Zandile Manana (33) is the marketing director of Massbuild, the home improvement and DIY division of Massmart Holdings. After graduating with a Commerce degree from Rhodes University, Manana began his career at Unilever on the graduate development programme. After two years at the company he was promoted to national account manager, at age 23. He remained in that role for five years until January 2008 when he joined Massmart as a channel forum manager. At the end of 2007, Manana won the Gibs (Gordon Institute of Business Science) 60-second challenge for a scholarship to study for an MBA at the business school in 2008 and 2009. In November 2009 he was appointed executive assistant to the Group chief executive of Massmart, Grant Pattison, who describes Zandile as a role model for young executives in South Africa. “He’s got that X factor, something which is hard to describe. But when you meet him you are convinced that he will occupy the position of CEO for some company one day,” says Pattison. In July 2011, Manana landed his current role to head up marketing for Massbuild. For him, marketing is not only about delivering and communicating value to customers; it is also about managing customer relationships in ways that will benefit the organisation. After two years in the role, he seems encouraged by the significant changes his team has made in communicating the company’s value proposition to its customers. He said that the extended price cut campaigns (which commenced after the Massmart-Walmart merger) have triggered a new thought process, both from an advertising perspective and in in-store execution. Manana was raised in Kagiso (Mogale City) in the West Rand, Gauteng. Despite being a reluctant leader, he has always ended up in leadership positions since high school. He was deputy head boy in Grade 12 and went on to become president of the local chapter of an international non-profit student organisation in his first year at Rhodes, and was a sub-warden at College House in his third year. “I recall being elected as the student representative for the Information Systems 2 class; I had no clue that half the class even knew my name, and I ended up failing the course to my embarrassment,” he says. Although he considers setbacks to be an important part of life, not going to university was one that he was not going to accept. When he was in high school he realised that many talented learners were not furthering their studies owing to financial constraints and he vowed that lack of money was not going to stop him from obtaining his degree. And when he boarded that Greyhound bus to Grahamstown in February 1997, he had no idea where the money was going to come from, but took the step of faith anyway. He soon discovered that faith indeed moves mountains and managed to get funding from the Tertiary Fund of South Africa (now called the National Student Fund Aid Scheme) in his first year and then a full bursary, through the help of his aunt, for the rest of his studies. “Had I not taken that big step and boarded that bus to Grahamstown, I might not be where I am today,” he says. That experience has taught him that, although nothing in life comes easy, dreams can still be achieved if one is determined and committed. Since then Manana has never stopped dreaming and believing.