Welcome to our weekly catch-up on all things to do with black girl magic on the African continent 😊 I know it’s only been a week, but I have missed you. I hope you’re good sis.
Today, we are sharing a life-changing conversation that our Content Manager, Larissa, had with the talented and inspirational Ancillar Nombewu. Make you a cup of tea, put your feet up and get ready to be blown away by her testimony! Enjoy sis 😊
Larissa Subira: Her dream revealed to her in a shroud of tragic world news, Ancillar Nombewu has had a truly remarkable life led by her listening to God’s continued guidance in her life. I hope her story is an encouragement and inspiration to you.
Larissa Subira: When did you know this is something you wanted to do – journalism, speaking, presenting?
Ancillar Nombewu: Funny story, actually never asked about what career path I want to take really. Growing up there’s always these set type of jobs you want to get into that everyone says. I was that kid who would say stuff and change my mind all the time. When I was in grade 6, 9/11 happened. I was born on September 11, so I remember in 2001 I was so excited about like gifts and things like that.
I remember it was past 3 or so in the afternoon when I got home and the mood in the house was so sober, everyone was so sad because the news had just broken about the twin towers and the tragedy had happened and I remember totally forgetting it was my birthday and that I was looking to get a bike that year.
I was so glued to the news, I remember holding – sorry in Zim we had coca cola bottles, I think they were 300 ml or something if I’m not mistaken – I remember holding that bottle pretending I was reporting live from the US. I’d hold that bottle and say, “I’m Ancillar Mangena reporting live from New York… Ancillar Mangena, reporting live from Washington DC.“
I was so drawn to the news and what was happening that I felt like the journalists on the street were on some sort of high and they looked like so busy and I felt like what they were doing was so important. And I was like I want to be a journalist. And although it was a massive tragedy that we’ll remember and mourn until the end of time, it’s actually the day and the circumstances that made me find what I was meant to be and what I was meant to do.
And so, I went sort of trying to research and read. I always said I’m going to be a war journalist because it was tragedy that brought me to journalism in the first place. Thought that I was going to go to Iraq, thought that I was always going to be that kind of journalist. But God had other plans. That’s how I knew what I wanted to pursue is what I currently do. I turned 11 on 9/11.
LS: From 11, researching war journalism to today where you’re a finance journalist, what pushed you to take it up?
AN: So more than anything right then in primary school, I realized that I liked to tell stories and because at home I was always the story teller, I was that naughty kid. My aunts never wanted to take me anywhere coz I would come home and report on what happened and where we went and all of that.
I started writing in grade 6. I remember going to town with my mom, it was pay day, I was very excited. There was a ritual at home that every pay day we’re going to go to town and… there was this shop and they made these slaap chips and I would always like to buy them. So one day when we came out of the shop, still in grade 6, I saw this street kid seated on the pavement and I remember asking my mom where the parents were and why the kid was so dirty and on the street.
And my mom explained to me not every kid has parents and that not everybody has a home. And I was like but why is he staying here? My mom said no you go ask him. So I always consider that as the first interview I ever did. I remember asking the kid, you know, about his life. I went back home and in those writing books that had hard covers, I started writing by pen an account of that kid.
In my mind I was writing a book, but in hindsight, it wasn’t even going to be published. However, I went on and on with this story. And I took the pages out and folded them, and I had cousins in Botswana at the time. I literally mailed it to them and asked them to help me publish the book. So that was the initial understanding of myself as a storyteller.
In terms of it progressing, when I went off to high school, I was in the press club. I always did well in like composition writing and anything that had to do with storytelling. I was in the drama class. I won so many competitions, and I even represented the country in Zambia for acting. So I knew for sure that my platform is to tell stories but I was still trying to figure out a way of how to put it together with journalism.
I did my research and saw that the best place to study journalism was at the University of Johannebsurg. UCT and Stellenbosch had it but I didn’t like it because of the Afrikaans background. And at UCT you had to do a general degree first, just like at Wits, and then only at Honours level do journalism. I didn’t want that because I wanted to do journalism from like day one.
