When meeting Donné for the first time, it is not difficult to be feel energised by her passion for life and all things International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) related. It is unsurprising, then, that Donné is a committee member of the IASB IC in addition to being the Head of Advisory Services at FirstRand Limited. As such, she is responsible for IFRS policy and application across the group, which includes businesses such as First National Bank (FNB), Rand Merchant Bank (RMB), WesBank, Ashburton and Aldermore in the United Kingdom.
We met up with Donné to gain an appreciation of what it took for her to get to where she is today.
When I say that I have been surrounded by strong women from the moment of my birth it is an understatement.
My Mom and Dad have six daughters, of which I am number five. Every one of my sisters are self-taught business owners who all carved their own paths. I attribute this entrepreneurial spirit to my Mom, who turned to selling cosmetics in the 1980s. However, it was both my Mom and Dad that taught us how sacrifice and hard work can pay dividends in the end. It is not surprising that I was buying and selling goodies and sweeties to turn a profit from the time I was eleven years old, but the accounting bug hit hard when I selected it as one of my subjects in Grade 8. It was in Grade 11 when I visited a career expo where I was first introduced to SAICA and how being a chartered accountant would open up a whole new world for me. Accounting, I realised, was more than bookkeeping and if I wanted to be part of that world, I needed to be a chartered accountant.
Attaining the CA(SA) professional qualification was my passport to a better life.
However, life is never clear sailing and at the beginning of my journey, there were many challenges and sacrifices made to get to where I am today. Here I refer to special angels who gave me a hand up – family members that stood surety for my student loan, my family who all contributed to textbooks and other necessities, and employers who took a chance on me and allowed me to work part time jobs for them. Emotional support came from my family and my lifelong girlfriends, who encouraged me to keep going, even when self-doubt crept in at times. It took a village to support my mission to become a chartered accountant, but before support could be afforded, I needed to prove that I was singularly minded in my mission to qualify as a chartered accountant. I achieved this by breaking my goal down into achievable milestones. Identifying the key roadblocks at the next milestone that could derail the process and taking evasive action. This meant that I had to figure it out for myself first and then, as the need arose, ask for help. Sticking to my plan was the key element in my early success.
After spending a year as an academic article clerk, followed by completing my articles in the Banking Division at one of the big four firms, I subsequently transferred to the IFRS technical team.
It was during the five years post articles in this team that I honed my technical skillset by completing my MCom (International) Accounting at the University of Johannesburg, as well as employing my knowledge gained during my articles to actively participate in the SA GAAP to IFRS conversion being undertaken by the banks at that time. Accounting is both art and science. IFRS provides detailed guiding rails, but still requires creativity in solving for the complexity found in the facts and circumstances of transactions being evaluated. It is this interplay that has kept me focused and dedicated to the art of technical accounting.
During this period, I built a strong network of chartered accountants, all made possible, in part, by the SAICA sub-committees set up to facilitate the IFRS conversion in South Africa. I see this period as when I ploughed and sowed the future of my career. I will openly admit that there was selfishness in my determination to gain the most out of my experience working in an IFRS technical team and I was and still am blessed to have an unbelievably supportive husband and partner (a chartered accountant himself) who supported me when I dug in deep to gain the most out of work at this stage of my life.
When motherhood came knocking, I decided to step away from my career to focus time on my family on my own terms, but that did not mean that I stopped my professional development.
I started a small practice providing technical advice to clients as well as contracted as a part-time technical consultant. Although my focus was being a primary caregiver to my, then, small children, I kept abreast of the latest developments in IFRS using the Internet as a primary source of knowledge as well as attending training courses presented by SAICA and the respective audit firms. I kept investing in myself, knowing that at some point I would re-join the corporate environment. When IFRS 9 was issued, I joined a technical team, supporting clients with their IFRS 9 implementations. This allowed me to upgrade my skill set and gave me the confidence in my ability to seek out more challenging roles, because I quickly came to realised that being out of the formal work environment was not a detriment, in fact, it gave me a whole new perspective. During this period, I was reminded that motherhood is a humbling experience and trying to be a present mother meant unpacking and reframing a number of internal believes that no longer served me. One such reframing was to incorporate the concept of work-life harmony. A work-life harmony mindset allows me to integrate my work life into my personal life, so that they coexist and not compete.
In 2019, the opportunity arose that led to my appointment as Head of Advisory Services at FirstRand Limited and then my appointment to the IASB IC in 2020.
These roles have given me an extraordinary opportunity to contribute and influence IFRS application both locally and globally. It a privilege that I am grateful for every day.
But the most fulfilling element of my role is the joy of leading a team.
This has allowed me to put into practice my passion for developing people around me and encouraging others to be their most authentic selves. I am a firm believer that fulfilment can be achieved when one is in harmony with yourself, and that means been true to oneself and accepting of others and in doing so, allowing us all to find our own internal harmony.
Compile by Mpho Netshivhambe