hardlife Muhamba. He is the guy I follow on LinkedIn, he values education and personal development.

IL: What quote do you live by?

TT: “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

IL: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

TT: In the next five years, I see myself growing within the current company by taking on new challenges and expanding my skill set. I am impressed with the company’s vision for innovation and growth, and I would love to be a part of that journey. Specifically, I am interested in learning more about Supply Chain and how I can contribute to its success. I plan to seek out opportunities to collaborate with those teams and gain a deeper understanding of their operations. By doing so, I believe I can bring added value to the company and achieve my own professional goals.

IL: What is your advice to young people?

TT: Stay adaptable – The world is constantly evolving, so embrace change and develop your adaptability skills. Be open to new ideas, perspectives, and technologies. Flexibility and adaptability will help you navigate challenges and thrive in a rapidly changing environment.