Chanelle Nandlal’s first experience of London − as a young girl from a small town in the big city − was like no other. She arrived expecting everything to be 100% different, but was fascinated how some things are the same and some things so different!
Chanelle Nandlal CA(SA) first lived in London 12 years ago. It was on a secondment while completing her articles at EY Kwa-Zulu Natal and was such a colourful and exciting experience, meeting people from all over the world − Europe, Africa, India, Asia. It left such a vivid imprint on her heart that in 2015 she found herself returning to London and has been working as senior finance manager at Factset for the past five and half years.
She says the move is temporary and that she is set on returning, because for her South Africa is home. But she hopes to inspire younger CAs(SA) to go after every opportunity that comes their way. She shares her London story with us.
At Factset we have an amazingly diverse inclusive culture − multicultural, globally spread out with different languages, and made up of individuals. We are a global finance team, with functions spread out across the globe. For example, my direct manager is in France and speaks French. One of my direct reports sits in Bulgaria and speaks Bulgarian. And a large chunk of our finance team sits in Manilla and the US. This means we are constantly working across different time zones, currencies, cultures, languages and several local accounting standards and practices without being face to face as a team. We were operating under this model prior to the pandemic, which allowed the transition during the pandemic to be seamless.
As the EMEA and Asia Pac Senior Finance Manager, I look after multiple statutory entities. I have a small finance team, also spread out globally, to support this. My role includes everything from monthly controlling to end-to-end reporting, regulatory and other standard aspects of finance. I am also involved in operations of the business including strategic elements of the business.
Being a CA(SA) is truly the reason I am where I am today! All my career opportunities have opened up because of my specific skills and qualifications, as well my network created through being a SAICA member. As a trainee, one of the team instructors said in a session: ‘Look around you, make a friend, and take note. These people will be your peers and network later in your career. They will be the people who will bel leaders in their fields, CEOs, CFOs, and the people you call to solve a problem. And they will be your lifelong network.’ That was one of the most valuable pieces of information I have ever been given in my career − and one of the key ones to ring true.
My network itself has played a huge role as well in my career. Some of my closest and treasured friendships and mentorships are from my days as an article clerk. And others in my network have been there to open doors and opportunities for me, or just provide me with guidance.
My network in London of CAs(SA) is huge, yet informal through networks created from my early days as a CA, thanks to SAICA who has been instrumental in enabling them on this side of the word! And this is a huge part of how I stay connected, grounded, up to date and engaged.
Being a CA away from home (SA) means I don’t have the same opportunities in terms of physical networking − so it does come with challenges. And living away from SA, friends and family is also a difficult journey. But all of it and how it is managed is based on the cornerstones and foundations of our profession.
My first secondment to EY London was my very first taste of a working life outside SA. It was an experience like no other: a young girl from a small town in the big city! I came to a new country expecting it to be 100% different, but it was fascinating how some things are the same and some things so different.
For example, working in another office of EY in another country was almost identical to working back home. Everything from methodology, application, team structures, learnings and teachings, people investment, culture − it was essentially a seamless plug and play. And I was thrilled to ease into that. I remember thinking, wow even the road signs look the same!
And some things that were different were the little things − like adapting to the public transport, commuting, and traffic being loads of people on a train platform versus being stuck in traffic in your car.
But it was an amazing whirlwind of three months. It was the opportunity I took when I could, and I have never looked back since.
Global experience will definitely add value to your career as a CA(SA)! New experiences and anything that allows you opportunity to grow and challenge yourself are gold. This can be achieved in so many ways over a lifetime. For me, this was gained through my global experience. I am a small-town girl from KZN. Growing up, I had never dreamed I would set foot outside of SA, let alone work outside of it. The world today, however, is small. What happens in one country impacts every other, and we are all connected. The more you understand the wider picture the more valuable your contribution to your organisation will be. There is so much to be learnt and equally so much that your South African background and training can lend to.
My heart is set on returning to South Africa! SAICA readers who live away from SA will identify the most … There is no place like home!
South Africa is an amazing, vibrant country which such rich diversity and culture. It’s a beautiful country in all respects, from its actual landscape to its people. The weather – hands down − is amazing! Being away affords you the opportunity to bring back new skills into the country, inspire others, and implement best practices from other regions.
The hardest and most impactful challenge during the pandemic was being away from home, family, and friends. In my first few years away, I was fortunate to travel to other countries as a tourist. But I also was fortunate to travel home to SA at least once, if not more times, a year. Once the pandemic hit, this was no longer a flexible option. This was, and remains, one of the largest challenges I face.
Not being able to visit SA means I have not seen my loved ones; I have missed family events and important milestones in friends’ lives. My son, having not met his grandparents since birth, has only just met them after 18 months.