Interview with Frances-Ann Ali, ACCA

Frances-Ann Ali, Financial Assistant and Voucher Examiner (Accounts Payables), US Embassy - Qatar

Can you talk a little about your background?

I’m originally from the beautiful twin-island state of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. However, I moved to Qatar to take up a job offer.

Why a career in accountancy?

I excelled in accounting at secondary school. I also found a taste for it by taking advantage of opportunities to act as treasurer and in similar roles over the years because I liked handling money and accounting for it.

How did you end up choosing ACCA?

After secondary school, I did an associate’s degree in management with accounting in which I performed very well. Along the way one of my lecturers encouraged me to choose ACCA. Fortunately, he also facilitated a couple of the courses I took for ACCA years later.

I’m now an ACCA member, which means I’m globally relevant, understood, respected and accepted. I also expect to be awarded an MBA specialising in strategic planning from the Edinburgh Business School of Heriot-Watt University.

Did you encounter any obstacles while studying for the ACCA qualification?

When I started I was doing a full-time on-your-feet job during the day and took classes at night. Not surprisingly, I was tired and slept for about 15 minutes during classes most days and ate snacks or fast food for dinner. By the time I got home I was too tired to review anything, far less do homework before bed.

What advice would you give to others considering ACCA?

Set a plan, write it down and STICK TO IT!

Also, measure yourself regularly against that plan and make adjustments as needed to stay the course. There is a saying: ‘My people perish for lack of vision.’ That vision to me is more than the one you see in your mind because it is easy to forget something that at the moment stands out in your mind when you are not focused on it. When studying, I develop a detailed study plan for each subject that includes the total number of hours I ought to commit, the specific topics, time of the day and duration of sessions. I literally write this down on a calendar and stick it to a wall that I see all the time. I also make use of the calendar and pop-up reminder on my mobile phone. This is a tested and proven technique.

What advice would you give to people combining ACCA studies with a demanding job?

Donde hay gana hay maña! Or in English: where there is a will, there is a way. The decision to combine ACCA with a demanding job requires commitment, persistence, discipline and perspiration. Know yourself and what works for you. There are unlimited options on the internet, free ones too, to understand your personality type and the way you learn best; invest a little time to look these up and help yourself to help yourself!

How did you find your current job?

I targeted the company I wanted to work for and found out as much as I could about them. I also spoke to people I felt might be able to assist. I attended several free CV writing sessions, spoke to numerous people in senior-level positions, researched CV writing techniques and watched countless Youtube videos. I give my elevator pitch and demonstrate my uniqueness for the position in a way that makes the person reading it want to know more. I also took relevant online courses to enhance weak skill areas and checked the company’s website for job postings every day until the one I was interested in was advertised.

Apart from technical skills, what are your most valuable soft or transferable skills?

I have a weakness for taking the lead. I constantly take the initiative in all areas of my life and sometimes have to restrain myself so as not to appear too pushy. There is an argument that leaders are made and therefore the skills are not transferable, but that theory has been refuted several times over. My listening and personal development abilities are also exceptional and very much transferable.

Share a quote that has inspired you in your career journey

My father always quotes Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: ‘The heights that great men have reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.’

Frances-Ann Ali

What piece of music best describes your work ethic?

The theme song from ‘The Last Dragon’ by Dwight David:

‘Take life one day at a time,’
That’s what a wise man said to me.
He said, ‘Life, in all its complexity
Is the ultimate test for you and me.’
When you walk holding your head up high
For the masters watching you from the sky,
I know not what trouble lies ahead.
Before you fight, use your head.
It’s time to leave my nest where you were born,
This journey you must make alone.
(Spread your wings and fly)
There’s a power deep inside you, an inner strength
You'll find in time of need.
(The Glow)
The journey now before you is the final test.
You've learned your lesson well.
(I can teach you no more)
There’s a power deep inside you, an inner strength
You'll find in time of need.
(The Glow)
You are the Last Dragon.
You possess the power of the Glow.

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