Percept was founded by Shivani Ranchod and Dave Strugnell, both of whom are actuaries and academics at the University of Cape Town (UCT). The leap from academia to Percept is surprisingly small: deep curiosity, an endless supply of problems worth solving and questions worth answering, an appreciation of intellectual rigour and the desire to create a learning environment in which people can thrive. The firm builds on their extensive experience across the health and financial services sectors.
The word Percept describes the process of fully experiencing the world: those rare moments when our sensory experiences (including thought) harmonise with each other. The multi-dimensional nature of that perception, that goes beyond the superficial, accords with our multi-disciplinary approach and our appreciation of diversity. We deliver solutions that seamlessly thread together an array of skills and perspectives.
Bring your best self. Be present. Be kind. Be open. Collaborate and listen. Participate. Reflect. Trust your gut. Don’t underestimate your ability or your creativity. Be humble. Challenge the isms head on. Don’t confuse power and leadership. Hold each other accountable. Be brave. Be inclusive. Cherish our complex and multi-faceted identities. Celebrate our diversity. See our shared humanity. Live your social conscience. Follow your moral radar. Tread lightly on the earth. Speak truth to power. Hold our context and Constitution close to your heart. Work intentionally. Respect our clients, and remember that they know their reality better than we do. Make it as simple as it can possibly be, but no simpler. Value substance over form.
MEET THE TEAM
Shivani is a healthcare actuary and part-time academic. She sees her work life as an extension of her meditation and yoga practice: an imperfect (but always evolving) attempt to bring careful attention to bear on socially-meaningful problems.
The healthcare system is the primary object of her intellectual affection. When she isn’t working (or reading something healthcare-related) you’ll find her hanging out with Dave, her son Shivam and Zadie & Bruno, the dachshunds. She spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about food. She also loves big cities, reading fiction & writing.
“Shivani is a health actuary with a deep commitment to our health sector. She has extensive experience across the system including working with funders, healthcare providers, government and regulators. She has held various leadership positions including Head of Actuarial Science at UCT. She is currently appointed to the Government Technical Advisory Centre. She is a leader who knows when to follow, a thinker who never forgets to feel, an expert ever-humble about her skill. She’s the poster child for an abundance mindset, always ready to share, always generous with her expertise.”
Shivani is reading:
All the fiction she can get her hands on. Current favourites include Djinn Patrol by Deepa Anappara, Overstory by Robert Macfarlane, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and Girl, Women, Other by Bernadine Evaristo.
Everything written by Atul Gawande
The Science of Meditation by Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson
Narrative non-fiction. Current favourite is Jonny Steinberg.
Poetry (Mary Oliver, Mark Nepo, David Whyte)
Books about our wildness (Women who run with the wolves, everything by Jay Griffiths)
She is listening to:
The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish
Oprah’s Super Soul Sundays
Her favourite apps are:
YogaGlo for yoga and Insight Timer for meditation
Her favourite apps are:
YogaGlo for yoga and Insight Timer for meditation
Dave is an actuary by background, a problem-solver by nature, and a multi-disciplinarian by inclination, so it’s no surprise that he’s a deep believer in Percept’s mission of collaborative work on solutions to meaningful problems. He has a long involvement with education and an enthusiasm for lifelong learning, and is affiliated with the University of Cape Town as an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in Actuarial Science. He is also the co-founder of the Explore Data Science Academy. He’s also a big believer in harnessing technology for good and in the power of innovation and smart analysis to make the world a better place, and has a special place in his heart for start-ups who share that philosophy. When not directly occupied with Percept’s amazing clients, figuring out how to make healthcare and financial services work better for South Africans, you’ll find him engrossed in good fiction, good food or thinking about the coming wave of Artificial Intelligence and all of its promise, as well as its ethical dangers.
“Dave has a breadth of experience as the previous Head of Actuarial Science at UCT, Head of Research in a large South African financial services company, positions on various boards and, most recently, as a co-founder of both Percept and the Explore Data Science Academy. He believes that the world could become a better place if evidence was readily available for decision making. He is the deeply-grounded and endlessly wise guardian angel of Percept. He manages to simultaneously act as an ethical compass and remind us to not take ourselves too seriously.”
