Each of us is accountable to something. Or someone. Organisations carry the same responsibility. In companies, accounting is the language of all business. Every business needs to be honest about its numbers. No fledging. No inflating. No exaggerating. Good accounting helps a business make decisions and plays a critical role in the planning and controlling processes. To get a better understanding of how companies balance books, and don’t go into the red, we sat down with a qualified CA, Nhyira, to learn more.
Meet Nhyira (CA)SA
Tell us a bit about your background.
My name is Nhyira Asante (p.s. you don’t say it, the way it’s spelt) and I’m a CA(SA) currently working as an investment analyst.
What made you decide to go into accounting?
The age-old question – well I’m in this specific field via my mom’s direction. She always wanted to be an accountant but didn’t get to be one until later on in life, so she encouraged me to pursue it. When I saw the stars aligning in terms of academics, I gave it a full hearted “go” and I’ve often looked back since then (I jest, it’s a pretty fulfilling career).
For those who don’t know, what does an accountant do?
An accountant essentially works at making sure the financial side of a business is kept in check by recording transactional information and then provides insight into what all the numbers mean.
What courses did you take to become an accountant?
I went to Wits and studied a Bachelor of Accounting Sciences in my undergrad and then a year of postgrad for my CTA (Certificate in the Theory of Accounting).
What additional certifications, exams, and memberships have you had to complete as part of your career journey?
As soon as CTA was done, I wrote my first Board exam which is a technical exam, and thereafter my second and final Board exam which is a more “practical” exam.
Are there different types of accountants?
Yes, we can break it down by qualification (there are professional accountants, chartered accounts, chartered certified accountants, management accountants etc.) but all with a similar focus on providing accurate financial information to assess a business’s performance / forecast future performance. Then there are the roles that accountants perform as well – they can be bookkeepers, financial managers, CFOs, investment analysts, entrepreneurs – any number of things.
What essential skills should every accountant have for success?
Key would having a good handle on the organisation and paying attention to detail.
Do aspiring accountants need to be good at math to succeed?
Fortunately, yes otherwise people would sue us consistently and constantly.
What qualities and traits do you need to succeed?
The traits that help me in my current role in a more personal sense a very strong prayer life for strength (the job is immensely challenging) and the ability to persevere no matter the challenges.
What are the daily challenges you face as an accountant?
Usual stress of meeting near term deadlines in the most efficient and accurate manner.
In what sectors can accountants work and where are they most sought after?
Luckily, we can work across sector – as long as there is a need for someone to understand financial information there will be a need for an accountant.
What are some misconceptions about being an accountant?
That we are boring, stingy, penny pushers that people should ignore.
The life of an accountant
What does a typical day in your life look like?
My journey is a little different from a typical accountant’s – I work in an investment bank so my day to day involves covering admin and transactional points that may arise on one of the deals (selling and buying corporate businesses and providing other strategic advice to company leaders) I handle – this includes preparing materials, taking notes, valuing companies etc.
When you started on this journey, what was your vision and mission?
- My vision was to help people with their businesses and financing so entrepreneurs would be able to execute on their dreams and visions.
- My mission also slowly became about debunking the information barrier that exists between people who are well versed in how to work in a corporate, investing etc. and those that don’t have access to that information.
What are some of the daily habits you do that contribute to your success?
- I try to take notes of everything I need to do, to help me keep track (I’ve always heard that a short pencil is better than a long memory)
- Motivating and challenging team members towards a greater common goal
- I exercise integrity and try to be reliable which results in more trust in the system for a more conducive work environment.
What’s the biggest sacrifice you’ve had to make, and would you make it again if necessary?
The biggest sacrifice is an ongoing motif in my current role – my job is quite intense, as a result, I’ve had to sacrifice quality time with family to cater to my job.
Challenges of being an accountant
Have you experienced any failures or setbacks as an accountant and what lessons did you learn from that experience?
- Definitely, in the words of Donnie McClurkin – “we don’t fall, we get up” (paraphrased).
- I had quite the challenge in my post grad year but managed to pass what is a dreaded year for most accounting students.
What do you know now about being an accountant that you didn’t know before you started your career?
Accountant roles post qualification are so wide and varied – it enables you to do anything you would want to do.
Who inspires you and pushes you to keep going?
I want to build a more beautiful life for my parents – the idea that I will be able to make that happen day one day keeps me going.
Is work-life balance something you can achieve in your job as an accountant?
In general – it is within reach however in my current role, its rare.
What are some non-negotiable things you practice in your role?
- Preparing for meetings
- Having a post debrief session with yourself to understand what was discussed in a meeting (Especially when there’s new information you’ve been exposed to)
- Being diligent and excellent in the work I submit to the team (to the best of my ability)
Do you have any apps or tools you use to stay organised?
I use Microsoft Outlook.
What words of encouragement or advice would you give someone looking to become an accountant?
- Know your why (purpose for pursuing this career) – once that is established and unlikely to change, you’ll be able to contextualise what you’re giving up getting your dream and decide whether it’s worth it or not.
- Always practise gratitude for any opportunity that is presented to you – it opens countless other doors and opportunities.
Accounting for something
When working with clients, what are the easiest and most challenging things you must deal with?
- Clients are easy to engage with generally, and it’s fun to win them over.
- They can also be quite slow in providing responses that you would need to action your own work which is challenging.
How important is teamwork in this field and how do you ensure you build a strong team?
Teamwork as in most fields is important – building a strong team takes intentionality in building trust and a safe space for team members to share their knowledge and ask questions.
What are the possible career paths for someone who has completed (or is about to complete) their accounting qualification?
Moving overseas using your qualification, financial manager, investment analyst, entrepreneur etc.
Your proudest moment in your career so far?
Qualifying as a chartered accountant.
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