Tshazibana’s academic career marked her as an unusually gifted student. She matriculated at the age of 15, graduated from university at 18 and began working in marketing because she was (and still is) interested in what drives people to make their individual consumer choices.

Her professional philosophy reflects her passion for public policy analysis and formulation.

“All I want is to do interesting, exciting work. Contributing to good policy-making in this country is my goal. Good decisions and good policies should be about enriching the lives of people. I like to see things completed and implemented,” she says.

Tshazibana’s engaging, forthright demeanour belies her natural empathy and humility. Her dress style is understated, yet she’s highly observant and aware of the importance of professional appearances.

She describes her career path with characteristic humour, only hinting at the determination which fuelled her rapid climb up the ranks. “I got into economics by accident, I’d say – and also because of vanity. I grew up in Benoni and was determined not to spend the rest of my life there!” she laughs. 

Watching the M-Net series LA Lawso inspired her that she applied to law schools and ended up at the then University of Natal (now the University of KwaZulu-Natal).

However, she quickly realised that trawling through case studies wasn’t as glamorous as the profession depicted on screen, so in her second year, she switched to a BCom course. Here, her lecturers were “nicer and younger”, while the subject seemed “exciting”, she says.

When she’d completed her undergraduate degree, Tshazibana headed for the advertising domain.

An agency in Johannesburg said she was too young for a job and, instead, offered to send her to the AAA School of Advertising. But then she was drawn to a new post-graduate programme at the University of Natal — development economics and computers.