What Dave’s been reading (leaving out the fiction to keep the list manageable):
The Body by Bill Bryson
Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom
The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly
Zero to One by Peter Thiel
The Singularity Is Near by Ray Kurzweil
The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
The Emperor of all Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
How The Mind Works by Steven Pinker
Time To Think by Nancy Kline
Dave’s favourite podcasts:
Waking up with Sam Harris
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History
The Knowledge Project
How I built this
The Food Chain
Ursula has a multi-coloured approach to life – with a deep love of people and things creative, she may be that rare creature, a marketing actuary. She is passionate about making a difference in South Africa, about finding the balance between celebrating individuality and acknowledging community and using understanding/data/heart/analysis/collaboration/perception to build financial solutions that truly work for everyman. She is usually energetically involved in discussion… with clients, with team mates, with work makes, with friends, with her son Henry whose talent is negotiation……
Ursula’s professional history is in risk protection, investments and reinsurance – in all three fields she has worked in both a marketing as well as a more technical capacity.
“Ursula is a firecracker and is as bold as her hair! She is a whirlwind of personality, love and deep thinking. She is a people person and is able to make you feel instantly close to her and ‘known’. She is the person whose big presence and astute mind combine to produce solutions of unparalleled creativity. She is the best kind of power – compelling and impactful.”
Ursula is reading:
Deon Meyer, as soon as it arrives! In Afrikaans, so the pleasure of the read lasts longer
Arundhati Roy – The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
Jonathan Safran Foer – Here I Am
Jonny Steinberg – A Man of Good Hope
Frederik Backman – A Man Called Ove
Ursula is listening to:
Honestly? P!nk of course…. Also just about anything from Dire Straits to Dolly Parton.
Harry Potter on audiobook, since that’s Henry’s current obsession
Jodi studied occupational therapy at the University of Cape Town. During her year of community service in a rural hospital, she realised the need for better health systems and health financing, to ensure quality health care. She has a PhD in health financing and leadership in public health. She has worked with South Africa Departments of Health, Treasury and academic institutions. Her passion is health financing and governance within public health.
“Jodi is quirky, outspoken and courageous. She is simultaneously all heart and all head: she wears her heart on her sleeve and is an unabashed health geek. Always ready with a soulful laugh, always willing to speak truth to power: there are very few more passionate advocates of better healthcare for all, and the importance of a robust public health sector for the future of South African society.”
She is reading:
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Insomniac City: Bill Hayes
My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
No is Not Enough by Naomi Klein
Talking to Strangers by Malcom Gladwell
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Outlaw Culture by Bell Hooks
Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
Anything by Adam Hochschild- favourite is To End All Wars
The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts
She’s listening to:
Sleep stories and guided meditations
Kelly is a consulting actuary with twelve years of work experience – she has medical scheme, reinsurance and consulting experience. She’s worked in both the life and healthcare industries in South Africa. She has an interest in healthcare access and financing.
“Kelly’s middle name is Grace, which pretty much sums up the way that she conducts herself. Her under-the-radar ways belie a razor-sharp mind and a meticulous approach to her work. She brings to her work the same qualities she brings to life: passion, dedication, wholeheartedness and thorough research.”
Kelly is reading:
Nudge by Richard Thaler
The Brain Maker: The Power of Gut by Kirstin Loberg, David Perlmutter
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
No-drama discipline: the whole brain way to calm the chaos and nurture your child’s development by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
The Harvard Business Review
Rose Tuyeni Peter
Rose’s obsession with measuring things and love for thinking deeply about how to make societies more fair led her to study economies and their health systems. Her previous work experience includes a Senior Researcher role at Cenfri, Data Quality Control Assistant at the South African Labour and Development Research Unit, tutoring Quantitative Methods at UCT School of Economics, and a research internship at J-PAL Africa, among other roles. She holds an MSc in Health Economics and Decision Science from UCL and an MComm in Applied Economics from UCT. She is happiest sitting in front of Stata, with a good playlist and a warm cup of hibiscus tea, trying to extract meaning from large household survey datasets.
“Rose’s curiosity is striking – she’s always reading something interesting. She has a generosity of spirit that reflects in how engaged she is, her easy sharing of knowledge and her willingness to put aside time to help you think your way through things. She is calm and witty, with a deep passion for the world and the people within it. She has both a grounded energy and an absolutely infectious laugh.”
