Louise was working as a Senior Associate at PwC, and had just completed her ACA qualification. She found herself at a crossroads, struggling to decide what career path to take after qualification. Having always held a keen interest in International Development she contacted AfID.
Louise spent three months volunteering at three organisations that mitigate the impact of AIDS and poverty in Malawi: COYIDA , Chihado and Eheleni. These grassroots organisations run programmes that cover food security, water and sanitation, gender and child protection, and sexual reproductive health.
“I'd always been really interested in development, right back from being at school and also taking courses in development at university. When I left university I didn't really know how to get into international development as a graduate or what job opportunities there were. I took a safe option which was getting a job with a good career path and a professional qualification.
“I decided to volunteer just as I qualified with my ACA. I'd been trying to decide what I wanted to do after qualifying and hadn't been able to make up my mind. A colleague had recently returned from volunteering with AfID and presented at one of our departmental meetings and I knew that I really wanted to go and do something similar. I was beginning to think about moving into international development at that time and also about going back to study for a masters so it seemed like a great opportunity whichever route I decided to go down.
“However, after volunteering with AfID and then spending another couple of years at PwC I knew that I wanted to put my efforts into something I truly believed in, and that was to help those people less fortunate than myself. I wanted to use my skills to support an organisation that was providing the means by which everyone can reach their full potential and be provided with the opportunities for success and empowerment that we generally take for granted. Without my volunteering experience with AfID I'm not sure that I would have secured my first role outside of practice in the development sector.
“I'm currently the financial controller at the Aga Khan Foundation UK. My role is fairly equally split between internal financial control and reporting, and the financial management of grants. This also involves spending time in the field with the project teams, providing training in finance and donor compliance, visiting the work we're doing and meeting beneficiaries.
“Because my experience working with charities at PwC was limited my volunteer assignment was definitely a talking point during my interviews. It allowed me to demonstrate my understanding of the context in which I'd be working, and an understanding of the types of challenges I might face on a day to day basis.
“At the moment I don't feel like there are any drawbacks to my decision to make this move. Yes, there are times when we get reports or proposals late & need to stay at work until midnight to make sure it gets to the donor on time, but on the whole it's been a great move for me. I'm enjoying learning something new, travelling to some amazing places such as Tajikistan and Tanzania, working with field teams and being part of a small but supportive UK office.
“What would I say to other accountants considering a similar career change? I think the main thing is to be passionate about what you want to do; you're going to have to give your all so know that you really believe in the mission of the organisation. It's also important to make the move at the right time, so consider if you've learnt all you want to and need to in your current role and through volunteering.”