Meet our MBA alumnus achiever: Tryfina Kgokong
Tryfina returned home to Johannesburg to make a difference in her own country and started her own business Triumphant Zoe (Pty) Ltd in early 2019 which offers Property Development, Quantity Surveying, Project Management and Coaching services. In 2018, she was nominated as the Women in Construction Rising Star.
Here she tells her story:
In 1985, I was born in Kenya to a Kenyan mother and South African father, the second in a family of four girls. Perhaps my parents had a feeling of how I would turn out, but I’m pretty sure they did not expect me to reach such great heights. Being both a Kenyan and South African, I have the rare opportunity of seeing the world from both cultural backgrounds and can relate to the Xenophobia that is experienced by none South Africans.
My family relocated to South Africa in 1992 where I stayed with my uncle in Dube, Soweto during my pre-primary school years. My father, Festus Tati Kgokong left behind his life of politics that had lead him into exile and focused on a career in Education where he lectured Economics, Mathematics and Physical Science at the Sekhukhune College of Education in Limpopo where I attended Jacob Marwale Primary School in Ga-Nchabeleng and Modipa Agricultural High School in Strydkraal.
“In hindsight I have realised that my drive in life has been fuelled by my humble beginnings.”
One of my fondest memories was when I was crowned Miss Jacob Marwale after participating in a beauty contest where my talent show part was being a host of the Felicia Mabuza-Shuttle talk show. I wowed the audience with my confidence and I wore a matching white two-piece skirt and jacket. Little did I know that public speaking would be one of my greatest passions.
Going to public schools was very tough and at times I would have to study under a tree and didn’t have access to libraries, sports facilities and all the benefits that private education offers. However, in hindsight I have realised that my drive in life has been fuelled by my humble beginnings and the dream of a better life not only for myself but my family as well as South Africa as a whole. Whilst in high school, I was determined to make it to university and had no option but to study higher grade subject which I had to teach myself through study guides as the teachers only taught subjects in standard grade. This was part of my learning process that prepared me for university life and self-study.
I found myself making a deal with God that if I could make it to the University of Cape Town (UCT), I would serve Him with my life. My first step on this journey to success was when I was accepted to study BSc in Construction at UCT in 2003 and went on to obtain and Honours degree in Quantity Surveying at UCT.
“This is one of my strengths – where I spot opportunities and move to action, which makes me a change catalyst.”
But glamour is not the name of the game when I am on site. With my usual aplomb, I stepped into the Construction industry in 2003 during my vacation training. I was in my hometown, Ledig in Rustenburg for the first year varsity break and knew I was required to find practical training as part of my first year studies. I walked onto a site in Sun City where Grinaker-LTA had an ongoing project and asked for work and I got it on the spot and started working immediately. This is one of my strengths – where I spot opportunities and move to action, which makes me a change catalyst.
I was very blessed to be offered my first full time job with an international firm called MLC Quantity surveyors at their Cape Town office upon my graduation and I registered as a Professional Quantity Surveyor with the South African Council of the Quantity Surveying Profession (SACQSP) within three and a half years in 2010 under the supervision and mentorship of Neil Du Pisani and Mike Stricker (Ex-Group CEO of MLC) where I had the opportunity to work on big projects from initiation to final account stage such as the Umhlanga Holiday Inn Express Hotel in Durban which she used to present to SACQSP amongst others.
When I lost my father in 2008, it was a reality check of how precious and delicate life is. I made a decision to live a purposeful and fulfilling life by making the best use of my God given talents and abilities. In memory of my father, I decided to enrol for an MBA in 2009 at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) which was one of the ways I would continue living out the legacy of education that my father instilled on me and my sisters. In fact, two of my other sisters, Bertha Kgokong and Rose Kgokong, also followed suit and completed their MBAs at GIBS and my other sister Diana Kgokong completed her Masters in Physiotherapy.
Upon completing her MBA in 2012, I received an opportunity to gain international experience in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. It was like a dream how the opportunity came about; I received a random phone call from a recruiter who found my CV online and placed me in a new company. This was one of my life lessons that there are certain opportunities that will find you when you are not even looking for them. However, one has to always be prepared for any opportunity that arises. As Zig Zaglar says, “Success is when preparation meets opportunity”. I also became a member of the international body of the Royal Institutes of Chattered Surveyors (RICS) in 2012.
“I was very glad that the USB MBA programme incorporated a very large portion to leadership development and also had taken emotional intelligence as an elective which enabled me to adapt to the different work environment.”
I experienced culture shock as expected for any individual who leaves their country to go live or work in a foreign land. Dubai is a place where 90% of the population are foreigners and this makes it a very multi-cultural environment. I learnt to work with people from different backgrounds and countries such as Germany, UK, India, Sri-Lanka, Turkey, Palestine, Greece, Malaysia, Philippines, and Pakistan to name a few. This required a lot of personal development, leadership and emotional intelligence. I was very glad that the USB MBA programme incorporated a very large portion to leadership development and also had taken emotional intelligence as an elective which enabled me to adapt to the different work environment.
Whilst in Dubai, I had the opportunity to join MLC International at their Dubai offices and was involved in projects such as the Kempinski Mall of Emirates refurbishment of the hotel, the Address boulevard based in downtown Dubai next to the Dubai mall and Burj Khalifa, Artists in residence project in Qatar, Waterfront City hotel in Beirut to name a few.
In fact, my most ambitious project was the Abu Dhabi International Airport which was valued at 10.8 Billion Dirhams (R42 Billion), a project that I undertook as a Contract Administrator with Arabtec Construction. I applied my depth of knowledge in the field of Construction and Property development not only in South Africa but also in Botswana, Zambia, Dubai, Qatar, Beirut and Abu Dhabi.
People might think that working in Dubai and Abu Dhabi is like a holiday. In fact, it was the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life. Whilst working on airport project, I used to leave my place in Dubai at 7am, drive for an hour to the project site in Abu Dhabi arriving at 8am and working until 6pm then drove back to Dubai by 7pm for six and five days a week alternating. I learnt to work under tremendous pressure and also as a woman in a male dominated industry in a Muslim country, I learnt to be very firm and stand my ground and found my voice and spoke up when it was necessary to.
After working in the UAE for five years, I returned home to Johannesburg to make a difference in my own country and started my own business, Triumphant Zoe (Pty) Ltd in early 2019 which offers Property Development, Quantity Surveying, Project Management and Coaching services. I am also a certified Life Coach, Business Coach and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Practitioner.
In 2018, I was nominated as the Women in Construction Rising Star. And earlier in 2019, I was invited to both University of Cape Town and WITS, as key guest speaker, where I delivered a scintillating and inspiring speech at the Top Achievers Award Ceremonies for the Construction Economics and Management Departments.
Take the fina of the end of her name and you get Try. Here’s a girl who will keep on trying.
Tryfina can be contacted through her website www.triumphantzoe.com or 064274986