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CA(SA) PROFILE: I may lack hearing, but not ambition

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A deaf CA(SA) shares how qualifying was her ticket to the world.

Leigh Burton was always encouraged by her parents, regardless of her hearing disability, to complete a degree that would enable her to support herself and allow her, as a woman, to be financially independent. Her career of choice was that of a Chartered Accountant [CA(SA)]. Leigh always saw how much her father enjoyed his career and this motivated her to follow the same route as him. Leigh is one of the first deaf CAs(SA) to qualify in South Africa.

A further motivation for choosing this career is Leigh’s love of travel. And travel she did indeed. Visiting exotic destinations such as the Caribbean, Mauritius, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, London and the United States gave her a sense of fulfilment.

“I also wanted to complete a qualification that had international recognition and would allow me to travel all over the world if need be since one of my passions is travel. I have always enjoyed numbers and shared this passion with my father who is also a CA(SA).”

It is said that when one sense is lost the others are doubled. It seems that this rings true of Leigh and it also enhanced her sixth sense, making her more receptive to lessons in life and to what teachers and mentors had to offer. This Johannesburg based 30-something young lady was not short of role models – and she took on their advice and philosophies with gusto!

“My biggest role model throughout my life has been my father and I strive every day to live up to the ideals and values he upholds. I also wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my mother. She has great strength and has always showed unwavering belief in me. My mother has always focused on giving me a sense of independence.

“During my school years, two people had a profound effect on the person that I am today. They were my guidance councillors, Mr. Ken Hovelmeier and Mrs. Maureen Groch, who taught me to never doubt myself and that even with my hearing disability I could achieve my dreams and be all that I wanted to be. That moulded my belief to not use my disability as an excuse or ‘cop out’ in life”.

Leigh attended the mainstream private schools Kingsmead College for Girls and St. Stithians Collegiate and she excelled in her studies. This was extrapolated to Wits University where she faced many challenging situations: the biggest being her ability to filter the messages from the ‘noise’ from her hearing aid. However, with great support from the Accounting Department at Wits, this did not deter her insatiable desire to excel – and excel she did! When she wrote her board examination, she found that the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) gave her lots of support and this helped her to qualify as a CA(SA).

“Kicking off my career at Deloitte Johannesburg brought me into contact with a great family of mentors and friends. Alan Munitich, a Deloitte partner, played a pivotal role in my career at Deloitte right through articles and also in my role as a manager. He shared great passion for his work and for enjoyment of life as well as travel. Alan was also a great support in all facets of my work at Deloitte. I know that even though time has passed since I started my career in commerce that I can always phone Alan for a chat and advice. I must also mention Grant Krog [former partner] and Ryan Duffy [partner], who exerted a positive and strong motivational influence on me.”

Leigh’s area of speciality is tax and financial consulting, which can be a demanding area to work in. In her capacity as a financial/ tax consultant she assists in all aspects of taxation for all taxpayer types ranging from the calculation of Income Tax, Secondary Tax on Companies (now Dividend Withholding Tax), Provisional Tax, Employees Tax, VAT and Capital Gains Tax. Other responsibilities include assisting with SARS audits and liaising with SARS directly to clear any queries or disputes pertaining to any year of assessment.

Additional responsibilities include the provision of accounting and financial services, comprising preparation of annual financial statements, completion of annual returns and other statutory returns including registering of new entities, and liaison with auditors. Ad hoc duties include monitoring clients’ investment portfolios and administration of share trusts, obtaining exchange control approval for non-resident clients where necessary.

Can a person with a hearing disability handle such an intimidating portfolio?

“Anything is possible. If you want to be a CA(SA) go out and achieve that goal. Nothing is stopping you, not even your disability. It may take a bit longer than most people but that doesn’t matter when you cross that goal line. Always remember to believe in yourself and know that you are capable of anything.”

When she is not crunching numbers, Leigh relishes surfing the social media platforms, and keeping abreast of the changes in the technological world. Leigh believes that Twitter and Facebook are just two examples of the many social media platforms that are changing the face of how we interact with people, not only on a personal level, but also in business.

Leigh is of the opinion that social media is definitely a big player in our lives today. She also enjoys taking time out in the gym, socialising with her friends, planning holidays and catching up on good reads when she has spare time.

Leigh encourages young people to pursue a career as a CA(SA).This
is sound advice considering that South Africa has a shortage of about 5
000 CAs(SA).

“In as much as the career of a CA(SA) is challenging it is also very rewarding. My advice to youngsters would be if being a CA(SA) is your dream never give up pursuing it until you get it. The world is definitely your oyster once you have your CA(SA) qualification.”

It is clear that Leigh did not perceive her disability as an obstacle. Instead she chose to rise above her circumstances and to pursue her goals with enthusiasm. Leigh epitomises the adage that ‘the sky is the limit’.

Author: Yuven Gounden.

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