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My ACA experience: Sithandazile

Sithandazile came to the UK form Zimbabwe and studied an accountancy apprenticeship with AAT and then found her way to become a Chartered Accountant.

Sithandazile Nyamusara

Sithandazile Nyamusara Financial Accountant, The Commonwealth Secretariat

ICAEW route: AAT-ACA Fast Track

Industry: Corporate finance

Location: London

Sithandazile's story

Tell us about your career journey and what you do day-to-day in your role. 

I came to the UK from Zimbabwe as a teenager, halfway into my A-Levels. University was not possible as my mother could not afford international fees at the time, so I took the AAT apprenticeship route under the training of a firm of Chartered Accountants here in the UK. I qualified and became an ICAEW member in 2015. Since leaving practice, I have held a number of roles including CFO for a small charity. My current role is with a multi-national organisation in London, where I am responsible for leading a team of qualified and part qualified accountants in the preparation of financial statements, management of the external audit and the entire treasury function. 

Why do you think it is so important for workplaces to support and celebrate diversity? 

The reality is that we live in a culturally rich and diverse society where every life deserves to be respected. In a culturally diverse and empowered workplace, employers benefit from a thriving workforce for optimum productivity and added value to their organisations. It is therefore important for employers to create inclusive workplaces as this allows staff to feel supported and valued regardless of their background. Staff who are supported and valued tend to be highly productive. By supporting and celebrating diversity, workplaces will attract and retain the best talent. This is good for an organisation’s own brand and the wider economy.

What are the challenges of being a Black student/member in accountancy?

As a trainee I had lots of support from my sponsoring firm, who also provided an inclusive work environment. However, I remember sitting most of my ICAEW exams as the only black student in the entire hall. This lack of diversity indeed led friends in other organisations to give up their accounting careers because they struggled to fit in. Instead, they opted for careers in health and social care which appeared to be more inclusive. Another key challenge for BAME accountants in the workplace is that there is still a lack of equal opportunities, for example in cases where promotions and jobs are not always given on the basis of merit.  

Do you support any initiatives at work or outside of work to support or promote diversity? Does your role as an ICAEW Chartered Accountant/ACA student give you a platform to do this?

I work in a highly diverse multi-national environment and enjoy the fact that all aspects of diversity are celebrated. Staff are encouraged to engage in open discussions about diversity for example in terms of race and gender, notwithstanding their level of seniority. I actively support and encourage other accountants and students within my own network of friends and am a member of New Gen Accountants, a support network for BAME accountants. The ongoing work of promoting diversity and equal opportunities across the board has certainly picked up pace in the UK and USA recently partly due to the George Floyd case. However, I think we still have a long way to go.

What advice do you have for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students considering a career as an ICAEW Chartered Accountant?

I would encourage BAME students to choose the ICAEW because it offers great career prospects and prepares them for a wide range of roles. Although BAME accountants are under-represented in many boardrooms, we know that a significant number of FTSE100 Company leaders are ICAEW qualified. The ICAEW exams are highly challenging as every examination paper provides coverage of most of the syllabus. This means that the ICAEW thoroughly equips its students with a good breadth and depth of technical knowledge and skills in the key areas of audit, accounting, taxation and business management. 

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