Pushing the boundaries of possibility

View article at www.accountancysa.org.za.

Why Dineshrie Pillay left the world of corporate finance to pursue a career as a leadership trainer and executive coach.

Great things never come from comfort zones. To be successful, you have to use each day as an opportunity to improve, to be better, to get a little bit closer to your goals. It’s an approach that has paid off for Dineshrie Pillay. A CA(SA) and Fellow Chartered Management Accountant (FCMA) by profession, she is also registered with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and is a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM).

Pillay’s first formal employment was as a part-time Pastel Accounting trainer working for a small audit firm. She later completed her articles at that company. It was during this first position that her love for training and working with people began.

In 2004 she joined South African Breweries (SAB) in Johannesburg as a management trainee, working her way up to financial project and TOPP programme manager. The company also partly funded her CIMA studies, which later allowed her to achieve her ACMA designation.

In 2012, she was appointed as the chair of the CIMA Gauteng committee to deliver CPD and member events for the region.

‘SAB was a great company to work for,’ she recalls, ‘but after a few years I started to question my purpose. My life revolved around budgets and year-end schedules. I was unable to take leave when I wanted to because of deadlines. One night, I left the office just before midnight. Alone and feeling unsafe, I wondered whether life was always going to be like this.’

It was also around that time that Pillay started to change her diet and approach towards healthy living.

‘I was so stressed out by work that I had a breakout of severe acne. My doctor told me it was time to start looking after myself. I began investigating ways to exercise and eat well to live a healthy life, and I have never looked back. My fitness ambitions became more focused when I witnessed my father become seriously ill after being insulin-dependent for many years. It was painful to see his suffering and final demise and I made a concerted effort to change my lifestyle and diet for the better.’

She devoted more and more time to reading about holistic healing and fate led her to a bookstore where she spotted a magazine cover featuring Dr John Demartini. The article was about overcoming personal obstacles to achieve desired results and how resolving emotional issues allows you to become more centred and to be able to deal with any situation in life.

‘It was all about trying to figure out your purpose in life, which was where I was struggling. I had so many unanswered questions about life, purpose, and meaning,’ Pillay says. ‘I was living in Durban at the time and travelled to Johannesburg to complete one of his courses, and I was converted. It was life-changing. I became a certified trainer in the Demartini Method and started working with people in my spare time on weekends. I could see how they were changing as a result of the course, and it was inspiring. Understanding human behaviour became my primary interest. We can change how we act by changing how we feel and think about ourselves.’

Pillay left SAB in 2010 to launch her own business, Neospectives Consulting. She provides leadership training, delivers motivational talks, and is a business executive coach. Her aim, she says, is to awaken the authentic leader within people to thereby elevate their personal leadership brand.

In 2014 she released her first book, The contract with yourself: take back control of your life with the most important contract you will ever need, a collection of stories, analogies and practical action steps for assessing and planning your life. The first edition has sold over 5 000 copies.

The freedom to experiment

Her family and friends were shocked when she decided to leave the profession, as was SAB which had been grooming her for the future. ‘I had a need for freedom of expression that I could no longer ignore. I had the opportunity at SAB to design and present courses for CA and CIMA CPD hours, and I realised that I really enjoyed public speaking. It was clear that training, coaching and presenting were my passions. I had also been to a talk on retirement, and the speaker told us that most people only think about starting a business in their forties, when they already have a bond, a family and many other commitments. Sometimes later becomes never. When he said that the best time to build your own business is in your thirties, I felt he was talking directly to me.’

When she left SAB, Pillay applied for a position as a part-time CIMA lecture – she also had set aside savings to sustain herself while she embarked on the new venture. She also secured a start-up contract to provide workplace readiness training for SAICAs Thuthuka Programme.

She completed a life coach training programme at New Insights but was determined to become a business coach too. In 2019 she did the Professional Business Coaching Programme at GIBS and is now an internationally accredited coach. She also made what she describes as an important investment in self-esteem by having a professional makeover with image consultant Chata Romano.

During the business’s first five years, much of Pillay’s focus was induction training for CAs(SA) as well as presentation skill training and business partnering programmes for companies.

‘Success doesn’t just find you. You have to go out and get it,’ she says. ‘At first I worked my way through a list of registered training providers. That was how Barloworld, Media24 and Old Mutual became clients. After that it was all word of mouth.’

A unique approach to lockdown

When South Africa went into lockdown in March 2020, Pillay was approached by several clients who wanted her to help their teams work through the crisis and to alleviate their fears.

‘There was much anxiety and confusion, and in the early weeks of lockdown I tried to inform and educate through social media posts, articles and videos that I shared freely,’ Pillay says. ‘I soon realised that this effort was not enough, and I knew I could do more. That was when I got the idea to create an inspirational video providing a hopeful perspective to lockdown. I wrote the script and sourced voice artists from all around the world. To date, “Humanity will rise as a force, stronger than a disease” has reached more than 60 000 people and the feedback has been incredible.’

Driven to always dream bigger, Pillay is also a Distinguished Toastmaster. She represented Africa and Saudi Arabia in the Toastmasters International 2020 Virtual Convention after one of her fellow toastmasters nominated her when she had watched her lockdown video.

‘Becoming a Toastmaster has made me a more confident speaker, communicator, and leader,’ Pillay says. ‘It usually takes five to ten years to become a Distinguished Toastmaster, but I achieved it in two and a half years, simply because I was so inspired and dedicated to completing all the speaking and leadership assignments. During my Toastmasters progression, I have been blessed to meet diverse people whom I still connect with; it has expanded my network and has been an incredibly rewarding journey overall.’

A new book is on the cards: Ignition: 3 steps to drive from newbie presenter to expert speaker aims to inspire readers to ignite the speaker within themselves. ‘This book is written with the objective of appealing to any level of speaker. Whether you have just started to speak or have been speaking for a while – there is something in this book for everyone. I have had this book reviewed by 12 people around the world, and I am humbled by the feedback. Each reviewer, some of them professional speakers and authors themselves, have commended me on the style of writing and taking what is perceived to be a difficult topic, and to teach it in a way that is fun, entertaining and practical.’

What lies ahead

Pillay has converted her leadership development programmes, presentation skills training and coaching programmes into online courses to meet the demands of the current market. She launched her LMS site and e-commerce store during lockdown. Over the next two years, her focus will be on growing her coaching and speaking business to attract local and international clients.

She has recently launched a website (Fitspectives.com) and an Instagram account called Fit_Spec_Tives which focuses on healthy lifestyle and fitness recipes.

‘Knowledge is a gift that deserves to be shared with others,’ she says. ‘It’s my mission to pass on the gift of my knowledge.’