Terrence Hadebe: From car-park attendant to Quality Analyst in two short years

Terrence Hadebe is the embodiment of determination and dedication. In 2013, the ambitious young man was working for a third-party contractor as a parking attendant at Derivco’s sprawling offices in Durban. With no experience in computer science or IT (in fact, he didn’t even know how to use a computer), Terrence turned his life around and secured a job as a Quality Analyst at one of the world’s leading software development houses.

Terrence Hadebe likes to dream. In 2013, the car park attendant would sit next to the fountain in Dervico’s main parking area and watch as hundreds of employees would arrive at work. He thought they looked happy and successful and he wanted very much to be one of them. Except, he knew nothing about what they or the company did. This lack of knowledge did nothing to deter him; for over a year, he would pounce on staff as they arrived and bombard them with questions: What does Derivco do? What do you do? What should I do to get a job? The more he learnt, the more his desire grew, and soon he was taking the small steps that would irrevocably change his and his family’s life forever.

Terrence had a tough childhood. Living with his single aunt, four siblings and four cousins after his mother passed away, Terrence was forced to help his family put food on the table by collecting and selling metal scraps and cardboard on the weekends. “My grandmother and I would search for scraps to sell. It was the only way we could afford to eat,” he said. Eventually, after looking for and finding his previously absent father, Terrence established a relationship with him and moved in with his biological parent. “Our neighbours looked down on us,” explained Terrence. “They would call their house Newlands West and our home Isiyanda – which is basically a shack settlement. That’s how poor we were,” he recalls.

For Terrence, jobs in a corporate environment were beyond his imagination. During career talks at school, his teachers would only inform students about jobs in nursing and teaching. “It was like there were no other options available to us,” he said. After finishing Grade 12, Terence eventually ended up working for a security company as a parking attendant, and was stationed at Derivco’s offices in La Lucia. He thought the company looked fantastic, and after speaking to as many people as possible, he decided to up-skill himself by enrolling in a basic eight-week Microsoft Office Skills Course. “I needed to get my head around computers and get into the zone,” he said. Terrence also started following IT specialists on Twitter: “I wanted to see what they were tweeting about and judge my progress on my increasing understanding of their tweets,” he laughed. “I just wanted to learn as much as possible.”

However, working as a parking attendant meant long hours and poor pay – which was not conducive to studying. To achieve his dream, Terrence knew he had to put himself in a better position, and when he found out Derivco’s catering company was hiring, he jumped at the opportunity. “Once I got that job I was working 8 hours a day instead of 12, which meant I had time to further my studies. Plus the pay was better, which meant I could actually afford to study,” he said with a smile.

In March 2014, Terrence started with the catering company and moved from Derivco’s parking lot to the kitchens. He also started a one-year IT course from the Durban Computer College. It was at this time when Terrence began making multiple trips to the HR department. “I wanted to remind them that I was there, and keep tabs on any new job openings,” he said. “I was a man with a plan!”

Eventually, a Quality Analyst position became available and Terrence was asked to write the mandatory assessment. “I failed,” he said. “And I had to wait 6 months before I could write it again. However, I knew this was my journey. I had a job and I was prepared to wait.”

Six months later, Terrence wrote his second assessment and once again failed. “The people that I worked with started becoming a little negative,” he said. “They would ask me why I thought I would get into Derivco. They would say they know lots of more experienced and qualified people who came for interviews and didn’t get the job. What made me think I would ever succeed when they didn’t,” he said.

However, Terrence persevered and 18 months after his first assessment, he finally passed his third attempt. But after acing the interview and being offered a job as a Quality Analyst, Terrence didn’t celebrate. “When I finally got the job, the fear kicked in,” he explained. “All the negative stuff kept playing in my head and I started questioning and doubting myself. It was so noticeable that my mentor even commented on it.”

Terrence was also worried that his colleagues would think less of him because of his background. “I was desperate to prove myself,” he said. Terrence spent every weekend at Derivco to learn and become comfortable with the work he was doing. “It paid off. My confidence improved rapidly, and I made sure I kept to the standards.”

Enver Pillay, Terrence’s manager believes Terrence is an inspiration. “Terrence has overcome more obstacles than most of us would have experienced in our lifetime, but through it all he remains truly humble and grateful,” he said.  “This rare trait is second only to his will to give back to his family and community.” Pillay says Terrence’s journey is a testament to the power of the human spirit. “He will always be an inspiration to us all. Terrence has always put great effort in his work and easily earned the respect of his peers and myself. I can easily say that he has continually grown in his career from day one and has never shown any sign of slowing down anytime soon.”

Terrence is proud of what he has achieved. “I will never take my work for granted. I love it,” he said. And his family are equally proud. “The first thing I did with my salary was to upgrade my dad’s house. The neighbours can’t look down on us anymore,” he said. “I’m also putting my brothers and sisters through school and university. This company has literally changed the lives of my family. I am so grateful.”

And he will never stop dreaming. Terrence has recently completed a Software Project Management Course through UNISA, and has more studies planned. “I will fight for more promotions and work my way up,” he said. “I have so much planned for my future,” he said.

“I will never forget those days of sitting at the fountain and asking the universe to make me the Moses of my family. I wanted to change my situation and help my family. I have achieved that. I have done what I set out to do and I can’t be happier or feel more blessed,” he said.