It was no surprise when Marlene Pillay decided to become an accountant. Her favourite subjects at school included mathematics and accountancy, after all.
What does an accountant do?
Accountants study how businesses track their income and assets over time. They analyse, report and give advice on the financial dealings of organisations and individuals, and advise on associated record-keeping and compliance requirements. Accountants engage in a wide variety of activities besides preparing financial statements and recording business transactions, including computing costs and efficiency gains from new technologies; participating in strategies for mergers and acquisitions; quality management; developing and using information systems to track financial performance; tax strategy; and health care benefits management.
Why did you choose this profession?
My favourite subjects in school were Mathematics, Accountancy and Biology. We tend to excel at the things we enjoy doing so I kind of knew that I would be crunching figures for a living. Either that or living out my parents’ dream of me becoming a nurse!
What training did you undergo?
I completed Practical Accounting & Accounting I & II at Damelin. I have also completed various accounting-related refresher courses since then.
What is it that you do?
My primary task is that of being the accountant, and all related financial responsibilities. I must make sure all suppliers are paid timeously. I’m always on the lookout for competitive pricing for services. The second half of my job title means that the entire admin responsibility falls under my portfolio: anything from arranging a driver, to following up on travel arrangements with the travel agent to arranging visas at very short notice. I am faced with anything that needs to be done to ensure the bureau runs smoothly and the staff have the resources to function efficiently.
I will NEVER be bored. I enjoy the fact that I have no idea what my day will be like and that I must always be prepared to face the challenge as it surfaces.
Anything you don’t like?
I often find myself in a situation where I am unable to finalise a job because I need third party input. This becomes really frustrating for me, but like everything else, I find ways to work around it.
I have to mention the bureau’s month-long coverage of the 2010 Soccer World Cup as an event all of us will remember. It was really hard work for all concerned, the logistics proved to be a nightmare. The coverage was brilliant.
Your future goals?
I want to complete my BCom Degree. Also our bureau is growing at a very healthy pace and a growing office comes with the obvious growth in admin. I am working on streamlining processes to ensure smooth operation.
Experience or training?
Experience is definitely more important than formal training. No amount of training can ever teach you about handling stress, having patience when you feel like you don’t have any, and being tolerant under very tense conditions. I have learnt a great deal from our Bureau Chief, who has been in the industry for over 25 years.
What defines a ‘good’ accountant?
You must be very flexible. Also, irrespective of what position you hold in an office, all levels of respect are very important. There are some situations that require me to play hard ball.
Advice for newcomers?
Be prepared for hard work. You have got to accept that you win some and you lose some, but you must never lose sight of what your purpose is. Always do your best.
What qualifications do I need?
The first phase towards becoming qualified begins with registering at any accredited institution that offers a Bachelor of Commerce: Accounting or a Bachelor of Science: Accounting and Finance degree or an equivalent diploma. A National Senior Certificate that meets the requirements for a diploma or degree course is a prerequisite.
To become a registered Professional Accountant (SA) you will need to complete a degree or Diploma from a South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA) -accredited institution as well as a three year learnership at an accredited training centre, or complete six years of verifiable experience. You will also need to write the SAIPA Professional Evaluations exam to show your ability to integrate your academic knowledge with your practical experience.
What subjects do I need?
Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: Mathematics, acounting, economics, bsiness science and/or information technology.
Where can I study?
University of Pretoria
Bachelor of Commerce: Accounting Sciences
University of Stellenbosch
Bachelor of Accounting
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Bachelor of Commerce: Accounting for Chartered Accountants
Bachelor of Accounting Science
University of the Witwatersrand
Bachelor of Accounting Science; Bachelor of Commerce: Accounting Sciences
University of Johannesburg
Bachelor of Accounting; Bachelor of Commerce: Accounting Sciences
Cape Peninsula University of Technology
National Diploma: Accounting
College of Cape Town (Private FET)