Meet Zinhle Ramasike

by | Oct 16, 2021 | Staff profiles

Meet Zinhle Ramasike

Zinhle Ramasike has just turned 29 and already she has a law degree, a car and a job she loves. But don’t let this fool you into thinking success has come easy for this Trust Administrator in our Johannesburg office.

“My grandfather always said I was like a little judge,” remembers Zinhle with a laugh. “Even if I was getting a scolding, I would negotiate the terms!”

Soweto born and bred, Zinhle grew up in an-all female household with her mom (who’s worked as a sales consultant at Nedbank for 15 years) and younger sister. “I’ve always been booksmart and streetsmart,” she says. “I know where to focus my efforts at any time.”

This is “the understatement of the year”, says Werné Strydom the Sentinel Trustee who works most closely with Zinhle. “I have never known someone who is so utterly incapable of procrastination,” he explains before adding: “Zinhle is extremely efficient and ambitious but she’s also an absolute pleasure to work with. We get on really well.”

Making her own way

After matriculating in 2009, Zinhle took six months off to figure out what she really wanted to do. Unable to get her grandfather’s words out of her head, she enrolled for a law degree at UNISA. “The whole long distance thing is really hard,” she says. “But my mom couldn’t afford to send me to Wits or UJ so I had to make it work.”

It took her six years to get her degree and, yes, there were times when she questioned whether law really was for her. “But my mother always told me you finish what you’ve started.”

Halfway through her studies, she got a job at Nedbank as a call centre agent. While the long days were exhausting, they gave her a great introduction to the world of finance. And an unexpected skill: “To this day I never get mad on the phone,” she laughs. “Even if I am really mad!”

That job convinced her of the need to “get my degree, to do well at school,” remembers Zinhle. Despite the fact that she was putting in a full workday before hitting the books, her results started to improve. “It’s all about time management,” she says nochalantly.

“Adulting is hard!”

In 2016, while she was still studying, Nedbank gave Zinhle a promotion, moving her away from client services (no more phone calls!) and into their head office in Sandton. Not keen on a long commute on public transport, she took the plunge and got a flat closer to work with her best friend. “It was hard,” she recalls. “Paying rent, buying groceries, learning to cook…Adulting is hard!”

But she pulled through, finally graduating in 2017, two days before her 25th birthday. “That’s when I realised I am a pusher.”

Zinhle would need every ounce of determination to get her through her next challenge. After getting her driver’s licence and buying herself a Kia Picanto, she started her six-month Practical Vocational Training School for Legal Practice (aka ‘law school’). “2017 was the trickiest year of year of my life… Just school and work. Work and school.” And a 50km daily roundtrip, as a new driver. “It was really hectic,” she says. “There’s no other way of describing it.”

True to form, Zinhle got through it; passing her law school exams at the first time of asking and swiftly developing into a confident driver. But, while the Nedbank job paid well and was stimulating, she needed a place to do her articles. One day in April 2018, she took a half-day off work to attend an interview with a law firm. But when she arrived at the address she’d been given there was no law firm. “I parked my car at the side of the road and, with tears streaming down my cheeks, I asked God ‘Why do I have to go through these challenges?’… I was on the verge of giving up,” she remembers.

But when Zinhle looked up she saw a big pink billboard advertising Barbara Cheiman Attorneys. So she pulled herself together, emailed Barbara her CV, and drove back to work. “Less than an hour later Barbara wrote back asking to meet,” says Zinhle. “Sometimes the universe has a way of telling you something.” (She’s subsequently been back to the spot and there isn’t a billboard in sight – read into that what you will.)

The rest, as they say, is history. After commending Zinhle’s “aura”, Cheiman offered her a job. Becoming an articled clerk at a small law firm entailed long hours and a massive pay cut. But having read this far, you probably don’t need us to tell you that Zinhle made it work. In fact, she did more than that. “Going to court every day, learning how to speak to a magistrate, how to file an application…That’s when I really fell in love with the law.”

A year later, and at last a fully qualified lawyer, Zinhle quickly found a gig as a judge’s secretary in Pretoria. While the experience did teach her a lot about how the system works, she soon found herself wanting to do more. “I was a lawyer,” she explains. “I wanted to work as a lawyer.”

“I felt like I had come home”

That was when our Wills Specialist, Bianca Maritz (who Zinhle had met while they were both doing their articles) urged her to apply for a Trust Administrator position that had come up at Sentinel. While Zinhle had never worked with trusts, she decided to take a chance. And boy is she glad she did. “As soon as I walked in the door I felt like I had come home,” she enthuses. “Working here honestly is like spending eight hours a day with family. If you want to grow professionally, Sentinel is the perfect place.”

While this is, of course, a reference to the fact that we encourage all employees to further their education – Sentinel has already paid for Zinhle to do her Advanced Diploma in Trust Administration and Estates through UFS – it’s also a reflection on the overall atmosphere in Jo’burg office. “Everyone is so supportive,” says Zinhle. “When I go to a meeting with Werné, he lets me take care of my business. He never treats like his junior.”

The reason for this is simple, explains Werné: “Zinhle has always had a sense of ambition. She doesn’t only implement, she wants to know why. Clients see this and they’ll often ask her if she’s going to chair the meeting or something like that…It’s meant as a joke, but it says a lot about who she is.”

Onwards and upwards

“If I look back on what I’ve learnt since I started it’s incredible,” says Zinhle with a smile. “And there’s so much more I still want to achieve.”

We wouldn’t bet against her chairing one of those meetings sometime soon…