Keabetswe Nkotswe started her career in the property industry as a qualified Quantity Surveyor. Fresh out of Pretoria Tech (now Tshwane University of Technology), she spent thirteen years working with numerous well-known companies including Turner & Townsend, Pentad Quantity Surveyors, Tiber, and the De Leeuw Group.
But having spent over a decade in the built environment, Kea realised that she needed to explore other career path avenues and serendipitously, TUHF offered her a position as a Portfolio Manager.
While Kea loved the construction industry, she, as so many other women, have experienced challenges as a female professional in the real estate industry.
“When I started out as a Quantity Surveyor, I was quite intimidated. I had to work with men who had been in the sector for a lot longer than me. The transition from Quantity Surveyor to Property Portfolio Manager wasn’t easy either – I was used to protecting my clients’ money but my role as a Portfolio Manager presented the complete opposite”.
“During my first year at TUHF, I remember calling my boss at the time into a meeting room to tell her that I did not believe that I was cut out for the industry. She – and my colleagues at the time – supported me to transition smoothly from the Quantity Surveying approach to the Portfolio Manager approach. I am fortunate enough to work in a ‘laid back’ but professional environment that acts as a support structure through a culmination of different skills. Everyone has a direct line to the CEO, including our clients. We are different from other traditional finance institutions”.
However, Kea won’t take away from the fact that many female professionals still face discrimination within the workplace.
“I am very mindful that there are still challenges faced by women but what has helped me in my career, is knowing where I operate and who I am within my own space. I believe that females entering the broader real estate spectrum need to know their strengths and abilities, the market and which product they want to invest in. While there is still a lot to be done for women in their professional capacities, there is also room for women to contribute to the property management space which is still quite male dominated. It all boils down to a lack of awareness and exposure”.
Not only does Kea have a good support system within her professional career, but she has always had the support of her parents.
“I credit my hardworking parents for where I am today. I fondly remember my dad teaching me how to drive at the age of thirteen – and don’t forget that I am not tall. He used to tell my sister and I that he did not want to drive us around for the rest of our lives and that we needed to learn how to drive from a young age. My parents always pushed me, and fear was never an option”.
The difference that Kea gets to make in her clients’ lives is what excites her. In doing so, she and her team at TUHF are contributing to the regeneration of South Africa’s cities which, post-1994, started declining.
“There was a time where I was not comfortable visiting the inner cities but now, I and many others, are happy to walk the inner cities alone. Being a part of this change and the rejuvenation is truly a highlight of mine”.
While there is still a lot of demand for inner city real estate, even though Covid-19 has shown us a few weak spots, Gauteng – the City of Gold – will remain the New York of Africa says Kea.
“Everyone on the African continent who wants to ‘dig for gold’ comes to Johannesburg. Accommodation will always be in demand – the same goes for Pretoria. These two cities will always present opportunities and job creation and by TUHF providing clients with these opportunities, we are assisting with job creation while creating safer spaces for tenants. We aren’t only making a difference in our clients’ lives, but we are making a difference throughout the entire supply chain. It is a circular economy”.