Rose is reading:
Segu by Maryse Conde
1984 by George Orwell
Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
Talking To My Daughter: A Brief History Of Capitalism by Yanis Varoufakis
Women, Race and Class by Angela Davis
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang
Rose listening to:
Brent Fayaz and Sonder
Anything soulful and funky with a good baseline…
Rose’s Favourite podcasts:
This American Life
Where should we begin? With Esther Perel
Rose’s Favourite YouTube Channels:
AFTV (don’t judge me!)
Anything with cute animal videos or cooking… love watching people cook almost as much as I love eating 😊
Nduduzo Phili studied Economics (having completed his undergraduate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and his Honours degree at the University of South Africa). He continued to study part-time after starting his career in the ICT services industry and obtained a Master’s in IT from Charles Sturt University, as well as an MBA from Quantic School of Business and Technology. He is a lifelong learner and is also a graduate (class of 2020) of Africa’s largest data science academy – Explore Data Science Academy. He transitioned his career into the data science field after being exposed to working with data science and business analytics professionals during his several years spent in various roles within the ICT services industry and seeing the potential that data science can have to empower others towards a better world.
“Nduduzo is the archetype for the heart-driven data scientist. His gentle demeanour, generosity and thoughtfulness shine through in all that he does. He has a natural affinity to people and his soft touch approach and open-heartedness yields hard results. Nduduzo’s opinions are always thoughtfully considered and well-articulated. He would be best described as a “Productivity Ninja” because of how swiftly and carefully he gets things done. Building human connections AND joining the dots to solve problems, he lets you know that you are in good hands.”
Nduduzo is reading:
Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan
PoemHunter blog (www.poemhunter.com)
A Responsibility to Awe by Rebecca Elson
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
The Art of Showing up by HeatherAsh Amara and don Miguel Ruiz Jr.
Poor Charlie’s Almanack by Peter D. Kaufman
Range by Dave Epstein
Nduduzo is listening to:
90’s and 2000’s R&B (Maxwell’s 2013 live South Africa concert tour was the best quality live performance I’ve ever experienced)
90’s and 2000’s Deep House (Iggy Smallz/ Nick Holder)
Neo Soul (Tom Misch/ Jordan Rakei)
Hip Hop with a storytelling element (Outkast/ Little Brother/ Yasiin Bey)
Hip Hop instrumentals (9th Wonder/ J Dilla)
Jazz wind instrument improvisations (Doreen Ketchens/ Hugh Masekela)
Nduduzo’s Favourite podcasts:
Exponent (previously known as Stratechery) by Ben Thompson and James Allworth
Nduduzo’s Favourite YouTube Channels:
Guy in a Cube
Emma is an actuarial science graduate currently following her passion for public health and pursuing a Masters in the field. She’s particularly interested in innovative solutions that change the way in which we think about solving health problems, which is why she so strongly relates to the values and vision of Percept.
“Emma is the saying ‘still waters run deep’ personified. She is always thinking and stretching herself in ways that support and challenge her teammates. She doesn’t take herself too seriously which gives her a grace and ease that draws everyone in.”
Emma is reading:
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Emma is listening to:
Anything and everything – with fellow Perceptors providing the goods
Also, lecture videos…
Nicholas holds an Actuarial Science and Economics degree from the University of Stellenbosch and is currently pursuing an Honours degree in Economics while writing board exams to qualify as an actuary. He has completed internships in the short-term insurance market and the public health sector before starting at Percept where he is excited about contributing to Percept’s mission of working towards a healthier, more financially resilient world.
“Nicholas embodies the Percept value of curiosity – he is so keen to learn and contribute. He is the archetypal generalist – a gift to a trans-disciplinary team. And we love his pragmatism. Nicholas personifies being “chilled”, but his calm demeanour belies a fiercely curious mind that, despite being fresh out of university, has already amassed an impressive understanding of the health and insurance environments.”
Nicholas is reading:
A Promised Land by Barack Obama
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
The State of Africa by Martin Meredith
Range by David Epstein
The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power
Changing a Leopard’s Spots by Alex van den Heever and Renias Mhlongo
Nicholas is listening to:
Mostly alternative and pop but also any classics from his Dad’s iPod
Nicholas’ Favourite podcasts:
The Economist Radio
The Science of Sport Podcast
The Good, The Bad and The Rugby
Carmen Christian is a development economist who is committed to advancing research that impacts health policy – and ultimately health outcomes – for the better. Her understanding of public health issues is strengthened by her inter-disciplinary background in health sciences and economics.
