Celebrating student success ‘at home’: Sphiwe Masuku’s journey with Fundi

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While many organisations committed to education invest very intentionally in bursaries and providing internships to students with potential, it’s rare to find a full 360 student journey that spans from studying all the way through to management. This is, however, the remarkable story of Sphiwe Masuku: a former marketing intern who was recently appointed marketing  manager at Fundi.

The end of the year always provides an opportune time for companies to self-reflect – offering a unique opportunity to celebrate successes that have been achieved over the past 12 months. Like many organisations in South Africa, Fundi has experienced a year of highs and lows, challenges and opportunities, and one that will shape its journey and contribution to the education space well into 2024.

Perhaps one of Fundi’s most inspiring 2023 success stories is the recent appointment of Sphiwe Masuku as its marketing manager. Having joined Fundi as a marketing intern in 2017, her dream of a career in strategic marketing has not only been realised but is now being actively expanded on in her new role. It’s a story she has recently shared as part of the company’s FundiTalks series – hoping to inspire current and future students to continue working towards their dream careers no matter the challenges faced.

Sphiwe’s story began in a small township in Brits in the North-West, where she attended both primary and high school. Despite facing numerous challenges, she remained resolute in pursuing her dream of tertiary education. This saw her register at the University of Johannesburg, supported by NSFAS funding. “I started off wanting to study social work based on the contribution I was sure this would make to communities like my own at home,” says Masuku. “As first year unfolded though, I discovered strategic marketing as a subject. Something clicked – and I knew this was the space for me.”

2017 saw Sphiwe graduate with her degree and face a new challenge: securing an internship to get the practical experience needed to step into her chosen career. “I applied for an internship wherever I could, knowing that there were very few available and many graduates just like me looking for them. My family and friends were instrumental in supporting me throughout this time; encouraging me to remain positive and motivated. They were sure I would find the one ‘yes’ I needed! I just had to keep looking.”

That overwhelming “yes” subsequently came from Fundi in the form of a one-year internship opportunity. Excited about what lay ahead, Sphiwe threw herself into her new role – enjoying applying the theory she had learned in practice. “There was also a lot that I wasn’t prepared for,” she acknowledges. “I quickly learned to ask for help when I needed it, and to come up with solutions. I found a wonderful freedom in this: I was trusted with tasks whilst getting the support needed if I got stuck.”

As her passion for marketing grew, Sphiwe approached Fundi to assist her to complete her Honours degree in marketing. She qualified for a loan and completed her degree at UNISA in 2019, taking a gap year so that she could focus on her studies. That same year, she completed a short course in Digital Brand Strategy at Vega. A year later, she concluded her studies with an Online Digital Marketing Course through UCT and GetSmarter.

“This higher level of education meant I had a much deeper understanding of my field. I was more than ready to apply my knowledge – and approached Fundi for a permanent job in their marketing team.”

The rest as they say “is history” – and today Sphiwe’s journey is a reminder of what determination, hard work and access to education can make possible. Her career highlights to date include spearheading the successful rollout and launch of Fundi branch offices across the country before Covid-19, and her instrumental role in providing marketing support to regional and national teams, contributing to the achievement of over R300 million in target revenue.

“I see my work as just beginning,” says Sphiwe. “I’m excited about what the future holds, especially where and how I can ‘pay it forward’ myself. It’s both a privilege and responsibility to be part of the Fundi team, because I need to embody and ‘live’ the promise of our DNA of ‘know more. Be more’. I remain committed to making this a reality.”