DVT non-executive Director
“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.”
Amanda Dambuza has earned a reputation as a remarkable businesswoman and a fearless leader who faces challenges head on. She has certainly faced and overcome many challenges on her journey to becoming founding director and CEO of Uyandiswa Project Management Services. She also sits on the Inspired Testing and DVT board as a non-executive member.
With an impressive resume, Amanda has received awards such as the Veuve Clicquot Elle Boss Award in 2017 and the Global Business Award in 2018. A strong sense of self and her faith have always been her guiding beacons. It was a tough upbringing and hard work, linked to her desire to also empower others, which drove her to ever greater heights.
Amanda was born in Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal. She, her mother and two elder siblings moved to Mount Ayliff in Eastern Cape when she was one year old. There, she and her siblings stayed with relatives while her mother, a nurse, went to work in Johannesburg. She never met her father, who left her mother when she was born.
“I grew up understanding that I was an orphan, because that is what I was made to feel,” she says. Growing up, she suffered abuse at the hands of two uncles, with no parent to protect her.
At the age of 13 she and her siblings ran away to join their mother, living in a shack in Kliptown, Soweto. She was then sent away to live with relatives in Lesotho, but soon returned to South Africa. Despite many misfortunes in her life, coping with sexual, physical and emotional abuse and hardship, as well as abandonment and rejection, Amanda always had a clear vision of what she wanted to achieve.
She matriculated from Spectrum Girls’ High in Johannesburg and was accepted at Wits University to study for a Bachelor of Social Sciences degree. She earned money by doing casual jobs to cover her living expenses, while the National Student Financial Aid Scheme covered most of her academic costs. She completed a BA in Social Sciences-Psychology, Social Anthropology and Sociology. Having excelled in her undergraduate studies, Amanda was eager to get into the workplace.
Her first formal job was as a call centre agent at one of SA’s major pension fund managers. She left after three months to begin her project management career, starting out at the bottom as a project administrator. ”I worked hard to gain the requisite experience and got all the training I could,” says Amanda. Having cemented her credibility, she soon moved on to her next goal, and there was no stopping her from there. She was eventually head-hunted by First National Bank, where she spent the next three years climbing the management ladder. She then joined American International Group as a project manager, and here she was exposed to international standards.
Her subsequent appointments proved her strength and diversity: IQ Business, where she handled mining clients; Nedbank’s Home Loans Division; Standard Bank’s Corporate and Investment Banking Division; and Absa Capital – her last corporate employer before she embarked on her current role. “After I left Absa in 2014 I started running Uyandiswa,” she says. ”It was time I opened my own shop and focused on it. Also, I always wanted to play a direct role in creating jobs.” Her career has also included a number of smaller businesses and a failed franchise business. “I have had many businesses, from selling flower arrangements to a salon and others. I am good at spotting market gaps,” she says. ”The only business that failed was the franchise. It was my first step into big business and it came with costly lessons.”
At Uyandiswa, which provides services to some of the biggest corporates in the country, Amanda employs nearly 100 people and has nurtured several small businesses at her company’s Bryanston offices as part of a mentorship programme. “I started this business with only R80 000, but now it is generating nine figures,” she says. The business and its reputation for excellence have also opened other doors for her. She is on the boards of several listed and private companies.
“My upbringing taught me to be self-sufficient,” she says. ”I always aimed to have multiple incomes because I never wanted anyone to decide my destiny. I never wanted a job to trap me because I needed the money. I have always fiercely defended my independence.”
Besides being a high-powered executive, Amanda is also a wife and mother of three children. What is more, she holds leadership development training sessions as well as spending time travelling, cooking and gardening.
The award-winning businesswoman is also a published author, having written an autobiography called ‘Baked in Pain’. In the book she documents her traumatic life and tells of abandonment by her parents and the abuses she suffered, and how she managed to rise above all the obstacles she faced. Amanda’s wish is to become an even better version of herself as she continues her life journey. “I do not believe you can be fully successful in life unless you have confronted what is inside of you and embrace yourself,” she says.