Carmen joined the Department of Economics at the University of Western Cape as a lecturer in 2011 after working in the South African health sector – public and private – for eight years. Her current research interests include health-seeking behaviour, access to healthcare, quality of care and the economics of tuberculosis.
“Carmen is gracious and vivacious. She contributes deeply to discussions of all types with her thoughtful approach to life, data and everything else! Carmen is deeply committed to the patient perspective – this comes through in her clinical background, her desire to work at a system-level and in her humanity. She is proof that striking cheekbones and intellectual rigour are not mutually exclusive. We vote her as Economist most likely to light up a room.”
Carmen is reading:
Turn Up The Heat, Dr Philip Goglia
The Dancing Wu Li Masters, Gary Zukav
Any book by Marian Keyes (when I feel like something light-hearted)
Nordic noir (when the mood hits me)
via Blinkest: The Surprising Science Of Meetings (Steven G. Rogelberg), Too Fast To Think (Chris Lewis), What We Say Matters (Judith Lasater, Ike Lasater)
Carmen is listening to:
Mainly old school Rhythm & Blues
Acid Jazz (love Jamiroquai!)
Carmen’s Favourite podcasts:
Anxiety Slayer with Shann and Ananga
Kwik Brain with Jim Kwik
Elevation with Steven Furtick
Carmen’s Favourite YouTube channels:
Manes by Mell, Alyssa Forever, YoursNaturally11 (my go-to for tips about naturally curly hair)
Meghan Livingstone (all things healthy)
DJ Arch Jnr (proudly South African talent)
Atiya is a medical doctor with a specialist and two Master’s Degrees in Public Health. Her passion for public health began as an intern at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital and her subsequent work in primary care in Soweto. She has worked at all levels within the health service, with work ranging from policy formulation to grass roots service design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. She also undertakes formal academic research and is currently pursuing a PhD in Public Health with a focus on quality patient care.
“Atiya is love and light personified. Her warm and bubbly personality make working with her a pleasure. Her insightful thinking, knowledgeability and passion for the health system are inspiring. She is thoughtful, mindful and an excellent team member. She doesn’t shy away from hard questions and always puts the collective first. Atiya has a contagious ease about her!”
Atiya is reading:
Anything related to introspection, personal and professional development and leadership.
Atiya is listening to:
Alpha Waves for deep thinking and concentration, and upbeat tunes for some daily dancing.
Yugma support team
Amiena has approximately 23 years of experience working within the development sector. She is a committed activist and extremely passionate about serving the needs of the community i.e. from building the capacity of rural development organisations to working and learning from Orphans and Vulnerable Children including supporting Foster Parents.
Her interest has always been in operations and administration and going the extra mile to ensure that the organisation has the necessary resources and systems to run like a “well-oiled” machine. She brings a unique belief system and approach to her role “Administrators are more than ‘paper pushers’ and if given the opportunity can add that ‘special flavour’ to any task.” She enjoys spending quality time with her two daughters Aishah and Ghanifa; taking Sunday walks on the beach and of course baking – her latest craze!
“Amiena takes authenticity to a new level, bringing her whole, wonderful self to the Percept team. She is smart, dedicated and has a special skill to make everyone’s life easier. By holding the space for us, she has allowed Percept to grow – a remarkably selfless and generous person. Amiena is deeply committed to her spiritual practice and brings all that soulfulness to her work. She seem to genuinely delight in the opportunity to make our lives easier. She blends the fearlessness to take on tasks outside of her comfort zone with an attitude of service: no task too big or too small.”
Amiena is reading:
Always The Quraan (in Arabic and English)
Red in the Rainbow by Lynn Carneson McGregor
Amiena’s listening to:
Podcasts from Noha Essop & Associates (Life coach)
Arabic music by Maher Zain
Meet our non-executive directors
Dr Vuyane Mhlomi graduated top of his class and holds an MBChB from the University of Cape Town. He also holds a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil/PhD) and an MBA both from the University of Oxford. He is a Rhodes Scholar and Pershing Square Scholar. Vuyane is the recipient of multiple academic and leadership awards. Fascinated by the intersection of healthcare, and business, Vuyane along with others founded Quro Medical, a digital health company that is transforming healthcare in Africa. Vuyane is also the founder of MH Foundation, an educational non-profit organisation that identifies and nurtures academically talented learners from socioeconomically underprivileged neighbourhoods of South Africa.
