An exceptional career: How Tlalane Ntuli made the transition from employee to employer and back

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Tlalane Ntuli was also selected as one of nineteen Women internationally (two from South Africa) to join the Women Leaders for the World Network in 2019. Photo supplied by M-Sports
Tlalane Ntuli was also selected as one of nineteen Women internationally (two from South Africa) to join the Women Leaders for the World Network in 2019. Photo supplied by M-Sports
  • Tlalane Ntuli is a seasoned professional who has held several executive positions in the insurance sector's sales, marketing, and distribution disciplines. She co-founded insurance start-up Yalu Financial Services in 2017.
  • After three years, the company had to close down, and she returned to the corporate sector.
  • She advises women to be authentic in all their endeavours, including when they transition from being employees to business owners or vice versa.

Tlalane Ntuli is a known name in insurance and finance circles. However, her achievements weren't overnight. Originally from Lesotho, she studied in Cape Town, securing an HR degree and a Marketing Post Graduate Diploma from UCT.

"I then decided to live in Lesotho, where I am originally from, to spend some time with my parents," she says, adding that she was employed as a marketing officer for Nedbank Lesotho at the time.

"That helped me to better understand how corporate works and to understand the role of marketing because it wasn't a considerable function in Lesotho at the time."

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Later on, she moved to South Africa formally and over ta genuine worked in various roles, including for household brands such as ABSA, Liberty, Old Mutual, FNB and Metropolitan.

She counts being featured in various media watchlists, including Entrepreneur Magazine's 2019 top 50 entrepreneurs watch list, Destiny Magazine's top 40 under 40 (2012) and True love magazine's class of 2020, as some of her career highlights. She was also selected as one of 19 Women internationally (2 from South Africa) to join the Women Leaders for the World Network in 2019.

One of Tlalane's main achievements is her entrepreneurship journey. She co-founded insurance company Yalu Financial Services, in 2017 where she served as the chief operations officer for three years.

"What made me start Yalu recognized that there was a need for transformation. The second was that we realized that there was a genuine need for credit life insurance which is a very hidden type of insurance that covers debt that people didn't know about that was very profitable for the corporates or the providers but didn't really benefit the consumer in the way that they need to," she says. 

"It was a very interesting 3-year journey and it was hard craft because we needed to start from scratch in building an insurance company and Yalu did own the full life insurance value chain; from marketing the product to taking up the product, to claiming on the product. All of that was done within Yalu."

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However, after three years, Tlalane and her co-founder had to close down the operation for Yalu. 

"The main challenge it struggled to solve was access to market, which I believe every start-up has if they are not owned or partnered with a big corporate," Tlalane says.

She then decided to re-join the corporate and started her current journey as the chief marketing officer of Metropolitan.

In her new role, she has the "responsibility of reviving, reawakening and really putting the Metropolitan Brand back on the map in a very real way."

Below, Tlalane answers three questions to assist other ambitious women in reaching their goals.

1 - What lessons have you learnt in your career so far?

I have learnt to be kinder to myself, just in terms of how hard we push ourselves to achieve goals and career milestones set up in our heads based on the influence around us. Whether it's the media or socials, or even people around us that are doing.

This journey has taught me to do a lot of reflection and to ask myself: Am I where I want to be? Is this where I believe I will add the most value? Is this the place that will help grow me into the person I want to become?

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2 - How easy is it to transition from business to being an employee or vice versa?

It is incredibly difficult and it is something that one should never downplay. However, it is also very fulfilling. For example, what being an employee gives you that you will not get from being an employer is peace of mind and the comfort that your salary will come at the end of the month. As a business owner, you have so much responsibility on your shoulders.

That aspect of "where will I get the money to pay these people" doesn't sit on your shoulders as an employee. The difficulty of it, though, comes in with a lack of autonomy. In business, you have to act quickly and be very independent. You have to be decisive, while those are not necessarily the top three things that you need to be when you're an employee and have someone to report to.

I am learning to slow down so that I can go further and not necessarily faster, and also to weave in the stakeholder management that needs to be handled internally to ensure that you are taking people with you on the journey and that you are not leaving anyone behind.

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3 - Do you have any survival tips for women in the workplace – how can we make the office space more accepting and fun for women?

The best survival tip I learnt the hard way is the importance of staying true to yourself. Never try to be someone you are not. This will help you not to suffer from imposter syndrome. So many of us suffer from this because we step into spaces and sit on these tables and try to be something we are not.

The biggest thing I would say to a woman looking to move to a more senior role is to leave behind the need to show up as anyone other than herself. For her to always remember that you are sitting in that particular space because you have the expertise, the experience and no one is questioning your presence in that room and your reason for being there.

So if you bring with you the need to impress people based on something you are not, you will carry with you something difficult and heavy that will have people questioning whether you deserve to be in that seat.

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