Ricochet News

Choosing Mzansi over foreign shores

JUNE 28, 2017
Choosing Mzansi over foreign shores

Many young professionals jump at the opportunity to work in London for an extended stay. The attraction is undeniable: affordable travel, the lure of foreign currency and the excitement of living abroad. Johannesburg professional and partner in assurance at EY, Gail Moshoeshoe took another route after a stint overseas.

“I fell in love with London,” says chartered accountant [CA(SA)] Gail Moshoeshoe. She is no boring bean counter, and like many in her profession, the term irks her: she works hard and plays hard.

Moshoeshoe chose to do her traineeship at one of the Big Five accounting firms EY, after completing her degree at the University of Johannesburg. But her relationship with EY started in matric; when she was offered a bursary to study. She commends ‘their incredible support’ throughout her studies.

Then in 2010, in the final year of her articles, she received an unexpected offer, a management role. “My heart was set on working in London, so I hadn’t anticipated staying on. EY didn’t want to lose me, and they offered me a four month secondment to London which started in the January following my articles!”

The then 25 year old leapt at the opportunity to work abroad and help out another EY team at a busy time of the year. But the placement came with adjustments.

“It was the first time living outside my parents’ home. I even shrunk my laundry!  But I navigated my way around domestic and professional hurdles.

“I gained a big win from the secondment overseas – a network of relationships that I can still call on today, instead of just looking at them as names on the EY network.”

In fact, it is her ability to communicate and strategise rather than just her technical ability that landed her a plum position as a partner at EY South Africa. Moshoeshoe is ‘immensely proud’ of her promotion to partner in July 2016, just eight years after joining the firm.

At 30 years old she was the youngest partner at EY in Africa.

But asked the most defining moment of her life, she responds with the disarming honesty of a millennial: “When I bought my own home a few years ago. After I’d signed the papers with the estate agent and the bank, I realised I was a grown-up.

“I couldn’t ‘just up and go’ anymore. I had the responsibility of a bond, a domestic and gardener.”           

Nonetheless choosing to forgo employment overseas for a career in South Africa was a difficult decision. “Working overseas is something that society sells to you as the dream,” says Moshoeshoe.

She looks wistful for a nanosecond before her practical nature jolts her back to earth with a bump. These days she channels her inner traveller through jaunts to jazz clubs in trendy places like Maboneng and by local excursions to other parts of the country.       

Becoming a partner at 30 wasn’t incidental, but rather the product of years of accelerated learning experiences. “A senior partner advised me at times when I wanted out, ‘It will be tough, it will be uncomfortable and you will even step on a few toes along the way, as long as you know you are doing the right thing’.

“And I am fearless about doing the right thing. Sometimes it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.  

“My journey to partnership wasn’t just about the client work; I volunteered for projects and made myself known.  Things like helping my market segment leader with different proposals, to understanding our service offerings and finding ways to get more clients. I did administration, took notes, and learned as much as I could about the business.” 

Moshoeshoe may be based in South Africa, but she certainly hasn’t been left behind by her friends working in other parts of the world.

In her most innovative project to date, she has worked with the EY robotics team to set up EY’s Assurance Robotics team. They have developed a number of “bots” that run repetitive audit tasks in seconds, saving audit teams hours in mundane effort.

“It is such a joy working with the audit trainees to build the bots;   seeing their excitement when they realise that they will be able to spend more time performing analyses and making judgements, as opposed to ’ticking and bashing’.”

Moshoeshoe highlights the importance of critical learning in the CA(SA) profession. “One of the most  

exciting competencies I have mastered in recent months was a 18 month global and mentorship programme geared at executives in the partner promotion pipeline. Aside from the perks of regular travel to places like Dubai and Amsterdam, we were exposed to some of the best course material in the world, including INSEAD lecturers.”

She particularly enjoyed the mentorship part of the programme, which taught important fundamentals: managing under pressure, and boosting her levels of energy and those of her team. 

“My biggest learning was something that many speak of, but which only hit home for me last year. There’s a lot to be said for embracing change. It makes your life full. Everything from getting married, having babies, to choosing a career here in South Africa despite current economic perceptions.

”The message that I’m driving as a young leader is the importance of adapting to change, especially change created against our will. With the upcoming changes in our financial services industry and the auditing profession, there are many opportunities for young CAs in our country. This kind of change can show us what we are capable of and I am excited to inspire others to join the movement.