When Poonam Rama failed her first board exam, she was devastated and disheartened. Now she knows that this setback shaped the person she is today.
I signed up for EY’s programme for articled clerks who had failed, and in the evening I studied at the office after work,’ Poonam says. ‘What I remember most were the discussions with leaders and other senior people in the firm, where we talked about challenges they overcame and offered encouragement and advice. A temporary hurdle was not the end of my career. Along with support from family and friends, I learnt to draw on my own resilience, and have done so ever since.’
Poonam, Senior Manager, Assurance Professional Practice Group at EY, qualified as a CA(SA) in 2018 and then had the opportunity to work in California and to learn and grow in ways that you wouldn’t think of doing at home. On her return to South Africa, she joined the professional practice department in the Audit Technical division at EY. Recently, she transferred to the financial reporting department to gain exposure to a different speciality.
Enthusiastic about any opportunity to learn something new, Poonam always puts her hand up when someone is looking for help. ‘You never know what may come of that or what relationships develop as a result. My attitude and enthusiasm led me to where I am currently. I know that this designation, the skills I have and continue to gain, have given me the building blocks to shape my career into whatever I want it to be.’
It’s an attitude she applies to her personal life too. Enthusiastic about food, she’s always interested in how other cultures live, have fun and eat, and she’s keen on snowboarding, rock climbing, scuba diving, bungee jumping and even kite surfing.
Among her career highlights she lists an exciting Africa Region training event with more than 500 colleagues, attending a global event for newly promoted senior managers, and being responsible for a large project across the firm’s Africa Region where she realised just how many opportunities are available to a CA(SA).
‘The profession gives you the opportunity to work with executives in multiple entities, including those listed on the JSE,’ says Poonam. ‘I remember wondering how many other 20-something-year-olds were getting to talk to the executives of large companies to learn how they operate and why they do what they do.’
She values contributing to CSI initiatives at EY and helping those who don’t have access to support or opportunities so that they can have a better future.
As a former EY representative on the SAICA audit guidance committee, she appreciated the opportunity to discuss the challenges facing people at all levels in the profession with her peers and to help to provide guidance.
‘I also enjoy facilitating training and presenting to a range of colleagues,’ she says. ‘For the trainees, it’s about helping them learn and grow into their careers as they understand concepts and overcome challenges. For the executives, it’s about helping them to stay on top of the changes in the auditing profession and to deliver on engagements so that investors and shareholders know that they can trust the reports that they are reading.’
Poonam doesn’t believe in fretting about anything. She advises people entering the profession to reflect on good and bad experiences and think about what they learnt and how they grew. ‘I enjoyed my articles because I always looked for the silver lining, even when things were difficult, and took that to my next engagement. Becoming a CA(SA) is difficult, but worth fighting for; those four letters will open up a world of opportunities that you could never have imagined.’