My Journey from A Chartered Accountant at a Big 4 Firm to a Teacher Now Financial Analyst in the US
- Hi! I am Lyle Weber a qualified Chartered Accountant Accountant with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA).
- I am originally from Cape Town, South Africa...and spent the majority of my school years at a school on the Cape Flats in South Africa.
- In 2013, I moved to the US and live in Fort Worth Texas, USA.
- I qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 2008 and moved to the US in 2013. I am currently a Senior Financial Analyst and also run a financial coaching business Generous Lifestyle.
- Here is my story of how I overcame challenges, started an unconventional career as a Teacher and now in the US.
From a ‘D’ In Accounting To Becoming A Chartered Accountant
I grew up in South Africa during the pre and post-democracy periods. I spent the majority of my school years at a school on the Cape Flats in South Africa. (For those of you who do not know about Cape Flats, it is nothing fancy!)
In 1996, as a grade 9 student, I attended a session at Coopers and Lybrand (now PWC)...and for the first time ever I heard about the term ' Chartered Accountant'.
This session exposed me to the world of Finance and Accounting. I got to know about the scope of Chartered Accountants and what a Chartered accountant did. It was on that day that I determined that I was going to become a Chartered Accountant.
At the back of my mind, I wondered whether someone like me would be able to become a Chartered accountant...but I knew that if I could achieve this, it could change not only my life but the life of my family and my community.
The next year, I started my matric year (Year 10) at a Model C school. It was my first time at a good school so it came as a culture shock to me...as for the first time in my life, I stood witness to the enormous gulf between the haves and have nots.
I believe it was at this point in my life that I realized that I needed to make a difference.
Coming back to my journey, I did struggle a lot in my final year of high school. The culture shock was so massive that I went from a straight ‘A’ student to someone who barely scraped through. In fact, I got a D in Accounting!
None of the three universities, that I applied to, accepted me into the accounting program. Obviously!
In South Africa to become a Chartered Accountant you have to take up Accounting!
So what Next?
I decided to accept an offer in a Business Program instead and later hoping to get better grades and switch to the accounting stream.
Fortunately, things worked out and I got started in Accounting...and as they say, the rest is history!
Pioneer Foods offered me a full bursary (scholarship)…which was a big relief as it took the financial pressure off my family. I was now able to focus on my studies.
I started out as an Associate at PwC, a Big4 Audit firm in 2005 in the financial services division.
Coming from the community where I never had access to computers, my biggest challenge was learning to use the new technology. I had never been exposed to complex financial services concepts either. It was a steep learning curve.
Luckily PwC, like many audit firms, has a great mentorship program. Through the mentorship program and on the job training, I was soon able to improve my knowledge and skillset and overcome any shortcomings that I had before.
With all the support, mentoring and hard work...I gave my best shot and qualified as a Chartered Accountant.
Extra Tip: There will be days where you want to give up. We have all been there. Just remember that others have walked in your shoes. I oftentimes tell people: If I can do it, so can you!
Also, Make sure you have a CA mentor. I had a mentor who was a CFO at a large listed company in South Africa. He not only made me believe that this dream of mine was possible, but he also shared practical insights that I could apply in my studies.
Changing Career: From a Consultant at a Big Four to a Lecturer
After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, I was confronted with a few career options...to be frank, lecturing was not one of them. Never did I ever think that I would end up teaching, let alone loving it.
I decided to work as a Financial Manager at Heinz Foods. It was during this time that the University of the Western Cape asked me to teach accounting on a part-time basis. Real soon after starting, I realized that teaching was my passion...I knew that I had found my calling.
In 2009, I started lecturing on a full-time basis at the University. It was awesome to see young people who were from similar backgrounds to mine, come to a school, grow and excel. What's even better is seeing how many of my students have gone on to be leaders in business in South Africa and even in other nations!
Perceived Problems of Being a Chartered Accountant Who is a Teacher
Facts of life, if you are a Chartered Accountant or a CPA you are expected to be doing the so-called big things. And for many of us, a Teacher is certainly nothing great!
So quite often, people would tell me “Lyle, you could be working in a corporate setting and make lots of money”....or some will directly as me “How much money do you make?"
My answer seems to shock them...I would say "I make a difference".
In fact, one of the greatest things about being a CA is that it comes with great responsibility and great opportunities. This certification opens many doors for us.
Also, I did not just stop at teaching...while working at the University, I ran a successful consulting practice as well. I had both local and international clients. The resources from these jobs enabled me to serve nonprofits and churches in South Africa.
I trained them on financial compliance as well as the implementation of sound accounting policies and procedures. I have written several books for this industry in South Africa.
From a Lecturer In South Africa To Financial Analyst / Coach In USA
In 2013, after teaching at the University for almost 4.5 years, I stepped into a new season in my life...I moved across the ocean to the US to go to Bible school. I wanted to become a pastor or traveling minister. I wanted to become a pastor or traveling minister and I did preach only to realise I could do a lot more.
I became the Director of Finance at a University in the region and later moved to a Senior Financial Analyst at a ministry in Texas that is impacting lives on a global scale.
Again there are a few people who ask me “Why to move from a Director level job to be a Senior Analyst?”
To be honest, I have never been one for titles...I rather look for areas in which I can serve people and organizations with my skillset.
My current work schedule is a 4 day work week. This enables me to pursue my side business which is providing financial coaching to individuals and organizations.
Simultaneously, I serve nonprofits both in the US and South Africa through live and virtual training programs. I believe my studies have given me more insight into the struggles that they face.
In my mentoring and training sessions I teach individuals, groups or employees at organizations (professional as well as those that have never been able to go to University through the employer sponsoring individual’s access to my programs):
- How to become generous with their time, talents and treasures
- How to set achievable goals and increase their income (legally),
- How to add value at the organizations which position them for promotions
- How to get out (and stay out) of debt,
- How to stop living from paycheck to paycheck
- How to achieve their financial goals whether this is to own their own house, send their kids to college, etc
Wrapping it Up…
Whether you are a CEO, an instructor at a school, or even a janitor, you should never lose sight of your beginnings. You should always be looking for ways to serve others.
We can find a solution to the problems that people in our community face. I firmly believe in mentoring the future generation and empowering them through education.
I am passionate about seeing people’s lives changed. I am considering running a program geared towards CA's starting their working journey.
Follow your PASSION.
Now It’s Your Turn…
Now that you have read about my journey, do you also feel motivated to do your bit in helping your community?
Feel free to comment on this or reach out to me for ways that you can impact your community at www.generouslifestyle.org.
(Article edited by CA Uma Krishna & image by Ankit Lodhi)