Every month we showcase one of our Shield team members and get to know a little more about their day-to-day routines, home life and hobbies. We see how they choose to structure their days as well as the flexibility that remote work affords their lifestyles.
More recently, we’ve seen how quarantine and lockdown restrictions across the world have affected our team and their regular routines. We’ve seen how they’ve handled these massive changes with new hobbies, schedules and life outlooks.
This month, we’re profiling Ndulamo Pholi, our head of finance who recently relocated to South Africa with his wife, Sibusisiwe.
Ndulamo took on the role of our head of finance in February this year — a mere few weeks before the COVID 19 pandemic reached its global status, which was interesting timing, to say the least.
“You start getting anxious, you know, you’re head of finance just as COVID is hitting businesses. You start thinking — are you going to be the prophet of doom within the company?” Ndulamo says.
“I had to get into it and face the reality straight away. I was doing models, forecasting what worst-case scenarios might look like, what middle ground scenarios might look like, and despite all the effort that went into it, I was still hopeful that my models were wrong.”
Thankfully, for the most part, they were but having plans for even the worst-case scenarios was incredibly comforting for everyone at Shield.
“I got a lot of support from Tim, which was an investment on his part that I really appreciated,” Ndulamo says of the eventful start to his role.
“We worked on it, we collaborated together on the models, so it was a fun exercise at some level.”
The transition to Shield came after many years working in the development sector, so he says there was a lot to learn about the HR industry on the job.
“The first couple of months were really about getting to know how things work, trying to understand the nuts and bolts, being brave to make mistakes,” he says.
“I must also say the finance team was awesome. The culture within Shield is such that people empathize, they’re human. So, there was no sense of being judged for stuff that I’m expected to know, but I don’t know.”
But starting a new job right as COVID hit wasn’t the only event that has made Ndulamo’s year so momentous. This was all happening around the same time he relocated from Zimbabwe to South Africa with his wife, Sibusisiwe.
“When we were in Zimbabwe, we worked in different cities for the whole time. So there was a lot of up and down, you know, between the capital and the second-largest city and we would only get to be together on weekends. It was a bit of a strain,” he says. “We wanted to close that gap, and remote work could do that.”
And while Ndulamo could now go work in the city where his wife was working, they decided to take the opportunity to move further afield.
“We had an aspiration of wanting to leave Zimbabwe, to explore life outside of Zimbabwe. So, again, Shield brought that possibility,” he says.
The move obviously had a significant impact on both Ndulamo and Sibusisiwe’s lives, but remote work led to lots of smaller changes too.
“I feel like I’m more in control of my time. I can juggle things around in a way that makes sense to me without compromising the value and the contribution that’s expected of me by the company,” Ndulamo says. “I’m super, super loving that, I couldn’t trade it for anything at the moment.”
As a new city comes with a new commute and traffic experience, bypassing the whole thing by working from home was a huge blessing.
“It’s been quite helpful not to need to get into the hustles and bustles of public transport in the morning. That’s something I certainly don’t miss from my previous job.”
Ndulamo also talked about sleeping later, having slower mornings, and feeling as though he can now actually enjoy his lunch breaks without feeling rushed to get back to his desk.
“I start my day way later than I did when I was in my previous role. And I love that, that flexibility to do that.”
Despite all of these widespread changes, the most significant event for Ndulamo and Sibusisiwe this year will be the birth of their first child who is due in November.
“It’s been a big year!” he says, laughing.
A day in the life of Ndulamo
Wake up and check out my Slack, Skype and emails in bed on my phone. I will mark unread messages which are “demanding” and respond to these when I get on my desk later. I leave Slack threads for when I attend to demanding messages
Get up and brush my teeth.
At the beginning of the week, I’ll check out my calendar and add meeting demands onto my things-to-do checklist, which largely determines my work for that week. I give a lot of thought to my plans for the week.
Have my breakfast and take a shower.
Attend to emails and slack messages that demand my response. This is when I generally attend to slack threads as well.
Get on with my work for the day. This often involves a lot of support to my direct reports, tracking of finance calendar deadlines, accountability meetings with my manager and with my direct reports, 1:1 meetings, etc. Sometimes I also meet heads of other departments, local partners, and some service providers.
Take a break and have lunch.
Continue with my tasks for the day with stretching from time to time. We have great weather in South Africa so walking outside our apartment can make for good stretching. I also often change rooms to feel like my work is dynamic 😊
Go for my 30-minute jog/walk
Wife and I have our daily devotional time at this point. One of us opens with a prayer to invite God to join us, then I lead us in singing one Christian song/hymn. One of us reads a Bible verse and shares the insights they have on it. We then share stuff that we want God to do for us and thank Him, then one of us prays over this. This marks the end of our devotional.
This is when we generally start having dinner or preparing dinner.
This is when we watch a series on Netflix. We almost always have one that we watch together as a way of bonding.
Get ready for bed, read a little and catch up with my WhatsApp messages.
Surviving lockdown in a new city
Ndulamo is undoubtedly happy about all the recent changes in his life. However, moving to a new country at the beginning of stage four lockdowns did mean he had to be more strategic with his socialization needs.
“I’m an extrovert,” he admits “which is totally the opposite for my wife.”
So, at the beginning of lockdown Ndulamo opted to do the grocery runs for his family, instead of ordering online.
“During the lockdown, I would walk to the shops and come back, and it would make me feel sane because I’ve seen people and at least said hi to the shop attendant,” he says. “I did that deliberately so that I would not overwhelm my wife. She’s a good listener, but even she has limits!”
He soon extended these grocery runs to include daily walks around his neighborhood and eventually jogging for exercise.
As the restrictions eased, Ndulamo and Sibusisiwe could finally extend their outings past their neighborhood lines.
“About a fortnight ago, I took her to one of the safaris in South Africa for the weekend,” he says.
“We were deep in the bush, and that was so refreshing. Oh my goodness we had a good time!”