Machela is an actuary and a graduate of the MBA programme at London Business School. Her career has spanned consulting, insurance and asset management and most recently technology and impact investing. As a qualified actuary she has held several technical roles including pricing, valuations and product development. She worked as a technical advisor for the Chief Executive of one of Africa’s largest asset managers before joining the investment team where she was responsible for reviewing the financial and risk management as well as investment capability reviews. Machela is a pioneer in many ways, preferring the road less travelled, novel ideas and challenges that require multi-dimensional thinking. In her time at London Business School she has successfully explored her interests in technology, private equity and entrepreneurship landing exciting roles at Amazon and impact investor CDC. She hopes to leverage her experience and expertise to help build the leaders and businesses that will build Africa.
Lele holds a BSc Honours from Medunsa and a Masters in Business Leadership from UNISA. She is the founder of mPower People Solutions, a strategic human resources and organisational development company. Lele is passionate about the development of people in organisations, especially women and young professionals transitioning through various periods in their careers, as well as individuals who want to come out of their shell and achieve great things. She is South Africa’s first Certified Daring Way Facilitator, a highly experiential methodology based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown. Lele is a Consultant, Facilitator, Coach, Speaker, Trainer and Organisational Improvement/Change/Transformation/Culture interventionist.
Tania was an academic who operated at the interface of technology and health. As a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Cape Town, she cultivated an open research climate that appreciates the contextual specificities impacting on the successful, responsible and inclusive deployment of technology in Africa. This was aided by her interdisciplinary training and research experiences in electrical and electronic engineering, biomedical engineering, and management, received at institutions in South Africa, the USA, the UK, Japan and Germany. Her enjoyment of travel was accompanied by a desire to learn different languages (which does not necessarily translate into an ability to speak them).
In 2021, Tania Douglas, passed away after a long serious-cancer journey. The rest of our board has paid tribute to Tania as part of our grieving process as we mourn the loss of her wise counsel, her intellect and her deep humanity.
“Tania. Your lively eyes in our Board sessions showed the intellect behind your sweet smile. What a humble, powerful model you made for women, for me. You with the string of accomplishments, you raised your points with such respect, always allowing the possibility that your logic be faulty. You didn’t want to take up too much airspace, but we will miss miss miss you, and will always wish you could take up more. You were always so wise! Percept is stronger for your counsel. We honour you, our departed one with the enduring heart.” Ursula Torr
“We knew Tania for all too short a time, only a few years, but in that short space she left a mark on all of our hearts. Tania was one of our original non-executive directors, who brought to the boardroom table not only the benefits of her intellect and expertise in the health system and health tech innovation, but also the full value of her open heart and deep humanity. Percept is a healthier, more vital organisation thanks to her involvement, and we are all better humans for having known her. Our first Board meeting without Tania is coming up in just a couple of weeks’ time, and I know how much we are going to miss her and feel the absence of her warmth and wisdom.” Dave Strugnell
“In the short time that I worked alongside Tania what I appreciated most was her humility, openness and unique perspective. She carried herself with such grace, dignity and a quiet confidence that belied her years of experience, intellect, wisdom and a wonderful ability to ask just the right question. A role model for us all. It was a privilege to serve alongside her on the board and on a mission she was so committed to and passionate about. She will be missed.” Machela Sathekga
“I feel the loss of Tania on so many levels. Personally, because I admired her quiet wisdom and humility. For Percept, because we thrived with her as a guardian of our values and someone who really understood us. For Alignd, because she was such a strong advocate of our mission to support people on their serious cancer journeys – but never made it about her own suffering. And politically, because the South African academy and sciences desperately need powerful women of colour in their ranks, especially ones with heart and soul.” Shivani Ranchod
“When I think about Tania, I think about her smile and her humility and the grace with which she carried herself, despite her own health challenges. It almost made me forget at times that she was not well. She never complained and, up to the very last, was dedicated, committed and carried her tasks as a Percept board member to her best abilities. She graced us with her presence to the very last. I was sad to hear of her passing. Words fail me. I am personally honoured to have known and worked with her on the Board.” Lele Mehlomakulu