The best one was Rhodes but I can’t do small towns and I knew that I wanted to start working from day one. I saw that Grahamstown wouldn’t give me the best opportunity for me to do that. So UJ was the best bet, as Johannesburg is the media city for the continent actually. I went to UJ and studied journalism. It was general journalism, actually.
We did everything from magazines, newspapers, online, radio, and tv; all the types of journalism you can think of. We did feature writing. We actually only did 7 weeks of financial writing. So it was very general, but what helped me was that from the time I had registered, I’d be that one knocking at media houses, looking for internships. So, when everyone would go home, during the holidays – during the winter holidays especially – I’d stay back in JHB working.
My entire university career, I worked at the BBC. I wasn’t even getting paid until my final year when they started paying me a stipend of R2000. So it gave me an idea of which direction of journalism I wanted to take. I tried radio, I tried newspapers. Sometimes it was shadowing people for two weeks. I interned at True Love for a bit. I tried different kinds of stuff.
And then when I graduated – I always laugh that I’ve never applied for a job – just a few days after graduation, this guy in my class, Nicolas, whom I’d never really spoken to before was working at Caxton community newspapers. They needed another reporter and for some reason he suggested me even though we weren’t friends and hadn’t spoken much in class. That’s how I got my first job at a community newspaper. I said yes because for the first time I’d be getting R8000. No one had ever given me such an amount.
“Whatever story line He’s drawn for my life, my role was to do the best I could do no matter what situation I was in. I always said I was probably the best pothole writer you could ever find.”- Ancillar Nombewu
So I started working there while doing my masters. I was writing and doing normal community stories. What I knew was even though I was writing about potholes or the dog next door who keeps on barking and the neighbors can’t sleep at night, that was community news. It wasn’t really like 9/11 kind of news or what I thought I’d report on, but I knew God had placed me there for a reason. I didn’t go out looking for the opportunities, they came to me.
Whatever story line He’s drawn for my life, my role was to do the best I could do no matter what situation I was in. I always said I was probably the best pothole writer you could ever find. I would find the most creative words. I’d search for whatever reason. I remember I wrote up a story that ended up as the most trending on twitter.
Really I knew the value of hard work and doing my best. That earned me a job at Forbes Africa. I never once in my life ever thought I would tell African stories, moreso write about business and finance, entrepreneurship and markets and that kind of thing. God in His expectation made sure that I got it.
So one day, the Founding Editor of Forbes Africa was reading the North Cliff Global Times – he never picks newspapers up, but on that day he picked it up. He had been looking for a reporter for over 6 months when he was paging through this newspaper. He kept on seeing stories, “Ancillar Mangena, Ancillar Mangena”. So first what drew his attention was that I had written a story about a netball match at Northcliff High School. Imagine that… who cares about high school netball?
But he picked it up because his daughter at the time happened to be attending Northcliff High School and he was intrigued and was like oh this girl can actually write. Then as he paged through the newspaper he kept on seeing ““Ancillar Mangena, Ancillar Mangena”. For that publication I had written 6 articles, where my colleagues had only written two so he got intrigued and called my workplace, asked to speak to me, and told me who he was. It was a Monday. He said, “On Wednesday come through to the Forbes offices for a coffee. I’d like to have a chat.”
The Wednesday when I got there we didn’t even have coffee. We just spoke. He wanted to know more about me. After the conversation, while taking me around the office, we got to the HR department and he said to the HR manager; ‘Please give this girl an offer she cannot refuse’. That’s how I got to write about business.
LS: It’s amazing to see how God was weaved into your journey. Were you always able to see God through everything?
AN: You know sometimes I would, sometimes I wouldn’t. Like throughout my entire journey, I think I’ve just been the most naïve one can ever be. I didn’t even know that growing up at home we were struggling, that’s how naïve I was. I’ve always been content. As long as we had food and my mom got work, I never saw any problems. Until now when I grew up I was like oh so we used to do 1, 2, 3 at home.
So for example, we used to have a menu at home where we knew on Monday we eat this, on Tuesday its this, on Wednesday its this and then in two weeks we go back to week 1. In hindsight, it clicked that my mom needed to do as much as she could with this budget. It wasn’t like a cool thing that’s on the menu…she made it sound cool, but it was more like you just can’t buy meat and pick whatever you want from the fridge.
