Ayla Majid explains how accounting qualifications have allowed her to progress her career in business and transaction advisory services and break the 'glass ceiling' in leading organisations in Pakistan.
Why did you decide to become a finance professional?
I graduated with an MBA from a prestigious university. My first job entailed restructuring a portfolio of companies from across a variety of sectors including power, cement, sugar, technology, and oil and gas.
It sounds challenging, but I was lucky to gain so much multi-sector exposure at the outset of my career.
It also made me realise that, to work in the transaction advisory service business, I needed to advance my knowledge and skills in accounting.
ACCA offered an excellent curriculum and flexibility in terms of study and examination.
Throughout my 16-year career, my accounting skills and the continuous learning that ACCA offers me has helped me enormously.
What would you say to someone considering accountancy as a career?
Accounting opens up options for so many careers, not just one.
ACCA was ahead of the game in realising this and geared itself to serve many different sectors and industries, and many different roles within those industries.
In today's technology age, a key success factor is analysing and using global data for decision making. Training to be an accountant provides this fundamental skill.
What are the challenges you've experienced in your career to date?
There have been numerous challenges, but having overcome them, I think they ended up being opportunities that helped me grow.
Making space for myself in a work environment dominated primarily by men was a challenge. I had to break quite a number of 'glass ceilings' which raised my awareness of problems women face. I am now even more passionate about supporting women in their careers whenever I can.
Other challenges have included dealing with situations where I had to say no to corruption, stand up against unethical practices and see a way through an environment weighed down by red tape.
My support group, family and the ethical values laid down by ACCA supported me a great deal in facing these tough situations.
What are the opportunities you've experienced in your career to date?
Each of my challenges presented me with an opportunity and helped me progress to the next level! As the great poet Rumi said, 'As you start to walk out on the way, the way appears.'
In 2010, I was elected to the board of directors of the Islamabad Stock Exchange. I became the first female ever to be selected to sit on the board of any stock exchange in Pakistan.
My position was somewhat career defining in that not only did it help me change the dynamics of an organisation where only men had served, but it also set a precedent for other women.
I am a strong advocate of women being represented on boards, as it provides diversity and brings a unique perspective to organisational decision making. At the same time, it offers women an opportunity to act at strategic level.
Working in a developing country has also presented me with opportunities to grow my understanding and know-how, working on assignments that were firsts for me and stretched my experience.
I already mentioned the restructuring project of a multi-sector portfolio. I have also gained hands on experience of implementing large public-private partnerships in the form of Build Operate Transfer (BOT) projects in infrastructure.
Who has had the greatest impact on your career development and why?
My father, a successful chartered accountant and entrepreneur. His advice has had, and continues to have, a positive impact on my career development. I have also been lucky enough to work with some very smart people from different parts of the world, which, too, helped me grow professionally and personally.
Learning from the teachings of great historical figures, such as Prophet Muhammad, Nelson Mandela, Jinnah, Martin Luther King and Rumi have also had a great, inspirational impact on my career development and perseverance.
What does being a Council member mean to you?
First of all, it gives me an absolute sense of pride. This is a position of great responsibility which entails looking after the interest of stakeholders, including members, students, employers, the organisation itself (ACCA), and society at large.
I'm particularly passionate about developing markets, so that ACCA continues to be successful and can enhance the recognition of its members and increase their employability.
The Council has to think globally in terms of how it serves the needs of the profession and various industries, amid shifting economic patterns.
But the Council has a rich composition of expertise and experience, enabling it to come up with creative solutions.
What does being a member of a professional body mean to you?
It gives me a sense of support, a strong network, access to latest knowledge and research, discipline, the highest standard of ethics, and much more.
What are the biggest issues facing the profession now? What about in five and 10 years' time?
Global dynamics are changing and will continue to change very rapidly. The profession has to be ready to serve those ever-changing conditions and needs. We also have to be prepared to move in line with new trends demanded by global economies and transnational organisations. Overall, the profession has to equipped to be able to serve in different jurisdictions while adhering to common goals and vision.
What does public value mean to you?
Public value means inclusive growth, offering opportunities and benefits to all segments of the society. No profession or organisation can ignore this fundamental theme. Any strategic decision must take into account the impact this has on society at large. Eco-friendly considerations, equal employment opportunities, CSR, and creating trust and transparency are some examples of creating public value.
For ACCA, public value is at the heart of every strategy.
What's the most important part of your role on Council?
The global footprint of ACCA and market development are some of the issues that excite me. A key role of being on the Council is working with other members on devising the future strategy for market growth and being a strong contributor to public value.