The ‘thrill’ experienced when overcoming the many challenges life throws our way, has always and continues to motivate esteemed alumnus Ayrton Amaral. Currently studying for his Master’s degree in Economics at the University of Amsterdam, he sets his sights on returning to South Africa where he wants to use his skills to form part of the machine working on getting the country back on the right path. “South Africa has great potential, and it is everyone's responsibility to ensure that it realises this potential and stays on the correct course,” he stresses. Among other things, read more about his studies, his career, his role model and his ‘golden guideline’.
Q: Briefly summarise your studies and your professional career, with special mention of specific highlights/milestones.
A: I completed both my BCom and BCom Hons degrees in Economics at UP with distinction. During my undergraduate studies, I was privileged to have been a part of the South African Reserve Bank’s (SARB) Bursary Programme, where I met some wonderful people from diverse backgrounds. Through this bursary, I also served as an intern for a couple of months at the SARB in the Economic Research Department. I am currently pursuing an MSc in Economics focusing on Monetary Policy and Banking at the University of Amsterdam.
Q: To what extent did your studies at UP benefit you in your career and contribute to your success?
A: The BCom and BCom Hons Economics programmes at UP are quite varied in their structure. Beyond economics, in one semester, you would find yourself learning about commercial law or discussing Ubuntu as an ethic in business practice. In another, you would be delving into the statistical intricacies behind time series analysis. To do well, you had to adapt your way of thinking depending on the situation faced and be flexible in approaching different challenges. These skills are invaluable in an ever-changing world.
Q: Given your academic experience at UP, what advice can you pass on to current students?
A: UP is a world-class institution that has proven time and again that it can hold its own with other universities worldwide. My advice to current students would be to remember this point and use the excellent resources and engage with expert lecturers and staff at the university. In doing so, you will build a solid foundation on which you can continue building when you complete your studies.
Q: What, in your opinion, is the foundation of a successful business/ company /consultancy/ organisation?
A: It is important that ethical conduct is a key pillar of any organisation. We have witnessed many examples in South Africa in recent years where the abandonment of ethics has led to poor outcomes for organisations themselves and which has also had harmful spill-over effects that have adversely impacted society as a whole.
Q: Do you have any role models in your field that you aspire to emulate?
A: A role model for me is Lesetja Kganyago, the Governor of the SARB. In recent years, good economic news has sometimes been difficult to come by in South Africa, but there was always some consolation in knowing that he and his team at the central bank were doing good work. Apart from being a well-respected and knowledgeable economist in his own right, he is also a capable and credible leader – someone I would aspire to emulate.
Q: Which business/trade-related publications (magazines/newspapers/blogs, etc) do you enjoy reading?
A: I quite enjoy reading articles from The Economist. It is probably the cliché answer, but the magazine has interesting articles on a variety of topical issues. Apart from that, I also enjoy browsing sites like Marginal Revolution for intriguing discussions on diverse topics relating to economics and the world in general.
Q: What really inspires and motivates you personally?
A: Something that has always motivated me is the "thrill" experienced when overcoming the many challenges life throws our way. The willingness to take on such challenges, I think, allows for wonderful opportunities, not only to learn more about myself and the things I can achieve, but also to engage with and learn from other people.
Q: What is your ‘golden guideline’ in life, in other words, what keeps you on track?
A: Reminding myself that it takes time to build quality is something that helps keep me on track. It helps me remember not to rush things. I believe that everything happens for a reason, so keeping this guideline in mind helps me pause and try to make the best of a situation.
Q: If you could have a face-to-face meeting with an inspiring person – in any domain – who sets an example in transforming the world and inspiring others to do the same, who would it be, and what would you like to discuss?
A: The world is facing an increasingly uncertain future. Climate change, growing geopolitical tensions and ageing populations are just some examples of the many issues we will need to overcome in the years to come. In this regard, I would like to speak with Angela Merkel, the outgoing German Chancellor. For many years, she has been one of the world's most influential leaders, and I would be interested in hearing her thoughts on how best to manage and overcome these issues and what she believes the future holds.
Q: Going forward, what are your professional/business/personal goals?
A: My current goal is to complete my Master's degree in Amsterdam. Eventually, I would like to return to South Africa and use my skills to form part of the machine working on getting it back on the right path. South Africa has great potential, and it is everyone's responsibility to ensure that it realises this potential and stays on the correct course.