To celebrate international youth day, The Accountant and International Accounting Bulletin asks professionals aged under 35 to share their thoughts on the profession: why they qualify as accountants, whether it was challenging and, now that they are in, how they see the profession and where it is going.

Celeste Hendrick
Donna HD Chartered Accountants Inc.

I became a Chartered Accountant at the age of 23 and shortly thereafter started my own business (from scratch; without even one client). The business grew unbelievably fast (our turnover and client-base doubled in the past two years) and has been successful for just over five years now. This was always my career highlight.

I was selected as one of the top 35 under 35s in 2014 and I was also selected by SAICA to form part of their “What makes a CA (SA) different” campaign. Our advert featured in the Accountancy SA and Finweek magazines as well as on social media. 

After achieving outstanding grade 12 results, my opportunities were endless. I decided to use my good qualities and to make an entrance into the financial ‘numbers’ world.

I knew that by studying full time, seven years would be required to become a CA, and to a 17 year old that sounds a lot like insanity. During my matric year, I decided to study part-time whilst also completing my articles. So, I went for a few interviews and started working at a medium sized firm at the age of 18. I then completed my BCOMPT degree and CTA (honours) part-time through University of South Africa (UNISA), as well as my articles in four years. I then became a manager and wrote and passed my first and second Board Exams.

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Studying part-time was hard, but the support and experience obtained from my colleagues was a big advantage towards my studies.

CAs are believed to be the people running the business world. It is common for CAs to be incorporators of new businesses as well as business leaders, and just by looking at the stats I believe this is definitely true.

The biggest challenge for me was to maintain the balance between work, socialising and studies. If only time was not limited. I followed a strict schedule that literally left me with enough time to take a shower and grab something to eat before catching up on some much needed rest. I had trouble keeping social relationships together because my life turned into a big focus session. I realised that something needed to be done and allowed myself Fridays off, and one hour each day of doing whatever I felt like. I believe it was this period in my life that made me realise that as a person and as a CA, time is my most valuable asset.

It is very comforting to know that the future CAs will be people who will continue to grow on the CA legacy – they will with us strive to leave a legacy of purpose and to always keep the message out there that CAs are different – they are the leaders in business.

I believe that the profession will become even more renowned. Becoming a CA requires a lot of dedication- studying for seven years is a long time. It is the same as becoming a doctor, however, we study the body of tax, auditing and accounting. This might be the reason why CAs will have the stigma as ‘the people who knows everything about finance’.

Our generation’s perseverance will have the biggest impact. We might not always have the answers to everything, but are determined enough and have a wide spectrum of knowledge in accounting, tax and auditing, to get the answers.

Psychological barriers become your biggest enemy. It is important to know yourself! Learn your strengths and apply them. Learn your weaknesses and overcome them. Push yourself to overcome things that are well beyond your comfort level. The race is long, and in the end it is only with yourself.

For those of us who have followed our dreams and were brave enough to follow the CA path without real knowledge of what it consists of, other than to grow through experience, we have been fortunate to learn that there is more to the profession than just the CA (SA) you can put behind your name.