For Thabiso Ramosolo, life is as much about as giving back as getting on. Whether that is mentoring graduates in his job as Head of Murex at Elenjical Solutions, or running a school for disadvantaged children from his home, Thabiso believes education is the key to the possible.
Growing up in rural South Africa with no access to running water or electricity taught Thabiso Romosolo from an early age to make best use of the cards he’s dealt. Thabiso recalls the early peaceful mornings in the Bush on his way to get water from a well, and how he vowed then to be counted in everything he does.
This understanding – and all the knowledge he has subsequently gained in a remarkable career – has been the bedrock of his life – taking him from modest beginnings in a one bedroom house in Glen Cowie in remote Limpopo to a life with so many possibilities to do well and help others. While you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy, Thabiso has done more than most to give back to the community, and foster success to those less fortunate.
The second of four children, Thabiso was born in 1983 and grew up in the dying days of Apartheid. His mother was a nurse, while his father was both a teacher and a pastor. Although simple people, they so believed in education that they spent an incredible 75% of their wages on sending their children to boarding school.
“When I went to St. Mark’s College at 11, I couldn’t speak a word of English,” says Thabiso. “It was really hard, but I was never going to be a dropout – I was there to be counted. And it was there I discovered my passion for learning and the opportunities it could open up.”
From school Thabiso’s education became supercharged, with him winning a scholarship to study Information Systems at the University of KwaZulu Natal. “It was funny – I’d never even used a computer before – now I was learning how to program them!” After this Thabiso did a second degree in Economics, followed by another scholarship that got him a master’s in Economics. Amazingly, of 20,000 applicants to an Accenture IT management trainee scheme, Thabiso won one of the only 20 places offered.
Spells at Standard Bank, RMB and Liberty Financial followed, along with more experience of the technical aspects of investment banking. This brought him, nearly three years ago, to join financial services technology firm Elenjical Solutions, where he heads its Murex practice.
A born teacher
Just like his now-retired father, a passion for passing on knowledge runs deep in the younger Ramosolo. “I work with very talented young people,” he says. “But even clever graduates need to learn the business, and I love teaching them and bringing them up to speed. It gives me a lot of joy.” And not just for the elite of the investment banking world. Thabiso built a weekend house in a rural area outside Johannesburg. But instead of relaxing the weekend away, he and some friends would leave the city before 5am and run a Saturday school – teaching disadvantaged children maths and science.
Thabiso was also instrumental in encouraging Elenjical to sponsor elite runner Charles Tjiane from his home district of Limpopo to participate in the 50km race at the World Championships in Romania last year. Thabiso is a keen runner himself, participating seven times in the punishing 89 km Comrades ultramarathon between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, raising money for good causes. His best time – 8 hours 45 minutes – may be three and a half hours off the record, but showcases his disciplined mind and no shortage of dedication. “The race is a bit like life,” he muses. “When you start running the end looks an impossibly long way off. But the trick is to put your head down and only worry about the first 10km then, when you get there you worry about the next 10km – and so on until you cross the finishing line.”
So, what does the 37-year-old father of three plan to do next? More education, of course. He wants to do a PhD in Economics, while his father would like him to become a pastor. “Being a pastor is a calling,” he says, “and if it happens then so be it.” Even in his free time Thabiso is hungry for learning. In 2018 he began studying how to be a hot kitchen chef, schooling after work at night and at weekends – and now he is fully qualified. COVID-19 permitting, he loves travelling the world in search of new cooking tips and tastes. (During lockdown he experimented by making countless different types of bread.) Opening his own bakery remains a dream for the time being, along with his own cookery book.
Without education life could have turned out very differently for Thabiso. “Some of the kids I grew up with are struggling to survive, with little or no education, surviving through odd jobs and even crime,” he says. “But my guiding light was my parents, their sacrifices for my learning enabled me to build a better life. My education has been a blessing, I don’t know what I did to deserve it but I’m so grateful. “I try to instill in others that if you really want something, nothing can stop you. Everything is possible.”