Merina swaps the backroom for the boardroom
The shy girl from a humble family emerges as an inspiring leader with ACCA
"You only have one life to live, and you have to live it with purpose"
Merina Abu Tahir’s ACCA story is about an introverted, bookish girl who yearned to be an accountant because she thought it was a job where she could work in a quiet backroom away from public gaze.
But that’s not the way Merina’s tale unfolded.
Yes, she became an accountant with ACCA. But far from consigning her to a future of anonymity, it propelled Merina to the status of globe-trotting professional, a leader of several businesses, as a director, and as an inspiration to young people who don’t feel they have it in them to make an impact.
‘I was a nerd, I admit it!’ said Merina. ‘I was shy and didn’t like to talk in public. Mum said I was intense.
‘All I knew was study, and I worked hard. I never had much fun till I was 21 and I had passed my last ACCA exam. That's when life began.’
Merina chose accountancy and ACCA early on because she found that it gave her the most flexibility to find her own career path later on. It was also the most diverse and global qualification.
‘At that stage I didn’t know what I would do. It was too soon. I was too shy. Dad asked me what I wanted to do when I had qualified. I said: “I’m not certain what they are yet, but I want to do great things”.
‘I knew that ACCA could take me anywhere. I could grow with it. And I did.’
Merina came from a humble family, but outstanding school grades earned her a Government scholarship to study abroad, and she travelled to Nottingham in the UK to begin her ACCA journey.
She wasted no time. Her ACCA exams were finished in two-and-a-half years.
‘I qualified fast not because it was easy, but because I didn’t want to go through the trauma of the tough exams again,’ said Merina.
In another three years she had worked in audit in London, qualified ACCA, married her husband, had a son and moved back to Malaysia. It was the start of a career that has included spells in Dubai as well as the UK and Malaysia, including many senior jobs in an array of industries as well as boardrooms while juggling her roles as a wife and mum to four children.
So much for the backroom.
Merina has also worked hard to encourage people who have been under-represented in professional life.
"I am Malaysian Everywoman. If I can do it anyone can"
She has advocated strongly for more chances for women; for people from all races; for young people who didn’t have connections, and for people with disadvantages to find opportunities in business.
‘I like to think that they will see me – someone who isn’t from a rich family or a super-genius – and know that they can find a good career too. I am Malaysian Everywoman. If I can do it anyone can. This has become my passion and my purpose.’
Merina has served ACCA on the local advisory committee, as Malaysia’s International Assembly member, and now on Council. She never expected to win election.
‘My daughter filmed my election video, and I was so certain I wasn’t going to make it I said if I did, I would take her with me on an all-expenses paid trip to London.
Much more fun
‘It was an expensive video.’
Now Merina wants to share the same messages she has voiced in Malaysia to accountants globally.
‘You only have one life to live, and you have to live it with purpose. Clarity of purpose anchors us in being the best and getting the best.
‘It’s also much more fun than hiding away in a corner.’