This article is the sixth in a series on ‘Real Life Careers’ in which we chat to people about their career and look at the (sometimes unexpected) paths they took to get there. We chatted with Nicola Wepener, who has qualified with a degree in marketing and managing. Nicola (33) is currently a National Buyer for a large retailer. She holds a  B Com (Hons) from UKZN.

High school

Nicola answered some questions about her experiences in high school.

Q: What subjects did you take at school?

A: English, Afrikaans, Maths, Science, Biology, Accounting

Q: What were your favourite subjects at school?

A: Biology

Q: Would you say any of your favourite subjects have been helpful to your degree and career?

A: No

Q: What skills that you learned at school have proved helpful?

A: Group work, public speaking, and the teamwork learned from sports.

Q: What do you wish you had done more of while at school?

A: I wish I’d had more fun, I was very studious.

Q: Were you awapple-education-school-knowledge-50605are of your current career path when you were in high school?

A: No, when I once did one of those aptitude tests to show you what field of work or study to go into….. the test results told me that I should be an apple farmer! (Which I most certainly was not skilled/excited for, I have no green fingers to speak of).


There are a few general considerations to be made when leaving school and heading into varsity. In this section, Nicola reflects upon her choices and path through her degree(s).

Q: Did you take a gap year, and why?

A: No, my parents couldn’t afford for me to have time off before study and I didn’t have a job. I am glad retrospectively as, otherwise, I would be a year behind my peers in terms of finishing varsity, and I would have entered into the workforce late.

Q: Did you get into your first choice Degree/institution?

A:  Yes

Q: Did you start tertiary education pursuing the degree you ended with?

A: No

Q: What attracted you to pursue the Degree and caDigital marketing analyticsreer you pursued?

A: I thought I wanted to be a CA, then realized in second year that it was not what I solely wanted to do but that I needed something with more of a creative side. So I switched over to do Marketing & Management which suited me more and which more importantly I enjoyed more and was more interested in!  However, I still did not know once I finished  My honors what I wanted to do.

Q: Is your current career path related to your Degree?

A: sort of, but retrospectively I would probably have tried to incorporate some element of business science into my degree had I known then what I would end up doing. In South Africa there is no University degree that teaches you to be a buyer, there are some retail diplomas but they are very broad. Most of what I know I learned on the job, however, the varsity studies taught me life skills, problem-solving, teamwork, and the elements to strategizing (all be it theoretical at the time). Varsity basically taught me how to think to be prepared to go out into the world and work in society.

Q: Have you done Postgraduate studies and would you do so again if you went back to the end of undergrad?

A: Yes, and absolutely!

Q: Have you taken any ‘breaks’ during your studies?

A: No

Career: National Buyer

Nicola now answers some questions that are specific to his current career. This gives us insight into some of the realities of being a National Buyer and her specialisation.

Q: Do you have a specific focus or specialty within your field?

A: Yes

Q: Why did you choose this specialty?

A: I didn’t choose this specialty, it was the job offered to me at the time (in the respective department that I’m responsible for), and it happened to be a really nice category that I loved and have since become a specialist in this category in the country.

Q: What does your job involve day to day?

A: Being customer focused as the first and foremost critical element. Analyzing market trends and negotiating the best possible deals for my customer needs, whilst driving to meet Sales Rands, Sales Volume, and Gross Profit Targets.

Q: What ‘things’ would you recommend individuals who are wanting to go into your field (general or specific) to consider that they may not be aware of?

A: The customer is constantly changing in this modern world of instant accessibility, as such, they have changing wants and needs. In order to satisfy this, we need to know who our customer is, what they want, when they want it, and what their disposable income is. With the downturn in the economy as at current, we have to provide the best deals in order for our customers to choose to spend their hard-earned money with us. The customer is king! Never forget that they pay our salaries.

Keep an eye out for the next post in our ‘Real Life Careers’ series.

This article was originally published on 05 Jan 2017

About the author
Jax Heilgendorff

I have watched the development of for years and marveled at the ingenuity and passion shown from the start. As a Linguistics major, university lecturer and burgeoning copywriter, the Advantage Learn story is one close to my heart. I hope to add to the development of educational thinking in South Africa by helping to relate topics and create spaces for thought on the challenges and opportunities facing South African learners, students, and parents.

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