The more we talk, the stronger the bonds become. It’s the same approach we use when identifying professionals to share on their career journey. That way, entrants in the job market can access a plethora of information that’s practical in their respective fields.
It’s time for a bigger discussion about finance and accounting and we had a chat with Liteboho Semoko on it. Liteboho is a Charted Accountant (CA) who graduated from Centre for Accounting Studies in 2016. She’s currently a Senior Accountant at Minet Lesotho.
Can you give an overview of the duties, functions and responsibilities of your job?
I have to ensure that debts are collected so that we have the money to invest and generate investment income. All records must be complete and accurate to make clients communication faithful and honest.
Also to maintain an effective and efficient control environment to minimise the risk of errors, and therefore preparing fair and true financial statements for audit at year end.
But before year end, I prepare management accounts in accordance with management information needs to help in informed short-term decision-making. I hope that adequately sums up what I do.
What are the skills that are most important for a position in this field? How did you learn these skills?
First of all, Microsoft Excel! Because accountants deal with a lot of information; data manipulation skills are very important and Ms. Excel is the best thing that’s happened to financial data. And I learned this during my time in audit, otherwise organisations like CBS offer such trainings.
Second and equally important is business knowledge. I call it a skill because we don’t go to school to understand our employer’s business. One must acquire that knowledge themselves. We have a forum for this where I work.
Third would be the soft skills: attention to detail because money issues must be accurate. Writing and communication skills. Must be both team player and leader. Presentation skills are also very vital.
What do you find unique about your career field?
Its dynamic nature. Everything is always changing which creates an unfillable gap between what you are expected to know either by your employer or by your clients and what you actually know! The need to learn is never met and that’s exciting.
Also, the finance and accounting career is the road on which business is driven. If it’s bumpy, you’ll tell by the business collapsing. I enjoy the idea of that power.
What sacrifices have you had to make to succeed in this field, and do you feel the sacrifices were worth it?
Time. I have sacrificed a lot of time for friends and church, and socializing, luckily my family lives out of town so thank God for phones. And it definitely was worth it.
You get what you give. Had I put in less time, I’d have been far behind.
Are there organizations you are expected to join?
Yes! The accounting profession is governed by different professional bodies around the world. Currently, Lesotho offers CA (ACCA) which is the biggest global accounting body from the UK. After three years of academic training with ACCA, you graduate to become an affiliate.
Next you need three years of relevant experience, based on which then LIA (Lesotho Institute of Accountants) will grant you Chartered Accountant membership. LIA has measures that they use to test the validity of your experience.
You may or may not continue your membership with ACCA post school but you ought to register with LIA to be recognized as a qualified Accountant in Lesotho.
In what ways is this occupation changing?
The industry has moved away from transactional accountants whose role mainly was to report on historical data. In today’s environment, all that’s needed for such is a clerk and the systems automatically generate the required reports.
So the occupation has become more business orientated. Technology has disrupted business, markets are softening for many businesses and my CEO now expects sales or at least sales leads from me, the accountant.
Information today has become more important compared to earlier periods and the Accountant today is more involved in driving business while maintaining accurate and useful corporate reporting. There’s a tricky balance to strike.
What should one do to prepare for emerging trends and changes in this field?
Read. That’s the main thing, read! Pay your subscriptions with LIA for updates and workshops. Subscribe to ACCA as well, they always have updates on their website for subscribed members. There’s also the ACCA app that every Accountant should have on their phones.
I will also encourage people to spend more time on LinkedIn than on Facebook. Because that’s where you can interact with other professionals and even executives on trends and changes.
Also, befriend your boss. They’re always aware of current important affairs.
What is the employment outlook like in your career field? How much demand is there for people in this career?
On this part I’ll shine the light on LIA. I think they have some great plans for the profession so let’s just wait a bit to see what they will roll out in the near future. I think they are working on a demand for accountants in terms of the quality they’re creating. I love the sound of the institute at the moment and for that reason I believe the employment outlook in the field is great. There’s a bright future for the profession.
Can you suggest some ways a person could obtain the experience necessary to enter this field?
Audit Firms! I wish the audit industry had the capacity to accommodate every graduate right after college because the audit firm’s training is invaluable. The exposure it affords accountants is beyond measure, it is also a rich environment for the required work ethic of an Accountant.You could easily become a lead player with audit experience in this field.
Accounting firms also offer a good work experience. Another route would be financial reporting for SMEs and start-ups! They’ll give you a fair appreciation and understanding of business, as well as a platform to apply accounting standards, the Companies Act and the Income Tax Act.
Do you have any special word of warning or encouragement as a result of your experience?
Warning: it’s hard! I don’t know how many times I’ve cried in the bathroom because of work. But nothing is easy in this life and that’s your saving grace: that everyone is having it hard.
The beginning of your career means time to work hard. That foundation and reputation is very important. After you’ve done well then you can start working smart. This advice is for the normal people, not for the outliers.
Go an extra mile especially when you’re only starting out. Put in extra hours. Do the things no one told you to do, things beyond your scope. You want to fail big while you’re still small. While the impact of your errors is still immaterial for the company, and bank on time.
Hard work alone does not guarantee you progress. You must make sure that necessary people recognise your contribution. Ensure that your boss knows what you do. Stay up close with the boss because they have a great influence on your growth and advancement.
Respect must be your core value, to give it and to refuse disrespect.
It does not end with technical expertise, relationships matter so be a good person and with time, things normally fall into place. But first you must have a vision and a plan of where you want to go so that you understand the amount of work that’s required to get you where you want.
Make yourself proud!