By telling that story – so many things would happen in my life without necessarily recognizing the struggle. I only saw greatness and God’s greatness. I’ve always been very prayerful. I remember I would stay up with my cousin Nicky, just the two of us talking about our journeys and where we want to be… I never ever had a plan.
Like now I don’t have a plan. I can’t tell you that tomorrow I want to be working at CNN…all I know is wherever I am, I need to be prepared for whatever and do the best and then God is going to move me. When He moves me I’ll be like ‘Hey God, is this where we are? Ok cool’, and then I move on. So, I never took time to think hard about it until now. I think only now in the past few months, I’ve been going through moments of some serious introspection, thinking oh God You did this.
LS: It’s interesting that you don’t function in the typical millennial way – you’re 28 now. No vision board, no grand plan? We think we’ve at times created our own success.
AN: It’s not that I don’t have a vision, its more that my plans are basic. For example, I have a business now. All I know is that one day, my business is going to turn into a group of companies that do all kinds of things that I love and that I enjoy. What they are, I have an idea. What it will become, I don’t know. How much money we have to make this year, I don’t know. I don’t even advertise the company or talk publicly about it even though it’s been up and running for a year.
So I said, ‘God, I want to be in the tech space, show me a sign so that I know when the opportunity is in front of me.’ And then, two weeks ago, I’m having coffee with the head of a tech company who had asked me to moderate a panel. During our coffee date, I asked how her things were going with the product they were launching at this event.
She starts telling me how she’s frustrated by the IT team that was building the solution. She didn’t know what to do and then it hit me, ‘Oh my God, just a few weeks ago I said I wanted to get into tech’… I was like great. I let the lady know I wanted to do this so if she were to give me an opportunity, my husband who’s an incredible software engineer, could do up a proposal and she agreed.
We did a proposal and now we have our first contract with a big tech company. So, I think we should have goals but not give God the direction and timeline for when things should happen in our lives. We should pray and be wise to recognize the opportunities He puts in our path so that we can capitalize and work on them.
“If you don’t have doubts then you’re really not strong enough. You will have doubts and adversity will kick you really hard. But you really have to find that strength and pray.” – Ancillar Nombewu
LS: Have you had moments where you’ve felt like giving up?
AN: Mmmhh, a lot. Even this week. But I always try reminding myself of the ‘Why’. I’ve been facing challenges with clients wanting too much. It plays on my mental health. Being at my full-time job and needing to travel. I’m also a global shaper – also needed on that front. I realize that I’ve bought into the pressure of being a millennial – always being on the go, we do so much and take on so much and we don’t want to fail.
When something doesn’t go right, even if I’ve done a million great things, that one failure breaks me. I can’t even get out of the house. So those things do happen and I end up asking myself why I am even doing this to myself. But I want to create 3000 jobs by the time I’m 40, I don’t know why. I don’t know… working at Forbes, getting my money and just going home isn’t it for me.
I’ve learnt to be okay with giving myself a day to breathe. I don’t care what I have on that day, I’m taking that day off. Even if I need to sleep the whole day, I’ll sleep the whole day. And then tomorrow I need to get over it. That’s how much time I can give myself. I tell myself, ‘Ancillar get over it’. I kick myself in the butt and I have to go out and find solutions and keep working.
If you don’t have doubts then you’re really not strong enough. You will have doubts and adversity will kick you really hard. But you really have to find that strength and pray. It’s difficult to pray when times are tough, particularly for me. I find it hard to talk to God. But this morning driving to work I just prayed “God you know what I’m going to face, please fix it.”
I may not be in a space to talk, not feeling strong enough but I know when I say those words, the day looks better. Like this morning I’ve already gotten so much done and even the things that were making me feel terrible were resolved.
LS: What do you think is the biggest misconception about being a successful bAw?
AN: For me as a journalist and an entrepreneur, I think number 1: that you always need to get a man somehow or sleep with somebody for something to happen. People ask me questions like; “Why does your editor allow you to do this?”. Like I’m supposed to take my clothes off for my editor to give me assignments.
You can’t see that I just work hard and he sees me as a valuable resource so he’s willing to find ways for me to work and still pursue the things that I like. So I think there’s that thing that, the world, even women, we don’t have that confidence enough in our ability that on our own we’re able to go after what we want and actually get it. With our power and God’s guidance its possible.
