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A Mzansi #WomenDay success story: How a simple smile at a petrol pump changed it all for Vuyi Mukhari

2018-08-09 10:00

Image: Facebook

Being able to share her Women’s Day success story as a pump attendant, working a service station forecourt was never in her life plan.

Today, however, thanks to the shot Engen gave her when no one else would, Vuyanavo 'Vuyi' Mukhari is pursuing her dream career in film and television production.

All it took was a smile

Mukhari’s winning smile, professionalism, and upbeat demeanor landed her a position as a petrol attendant at an Engen service station in Randburg when she couldn’t secure a job in her chosen field. Later, it was exactly those qualities that caught the attention of a woman influential enough to help Mukhari change everything.

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"I became downhearted when I couldn’t get a job after graduating from the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa, especially since I’d worked so hard at a butchery to fund my studies.

                                                                          Image: Supplied

"But one day I picked myself up and decided I would get a job, any job, so long as it gave me an income and a reason to get up in the morning," recalls 26-year-old Vuyi.

Mukhari fought hard for her petrol attendant job, and once she had secured it, she did what she had promised her new bosses and gave the new job her all.

Going the extra mile

Hardly three months later, she caught the eye of businessperson turned motivational speaker Lerato Ditshego when she offered to not only fill up her petrol tank but also to save her a trip into the shop in the cold.

"It was a very cold day in July last year and when she pulled in I gave her my best smile so she would choose my lane. I offered to run into the shop and get her a cup of coffee or anything else she may be needing. She went in herself, but then she asked my name and we got talking," says Vuyi.

The next day she arrived at work to learn that she and her smile were trending on social media, thanks to Ditshego sharing the news of the graduate who was embracing her service station job, grateful for the chance she had been given.

Tears of joy

Later, in an interview with Destiny magazine, Ditshego also shared the story, saying that while Vuyi had every reason to feel angry and defeated, she had instead chosen the opposite. 

"This young woman was perseverance personified, adding that she was so awed by Vuyi’s positivity that she had taken her details and promised to do what she could to help.

I shared her story on social media and got an overwhelming response. Vuyi says she "cried and cried" when she saw her post had 5.7K likes, 3.2K shares and 654 comments and responses," Ditshego adds.

She had never before felt so validated. Several offers followed, and she accepted a TV production intern position at Advertising giants TBWA Hunt Lascaris in Sandton, where she still works today.

Grateful to Engen

Even though she ended up spending only three months in her petrol forecourt job with Engen, Mukhari is adamant that without the company giving her the initial opportunity, none of her success would have been possible.

"They were reticent about employing me in the job because I was a graduate, and I had to work hard to persuade them that I would be grateful for whatever job I could get.

Engen took a chance on me and provided me with a platform from which I could chase my true calling. I will always be grateful for the chance Engen gave me when I was really struggling to get started," she says.

Unathi Njokweni-Magida, Engen’s head of Transformation and Stakeholder Engagement, says empowerment of black women is a top priority for Engen.

And while the company works hard to actively build a pipeline of black and female graduates, they are equally happy to offer a platform from which women can launch themselves into alternate careers where applicable.

                                                                         Image: Facebook

"We are committed to education and we would never want to hold someone like Vuyi back from her true calling. We are just grateful to have been part of her journey, and for playing a role in setting her on a path to doing what she is trained to do.

I don’t know where I would have ended up if it wasn’t for Engen. They helped me become the person I am today," says Vuyi smiling.

Vuyi’s Engen colleagues held a farewell celebration for her when she left, eager to see her fulfill her true potential.

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