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.

Cindy McKay
Audit BEE group

I am a mother of two young boys, a vibrant driven Chartered Accountant who loves working with her clients. I started my practice in 2011 after realising that I have not met my dream yet. I knew I was missing out on something in life and took the plunge into the unemployed universe. This started my career as entrepreneur, business owner and the start of finding my forever “job”. My practice is now three partners strong, delivers multi-million revenues annually and delivers various services to clients varying from SMME to blue chip.

I chose the accounting profession because it gave me such a wide option of choices. I always knew that I wanted to be a wife and mother but still be able to practice what I enjoy. Being a CA meant I could be almost anything, ranging from corporate financial advisor to baker, as long as I knew how to run a business I could determine the terms of my involvement. Before we had kids, I enjoyed being part of KPMG and the busy corporate life. Once the kids arrived and I started my practice, I was in charge of determining the effort I put in. When the kids needed me most, I was able to scale down and as they developed independence, I could increase my workload again. I was the creator of my own success and workload. This was all possible because I am a CA, the options really are limitless.

I completed my Accounting Science degree at University of Pretoria and my Hons degree at University of South Africa. During my Hons and CTA year, I also started my articles at Grant Thornton. Starting my articles while still completing my Hons and CTA meant that I could finally see how practically theory gets applied. This was the deal breaker for me. We were a group of clerks doing the Hons and CTA part time together. The support and emotional strength of a group of friends kept us all going through the tough times. My mom also played a huge supportive role in my life, always reminding me that this stage in life will also come to pass. It is important to always keep perspective in life in all situations.

Being a CA really equips you to become anything you want. The world really is your oyster, as the saying goes. My profession has enabled me to have a holistic approach to business, which is crucial when you are an entrepreneur. You need to understand your client’s needs and ensure you deliver to his/her expectations. My time spent at KPMG was invaluable to me.- The amount of soft skills they taught me has made the world of difference in who I am today. I did not realise at the time when and where I would need the skills, but today I recognise the importance of those skills daily. 

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Being a female CA has always been more challenging than expected. Women have always been in the minority in the profession and I do not think women support each other enough. It is so important to remember as a woman to retain your feminine characteristics and not to compete on a male orientation. Men and women are different but we need to celebrate our differences and applaud our strengths. We must enjoy equal opportunities without all being the same. Young females should be mentored and supported to stay in the profession after child birth. Child birth should not be seen as the end of you career to the top but merely a short term pause. Every person determines their own top, and that determines how successful you they been in life or not. Young professionals do not always identify opportunities that are right in front of them.

I think our institute SAICA really supports our young CA’s through various technical forums as well as networking opportunities to start off career paths for young people.

The profession in the future will be much more digital, real time information and we will be valued by our clients for our advice and analysis instead of our data capturing abilities. Computers will be capturing data in the future, but how you interpret that data and identify opportunities for your clients will be what ensures your survival or not. Practices will be integrated into full spectrum business service hubs instead of only being an auditing practice.

The accounting practice of old, that has existed in the same manner for the last 30 years is currently undergoing a rapid evolution. Accounting practices are no longer the introvert bean counter that records historical transactions and months after the date report to the client that in history a profit was recorded. Clients want real time information. They want to know what the future result will be and their accountants must be reachable most hours. The cloud and social media has rushed in the era of always being connected and accountants must adapt with the environment to grow and succeed.

Family structure and support is crucial and I also feel that, that determines how successful you are. My mom has been an absolute pillar of strength for me. She helps me raise my kids, grow my business daily and stay humble to my roots. Without her continued support and guidance during my entire life, I would not have been able to become a CA nor a business owner.