While there will always be a demand for those who have dreamed of accountancy since they were young, those who have come to the world of finance via one, or more, completely different careers or qualifications can bring a unique set of experiences and a new perspective to potential employers.
Khadija Afzal was born in Lahore, Pakistan, into a Muslim family. Her mother is a teacher and her father is an enterprise resource planning consultant working in senior management in a private company. As the only daughter, Khadija enjoyed the full support of her parents and, when they saw her strengths in education, there was one career that seemed obvious.
‘From childhood I was good in science subjects, so my parents really wanted me to become a doctor,’ explains Khadija. And it wasn’t just her parents for whom medicine was an attractive choice. ‘It’s a highly respected profession and you're really helping people in pain... so I decided to become a doctor.’
Khadija completed her Matric exams followed by her FSc pre-medical qualification. She then took her Medical and Dental College Admission Test (MDCAT), a competitive exam for the selection of future doctors in Pakistan. But while Khadija got selected for private medical schools, she didn’t get into the government medical school and this resulted in cost implications and a difficult decision because, in Pakistan, there is no student loan system and it is down to the individual’s family to pay the fees. Therefore, Khadija needed to think of a Plan B.
‘I wanted to do something business related and accountancy is the language of business, so it grabbed my attention,’ she says. ‘But I also wanted something versatile, something more than accountancy. And it turns out ACCA is a very versatile professional qualification!’
Khadija was further encouraged by her father’s experience: ‘He’s worked in the business market for the past 25 years, so he has observed ACCA-qualified professionals closely and also has had the chance to work alongside them. All that really helped me in deciding too.’
It was, she says, a difficult decision: ‘It’s such a 360-degree change, but I just believe in one thing – that you'll never grow if you’re not ready to come out of your comfort zone. So I took it as a challenge for myself.’
Pursuing a new path
Khadija believes that the dedication and focus that she showed in her medical training have been invaluable qualities while pursuing her new career path. She is particularly interested in finance management and tax and has impressive plans for the future.
‘My dream job is to become an entrepreneur,’ she says. ‘It first entered my mind after observing fewer women in business in Pakistan. I can motivate and urge more women to come into this field and start exploring the business world.
‘ACCA provides me with the opportunity to master the financial side of business. For a business to succeed, it needs to be profitable but, more than that, it needs to be intelligently managed from a financial perspective. My business idea is to connect with people and provide financial management services and financial investment planning services and taxation services, especially urging women to engage in investment-related opportunities.
‘I'm the only and first female who decided to pursue the ACCA Qualification in my family, so I consider it my job to help other women to achieve professional qualifications in Pakistan too.’