In late February 2023, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Namibia (ICAN) released the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) results, which means that the successful candidates have qualified as Chartered Accountants (CAs) or will do so pending the completion of the final year of their training contracts. I was once a successful candidate in February 2011. As a result, I would like to share some insights with the trainees' using illustrations from my career thus far.
In my current role as Bank Windhoek's Chief Financial Officer (CFO), I have had many interactions with CAs, both in my team or with prospective employees through the interview process. The one question we all ask ourselves is what we must do to set ourselves up for growth and, ultimately that desired job either as an executive in the private or public sector or an audit partner.
Candidates should celebrate this achievement, which would have taken at least seven years to attain, with many sacrifices, but it is just the beginning. The deliberate steps you take in the next three to five years after passing, will be a key determinant of your professional career trajectory. The hunger to learn and grow should remain and be intensified, after qualifying as a CA, there will be little structured learning, and you will ultimately be responsible for your development and how much you can achieve. Consistent and intentional investment in growth should thus be the order of the day.
Be deliberate about growth
Map your long-term career aspirations. Everything you choose to do from here should align with those aspirations. We have seen an exodus of recently qualified CA's, to Europe and America in the last few years. Again, growth should be top of mind as individuals assimilate into these organisations. If not, you become more of a tourist than a professional who undertook the journey to gain knowledge. This puts you in a situation where upon your return expectations of what you can do are high, however, what you have learnt has not adequately prepared you for the next phase, ending up with the market losing confidence in your ability. Given our small market, reputation unfortunately precedes you, if your professional competence and or ability falls short of required standards, it tends to be widely known, which makes it difficult for your career growth. Principles remain the same despite the market where you are; as such, they are transferrable.
Pick a boss in lieu of picking a job
Some will differ from me on this, but for me, a job is what you make it out to be. Every job has core deliverables, but there is always a component of what you make of it, and how you achieve these deliverables is also up to you. Due to the small size of our market, you can do a background check on any prospective employer or line manager and determine whether their style speaks to you and what you want to achieve.
If you pick the right job, you will likely have the right learning opportunities. At Deloitte, my most extensive learning came when I worked on a local bank's audit. I learnt from the clients who would later become my boss and job partner. Despite being a new manager, I was allowed to run one of the firm's biggest clients and a client where things worked as such dedicated my time during that tenure to understanding the industry. Thereafter, it was easier to articulate into the role of a Group Finance Manager at said client. At the time, the position had no defined job description. However, the experience greatly aided me to solidify my technical knowledge, which set me on the right path to transitioning into my current role as Bank Windhoek's CFO. If not for that experience, I would like to know how I could have performed in my current position.
Grab all opportunities presented to you
Sometimes, you define tasks as mundane. However, there is always an opportunity to learn and grow in all tasks. For example, your role could be to approve invoices for payment, instead of looking at this as just an approval of invoices, see it as an opportunity to understand what is happening in your organisation. In addition, in this era of technology, most documents are stored on shared platforms. It often takes the initiative to read and learn from the research and publications produced by others within your department. It may require a few extra hours, but the quicker you get to 10 000 hours (*), the better it is for your career development.
Spend time finding yourself as a professional
As a Chartered Accountant, you need to understand yourself, what you stand for, and your working style. This self-understanding makes adjusting and getting the maximum benefit from engaging with your colleagues or clients. It helps to stay at the audit firm for a few years after completing your traineeship. The Chartered Accountant journey is exciting when you are passionate about it.
(*) In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell, refer to the 10 000-hour rule where achieving true expertise in any skill is simply a matter of practicing, albeit in the correct way.