Career Changer // Amber (ACCA)

New Employer

Farm Africa
East Africa

Farm Africa focuses on transforming agriculture. We help farmers to increase their harvests, protect the environment and sell their produce in thriving markets.

Farm Africa

Career Changer

Amber (ACCA) Name
Amber (ACCA)
Finance Business Manager

In May 2017, Amber decided she needed a break from the hustle and bustle of the big smoke and, having gotten in touch with AfID, headed off to Eastern Rwanda to volunteer with Children’s Might Foundation. The contrast to the corporate lifestyle she was so accustomed to was stark and she found parts of herself during that month which she had lost along the way. From the early morning discussions of the action plan for the day over freshly made chapattis and Rwandan coffee, to afternoons of meetings on the farms amongst the tomato crops, Amber realised that 'work' as we know it is not the only way.


As a result of the placement, the South African native returned to London with a reawakened desire to make international development part of her future. That future came around more quickly than she imagined and within four months, with the help of AFiD, had found a perfect organisation looking for a Finance Business Manager that operates in East Africa….which is exactly where she is today. We got in touch to chat about her volunteering experience and what she’s getting up to now…


Can you tell us a little about your current role?
I recently joined Farm Africa as their Finance Business Manager in their UK offices which is an exciting career move in the direction I am passionate about. Previously, I worked in the Risk Advisory department at Deloitte where I worked with clients to diagnose the root causes and assisted in the resolution of issues facing their finance functions, in particular in times of change and stress.

Many accountants worry about the transferability of their skills when moving to a new country and sector; have you found any specific experience from your past roles have been particularly relevant?

During the course of volunteering I drew particular reference to my audit experience of writing clear step by step instructions and ensuring that whoever picked up the piece of work after my involvement would be able to continue the process effectively. I think audit teaches one invaluable skills in presenting information in a traceable, easy to understand and concise way which is invaluable in countries or sectors that have perhaps lower skill levels.

How easy was it to adapt to living and working in a different culture when volunteering?
I found adapting really easy! By nature, I’m an easy-going and adaptable person therefore I think coming to terms with eating the very similar food every day for the month and not having access to the technology and luxuries that I’m used to, was actually quite easy. I was looking for a quieter period in my life, with less distractions, and Rwanda offered exactly that.

Culturally, I found adapting more of a challenge and it helped to have a fellow volunteer out with me at the same time. Saying that though, learning about the different cultures and embracing a different way to live life was really interesting and it’s an invaluable benefit of volunteering in foreign countries.

Why did you choose to work in the International Development sector?
I have always had a heart for those less fortunate than myself and felt that I wanted to do something that was making a difference. I truly believe that my role within the international development sector is one I will be able to contribute positively too and that’s what matters to me.

Do you feel your voluntary experience with AfID helped you gain your role at Farm Africa and prepare for life in your new role? If so, how?
Yes - without a doubt the experience helped me navigate my way into this sector. From a purely 'able to talk about Africa' position in the interview and then more generally being able to understand how the sector differs from what I was used to in terms of how projects and programmes are run in rural areas.

What is your most memorable moment on your volunteering placement through AfID?
The task of getting monthly bank statements! Whenever we needed one, Joseph, the accountant I was working alongside, set off for the bank and returned over three hours later with a little blue book that the bank teller had hand-written each and every transaction in!

What would you say are the pros & cons of your decision to work in the sector?
I would say the biggest pro is that I feel like the work I am doing has meaning and the impact is measurable and altruistic. I love being challenged to learn new things such as new accounting standards/policies and pushing myself to improve processes and redefine ways of working rather than simply check boxing the requirements. I enjoy having less pressure and being in a calmer environment to work in.

I would say the cons for me included moving away from the comfort of the relationships formed at Deloitte and having to start new friendships. I worried at the start about the culture of ambition within the organisation and whether there is a push to achieve greater things compared to Deloitte where most people were incredibly ambitious. There is also a general decrease in the quality encountered but this is to be expected given the environment but this links to the 'pro' that improvement is easy and there are numerous ways to make everyone's life slightly easier.

What ‘do’s and dont’s’ would you give to anyone thinking of travelling and working in a less developed country?
In terms of what to do, I would say definitely listen carefully to what the local people are saying, be patient, budget correctly for the trip and keep things simple as and when the situation calls for it. Make sure you properly get to know the people you are working with, spend time with them and I would definitely say be prepared to invest time in the placement after you leave and be genuine in your desire to help them.

Don’t think you know better than the people you are working with or be quiet and stick to yourself. Try to not to worry and fret if you can’t fix everything and help with every problem – they won’t expect you too – just pick the areas that you know will be sustainable and focus your efforts on these.

What would be your advice to other accountants considering a similar career change or looking to break into the sector?
I would suggest a placement in a volunteer organisation that is similar to their interests. I think being realistic about what you are moving into in terms of people (quality) and pay is important and should be considered. Be willing to push yourself to achieve results – in this environment no one really tells you what to do and therefore you need to make up your own rules and deadlines and in a way replicate the 'pressure' you may feel if you come from a big corporate firm.