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My ACA experience: Carol

Carol wanted to become a well-rounded business leader, and felt that the ACA would give her these skills. With a passion for languages and travelling, Carol wanted to get ahead in her career and felt that adding a finance element to her skill set would give her access to leadership positions. Carol now works as a Finance Director, Operations at L'Oréal and shares her experience of working in business.

Carol Handa

Carol Handa Finance Director, Operations, L'Oréal

ICAEW route: Graduate, Non-finance degree

Industry: Business

Location: London, UK

Carol's story...

I came from a languages background, having majored in Spanish and German in my A-levels and then adding Portuguese in to my degree at university, yet with a distinct passion for all things mathematical.

I always felt that with my strong languages background, adding a finance dimension would enable me to become a well-rounded business leader. Many CEO’s and Board members are chartered accountants and this has always proved an inspiration to me.

I was able to combine both my creative and my more analytical sides to not just understand and interpret business results, but to add real business value to the organisations I represent. The accountant’s role is no longer about reading a P&L or performing an audit, it is about how finance can provide the underlying foundations for how business decisions are made and overall strategies are determined and that’s what I love most about my role. 

Professionally, I love using my skills and experience to add real business value to the company I work for. The credibility I have both because of my professional qualification and the perspective I’m able to bring means my opinion is sought on a wide variety of business issues, not just the typical “finance” ones, and I feel like I’m an integral part of the business. 

If you're a new ACA student, my advice is to be passionate about what you do and always challenge the status quo - remember a role in Finance is what you make of it, it can take you into any industry in any country and lead to an amazing future, but that is all in your hands – make every move count.

I believe a perception exists of accountants to be number-crunching maths geeks who love doing tax returns, never go anywhere without a calculator, and can be a little dull! That’s certainly the stereotype I’ve come across. But people fail to realise that there are accountants in all industries from the super-cool tech start-up to global fashion brands and everything in between. 

The accountants I’ve met in industry have invariably been passionate about their sector, have been extremely commercial, and never dull. I have often been told that I don’t fit the mould of a stereotypical accountant, either due to my background or my personality type but more and more I think this classical stereotype is disappearing. I trained to become an ACA with a zoologist, a geographer and a computer scientist amongst others and we all have something very different to bring to the finance community. 

I've always been interested in travelling. Whilst working at KPMG I actually took 2 months unpaid leave to go to Sierra Leone and work with a start-up charity, working with street children to help relocate them with families and set up an education system for them, which was an incredible experience. 

I also had the opportunity to work in the KPMG Madrid office for just less than a year on a secondment which was amazing in many respects – it gave me the chance to improve my business Spanish as well as work in a different function with a new set of people, absorb the Spanish culture and enjoy a lot of tapas! Latterly at L’Oreal I am regularly in Paris for training and meetings as well as places like Marrakech for conferences. 

Carol Handa L'Oreal

UK and Ireland financial director Carol Handa tells us about her journey to L'Oreal and her experience of the ACA.

Carol Handa

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