Johannesburg, Tuesday, 17 May 2016 – Sheldon Moodley is the first in his family to get a degree and qualify as a chartered accountant, despite financial hurdles which included having to take a gap year to sell funeral cover to cover the costs of his tuition.
Don’t ever assume. Asked who he’d most like to meet, 28 year old CA(SA), Sheldon Moodley’s answer is as unexpected as wearing a jersey in mid-summer. “I would like to meet Pharaoh Khufu and ask him how they built the pyramid of Giza. As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, it’s a magnificent structure built with such precision, in times where they only used hard rocks and chisels as their tools, not to mention no help from cranes to help move and lay the massive bricks.”
Moodley has his own fair share of ‘how do I do it’ moments, which explains his fascination for conquering the seemingly impossible. He is the first in his family to complete a tertiary education.
“There were times when I didn’t have textbooks for some of the subjects I was studying. I didn’t have an accounting text book to refer to in tests. I had to make sure that I knew the key points of many of the standards off by heart, in order to pass.”
It helped that one of his best friends was also on the route to become a CA(SA) . “I would think that if he was managing to do it then I would be able to do it as well. I was the only one standing in my way.” He has two role models: his church pastor, Andre Olivier and previous FirstRand CEO Sizwe Nxasana.
Moodley’s gap year wasn’t spent frittering his parents’ income on ‘finding himself’ overseas. “Due to financial constraints some of my fees were unpaid which meant that my degree was held back. Eventually I had to settle so I took jobs that brought in some sort of income. I worked for a few weeks as a contractor making calls and following up leads for one of the banks. I also worked, for a short time, in a call centre selling funeral cover.”
Rather than looking down his nose at these jobs, Moodley was grateful for them.
He imparts life lesson number one: believe in yourself. “I used to repeat this line to myself at varsity: ‘If they can do it then why can’t you?’“
Life lesson number two: managing stress. “Another thing I’ve learned is that stress doesn’t help any situation. All it does is make a problem bigger than it actually is, and you end up not having done much as you’re too busy stressing. By dealing with tasks in small doses and bite-sized pieces you will be calmer while performing the task and you’ll end up doing it better.”
Being admitted to hospital for stress at the age of 24 during his first year of articles was life changing. “What I learned is that there is no reason to stress about situations. Worrying excessively just makes you sick and doesn’t help the situation or those around you so why do it.”
Life lesson number three: “Personally I think you should respect everyone you meet. Knowledge is what makes people successful and what separates you from the majority. I think everyone has something to offer, if you take the time to listen.”
Moodley is happy with his career choice. “I think in any career there are peaks and troughs, but it’s your outlook on a situation that makes the difference. In any job there’s the opportunity to help others and give back.”
After completing his articles, Moodley became an internal auditor at FNB. Today he is executive assistant to the head of group finance at the bank. “The main challenge I faced was how to interact and communicate effectively on a social and business level with people that are in a different age bracket, have different personalities, or who are in different fields of study and have different ways of thinking.”
Moodley shares a message for aspiring CAs(SA) at school and at university. “No matter how difficult a situation may seem, there is always a way out. Anything worthwhile is never easy and takes hard work and dedication. When I was at university, at times I couldn’t see myself becoming a CA, but now I say to students I meet ‘If I could do it then so can anyone else’.”
The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), South Africa’s pre-eminent accountancy body, is widely recognised as one of the world’s leading accounting institutes. The Institute provides a wide range of support services to more than 40 000 members who are chartered accountants [CAs(SA)], and hold positions as CEOs, MDs, board directors, business owners, chief financial officers, auditors and leaders in every sphere of commerce and industry, and who play a significant role in the nation’s highly dynamic business sector and economic development