And for people to believe you’re able to do certain things. Sometimes I’ll do interviews with some of these billionaires and they’ll say; ‘Oh honey’, ‘Oh you’re so pretty for…’. So people thinking you’re beautiful works against you. And I think for me, I’m in the process of getting married, so I get asked ‘How can you work so hard and keep a home together?’. That’s the one major question I keep getting now. “Oh you get home at 12, at 1am you’re busy working. What does your husband say about this? Your marriage is not going to last…’.
Such a big misconception. It doesn’t mean because I’m married, I cease having dreams and goals and I have to be home at 4pm to cook. You need to find the right partner who supports your dreams and will be there for you. One of my aunts even said to me, ‘What’s going to happen when you have kids?” I’m not even planning to have kids in the next five years, “ Oh no, what are you doing?”
I think we need to take away the misconception that success for women is to bear children and to be married because it’s not. We’re more than child-bearing machines. We’re more than wives and we’re more than home-builders. There’s so much in us and so much we can do. And we can do it all and have it all. We just need to ensure we align things in a manner where we can provide in those kinds of spaces.
“What comes easy won’t last. What lasts won’t come easy.” – Unknown
LS: This leads to my next question. There may not be such a thing as perfect balance between your home life and your career but as you’ve just said you can have it all?
AN: So, there may not be a perfect balance but for me its timing, right? So now I’m not giving too much to homebuilding because it’s just the two of us and we’re both building towards a financially sustainable home. By the time the children come, businesses will be thriving so we won’t have to be there 20 hours anymore. We could take hours from that to make sure we’re contributing to a home. So it’s always the timing and how you put it all together. You can have it all. Always.
LS: Any final word of encouragement for our bAw sisters?
AN: Every single day I listen to this song by Beyonce called ‘I Was Here’. So my final words will be lyrics to that song:
I want it to be every woman’s dream and thought process everyday when they wake up. Every single night as they go to bed and as they think of their day; “If I’m to die today, will I die a happy death?” Because I’ve always been afraid of dying. So what that does is, knowing I’m going to die anyway, let me make sure that I’ve done everything that I wanted to do and I’ll have no worries.
So we need to look at our lives like that, one day we’ll be laying on our death bed, smiling and the people around us, instead of mourning, they’ll be celebrating our existence because of how much we would’ve achieved and lived. So, I want every black woman to literally live a day at a time and when we die on that day , if it happens that I die today, at least I would’ve done everything I could do with the time God had given me on earth.
Ancillar Mangena is a journalist who believes in the power of storytelling
to make an impact in society. She was head-hunted to be a writer for Forbes Africa magazine where she currently works.
Along the way, Ancillar has collected many accolades. Last year, she won
the ZIMEO Award for technology reporting and a Sanlam Excellence in Financial
Journalism: Africa Growth Story award. In 2016, she won the CNN/
MultiChoice Young Journalist of the Year Award, Sanlam Excellence in Financial
Journalism Young Journalist of the Year Award and was a finalist for the
Foreign Press Association Young Journalist of the Year award.
Ancillar has interviewed the likes of Christo Wiese, founder of Shoprite and
Seinhoff, Michiel Le Roux founder of Capitec and legendary Richard Maponya.
She also compiles the coveted Forbes Africa under 30 list and has written
many cover stories. In addition to business and finance stories, Ancillar
also writes on fashion, philanthropy, lifestyle and beauty. She also hosted a
TV show called Business Tonight on CNBC Africa.
Outside of her work at FORBES AFRICA, Ancillar is a United Nations Refugee
Agency ambassador, World Economic Forum Global Shaper and Entrepreneur.
She is the founder of Rallinca Media, a PR firm based in Johannesburg
and operating in five markets.
You can find Ancillar at the following social media sites:
Fb: Ancillar Nombewu
Thank you Ancillar for opening your heart and mind up to us! I’ve definitely taken away some gems. As an obsessive planner and perfectionist, I will remember your advice to plan and have ideas of what I want to do but let God guide.
What’s your take away sis? Please leave your comments or questions below. Thanks as always for reading.
Until next time,