Building a career after ACCA in the UAE. Weighing the pros and cons of a career path is the key.

Building a career in the UAE with BDO after ACCA.

  • Sometimes choosing the most difficult path may seem ideal but it may not be the best for you.
  • Hi, I am Huzaifa Haider Ali, a Chartered Certified Accountant from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).
  • Chartered Accountancy from ICAI is a preferred career choice for many. But instead of following the herd, I weighed the pros and cons of it. 
  • Pursuing the ACCA course broadened my horizon, not just on the finance front but on the business front as well.


Thinking beyond Chartered Accountancy 

Born and raised in the Emirate of Sharjah, UAE, I grew fond of numbers, in 7th or 8th grade.

Because of that, I picked commerce in the 11th grade. The subject of accounting really grew on me.

I wanted to learn more about how accounting works in real life, and how the management uses financial accounting to make wiser decisions.

The Chartered Accountancy course from ICAI is a very popular and preferred career choice for many. Some of my friends were pursuing it along with their graduation.

Seeing them, I also considered choosing the same route. 

However, looking at them struggling to clear the exams…. got me thinking! 

Every year more than 100,000 candidates appear for the CA Foundation exam (the entrance exam for the CA course), of which approximately 25% make the cut. 

And that’s not all, I heard that if you fail in one subject, you have to reappear for the whole module unless you get an exemption.  

Instead of following the herd, I took a strategic call and weighed the pros and cons of pursuing CA. 

Around that time I went to a career fair in Dubai. 

When I went to the University of Wollongong stall, I found out that they had partnered up with ACCA. At that time ACCA exam consisted of 14 papers, and the students of the University could claim a maximum of 9 exemptions from Knowledge Level or Skills Level papers.

I researched more about it and found out that ACCA is a global professional accounting body. It has a network of over 110 offices and centers across 51 countries. 

Now, that seemed very promising.

Accordingly, I decided to pursue a Bachelor’s in Commerce, from the University of Wollongong. 

Studying ACCA While Working: Difficult but rewarding 

I didn’t start my ACCA course right away, as I had planned to pay for the fees all by myself. So right after graduation, I started a job in a local consulting firm named Beta Consultants.

I waited and saved up my salary for a year, before finally applying for the ACCA course in 2012.

Let me tell you, the course was not easy to get through, despite what others might say.

I was tackling both my tuition classes and my job. After eight hours of working every day, it was impossible for me to keep myself awake.

But the power of visualisation helped me get through.

Consulting firms are usually very busy, so taking time off for my exams was also kind of impossible. But I somehow managed to get some five or six days' leave prior to the exam. 

I gave my everything during those six days. I revised diligently, and cleared all my five papers on the first try, except for the Advanced Financial Accounting paper. 

After hustling for 2 years straight like this, I finally became a Chartered Certified Accountant in 2014.

Also Read

[Interview] This CA and former Partner at BDO UAE is now helping startups and businesses with mentoring and angel investing

Going from a small firm to BDO 

Now there were several opportunities in front of me after qualifying as a Chartered Certified Accountant. 

I wanted to grow in my career, which was only possible if I joined an international firm. 

Coincidentally one of my friends was working in BDO at that time, and he told me about an entry-level opening in the corporate advisory division. 

It was like a dream come true for me.

Without wasting any time I sent him my CV which he passed on to the management.

The senior manager in the corporate advisory department called a lot sooner than I had expected and asked me some basic interview questions.

Since Beta was a close-packed firm, I had an extensive amount of exposure in audit, accounting, advisory services, and a bit of taxation.

I also advised some companies that were trying to set up businesses in the UAE. 

The manager was immediately impressed and called me in for a face-to-face interview.

There was an HR round, a technical round, and lastly, the partner round, and I aced all of them. 

They were so impressed, that they offered me a higher-level position. 

In 2016 I joined BDO as an Associate in Corporate Advisory Services. 

Fast forward to 2019 they promoted me to Assistant Manager for Corporate Advisory Services. 

My role basically involves advising international clients who want to expand their companies in the UAE. 

I speak mostly to CEOs and CFOs which gives me great exposure to a diverse set of people. 

All thanks to my ACCA qualification and my skill sets, I can help clients with not just their financials but their entire business too.

What can you do with an ACCA qualification? 

ACCA is a global professional accounting body that doesn’t just teach primary accounting or finance skills but:

  • Business strategies
  • What kind of hurdles you would come across in a business
  • How one should operate a business through proper management

 ACCA teaches you everything necessary, to thrive in the corporate world.

The course will broaden your horizon and career options. You can move into business management, marketing, and many other related fields.

Another important aspect of ACCA is that its learning modules are based on International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and International Standards on Auditing.

Hence if you're looking to build a career outside of India, then this course would be much more to your liking.

ACCA has Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) with CPA Canada. So if any of you are looking to build a career in Canada, ACCA membership is your lucky ticket. Actually, ACCA has partnered with a lot of major bodies. 

I know, I can’t compare Chartered Accountancy’s difficulty level with this one.

That said if you want to build your career path cautiously then I would definitely recommend this course. 

Also Read

Getting Started With ACCA - Your Journey To Becoming ACCA Qualified

Wrapping up...

Speaking from my own experience, I would suggest, you stay updated with all the new regulations or upcoming changes in your country’s laws. Learn how the local GAAP or local changes in the law would affect the businesses of that country.

Keep growing your network, keep connecting to people on LinkedIn, ask questions, and attend webinars.

That's how you will be able to land your dream job and grow in your career. 

Are you looking at connecting to an industry expert for 1:1 career guidance? Fill out this form and we will get back to you - 


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