This Pakistani Girl Chartered Accountant Moved to Dubai Alone For Better A Career
- Have you considered 'Moving Alone to a New Country' especially if your a woman?
- Hi! I am Nishat Rasheed. I am a CA, CPA Canada & ACCA - UK. I was based in Dubai for the last 7 years. But recently, I shifted to Canada and am looking for opportunities here.
- I worked in various organizations across the UAE. I also worked as a Senior Manager (Finance BP&A) in a large family-owned business.
- I belong from Pakistan and grew up in a fairly liberal family who supported me to follow my dreams. Thanks to my Parents and my determination, I was able to relocate to a new country all alone. And believe me, this is a big thing - 1) being a girl; and 2) coming from a place where people are mostly conservative.
- Why am I telling this story? Because even if one individual gets inspired by my journey, it would be worth it.
Growing Up In A Progressive, Empowering Environment
I was an above-average student studying computer science. But, I never wanted to pursue it as a career. So, right after completing high school, I enrolled in the Chartered Accountancy course from ICAP (The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan).
Actually, since the age of 12, I have wanted to be a Chartered Accountant. Why? Because I had heard someone at school saying that CA is a very well respected and rewarding profession and that’s when I knew I wanted to be one.
From a young age, I have seen admirable examples of female empowerment in my life. My grandmother, aunts, and most of the women around me were strong, independent, working professionals.
My family had a fairly liberal mindset and encouraged me to follow my heart and study. My mom is a homemaker, but she made sure that my sister and I go ahead and make a successful career for ourselves.
So, when I decided to pursue CA and move out of the country to work and live independently, my family supported me. It was because of their support that I am able to excel in my career and life.
I have seen so many young women wanting to be independent, and pursue a successful professional career - but for some reason, they are forced to or even voluntarily choose otherwise. They might have their inhibitions.
Here, I have shared my story and experiences as a young, independent, working woman. I hope that it helps to answer some of the questions and guides them on their journey.
My Experience Pursuing Chartered Accountancy
It wasn’t easy. Coming from a non-accounting background, I had to put in the extra effort. And I did face my share of failures and struggles.
I failed in 2 subjects out of 4 in the first module of CA. At that time, if you scored extremely low in even one paper of a module, you had to sit for the whole module again. So, you needed to work on every single subject with the same dedication and put the same level of effort - so, you clear all the exams at once.
That’s when I realized that nothing can be achieved without hard work. I was determined to finish this qualification and worked twice as hard.
My top advice to young students who want to pursue CA is - get your basics right. CA examinations are flexible. You can choose to appear for them when you are ready. But, don’t put off your preparations till the end. Prepare well in advance.
And as is the key to success in any other qualification, so is with this course - discipline, and preparation.
Finding a Job and Relocating To Dubai All Alone
I had finished my articles with EY, Pakistan and wanted a role that gave my career a boost. I was looking for opportunities to grow further - which did not present itself in the country I was based in.
Luckily, while working with EY, Pakistan I had come to Dubai on a short assignment for 3 months with Ernst & Young, UAE. I really liked the city and wished to work here full-time.
And I finally found what I was looking for in the UAE.
When my assignment ended I returned to Pakistan and started connecting with my peers and recruiters based in Dubai.
Finally after searching and networking for an opportunity for almost 2 months from Pakistan, I was selected in an Auditing firm in Dubai.
Honestly, since I was already working with an audit firm back home (EY, Pakistan), and Auditing as a profile usually provides global platforms to relocate or explore opportunities in other countries finding a job in Dubai from Pakistan was slightly easier for me.
Initially, my parents didn’t warm up to the idea of me living alone in a foreign land. But, eventually, they agreed for the betterment of my career. I think it was their belief that “our child would be alright” and their confidence in me that made them support my decision.
Living & Working As a CA In Dubai, UAE
The initial few weeks in Dubai were tough - looking for a place to stay, setting up a house, arranging for things you need. I had grown up in a thriving environment amid so many people. So, moving to a new country all by myself became all the more emotional as I was away from my friends and family.
But, luckily I had a great employer and had a few friends in Dubai who were great support for me. They helped me through my transition to this new city.
Because I had already lived in the UAE for a while, so it wasn’t a completely alien city for me. However, it definitely was very different to move permanently to a new country on your own as compared to when you are on an all-expenses-covered-assignment.
To anyone reading this… the only thing I would advise is: Be Brave! Take that risk! Move to a new city if you want to! Let the city guide you!
“I need a job in the UAE. Where should I start?”
Start with the basics. Do your homework.
There are many job portals available nowadays, and the UAE has an extensive job search database. For a starting point - Connect to recruiting agencies, sign up on multiple job portals, and see reference CVs on job boards.
LinkedIn is an amazing platform to connect with hiring managers and professionals who can help you land the desired role. I did the same.
Being in the audit vertical, it was slightly more flexible for me to be hired offshore as audit firms encourage the transfer of resources from other countries. It did not take me very long to find a job. I searched for 2-3 months and I got placed in an audit firm in the UAE.
I was contacted by a recruiter online. Then, I was interviewed and hired through a skype call. Once I had the offer, I moved to Dubai.
But, yes, I do understand it is more difficult for candidates in the industry to land up interviews in a foreign country.
Employers prefer people who are located in the city where they are hiring. Thus, it is important for you to identify positions that you apply for and how open are employers to hire foreign candidates.
“Should I quit my current role and move to the UAE for a job hunt?”
I don’t see anything wrong in doing that. But, I won’t recommend it.
If you have NOT identified the roles you want to apply for or have NO IDEA where you are going to start - quitting the present role without an offer in hand is not a smart move.
As I mentioned, homework is the key to any job hunt:
- Identify the roles you want to apply for.
- Approach the recruiters who can help you.
- Connect with professionals who can place you.
Once you have a plan and visibility of where you want to go, make the move.
“How should I get my CV or my messages noticed on LinkedIn?”
Half of the CVs and messages go unnoticed as your profile does not match the job description.
- Apply for roles relevant to your profile. Read the job description and see if it fits your profile. If it does, go ahead and apply.
- Your CV should be concise and brief. The best CVs are 2-pagers including all your educational and professional qualifications.
- Keep your message on point, direct and professional.
- Refrain from copying generic messages to recruiters and hiring managers.
- Customize your cover message according to the role you are applying for.
EXTRA TIP: Work on your LinkedIn profile. That’s where you will stand out and get noticed.
“I have landed an interview call. How should I prepare?”
- Read the job description carefully. That’s the key. A lot of questions are asked around the mentioned job description.
- Hiring managers would base their questions around your feasibility for the role. Prepare according to that.
- Research your facts. Read about the company, its financial position, the organizational structure - in short, read as much as you can about the company, so the interviewer knows you are genuinely interested in working for their company.
- Polish your soft skills. Be ready to discuss scenarios.
- BONUS: Ask questions. Show that you want to know more about the role and its responsibilities.
“How did you get a senior role at such a young age?”
Have the drive to succeed. And be relevant.
Most of my colleagues are much more experienced professionals, so to make my place in the organizations, I had to go that extra mile to work at par with them. It takes a while, but you get there. You earn their respect with your hard work and dedication. It does not get served to you on a plate.
When I was 15, I had set a goal for myself that when I’d be 25, this is where I see myself. And I worked towards it.
And that’s what I advise - Set goals for yourself, short-term or midterm. But, HAVE GOALS. It gives you a direction in life.
“Did you face any biases in your career?”
YES. Yes, I did.
All of us have faced bias of some sort in our career at some point. I was either too young for the role or the role demanded a male for the profile.
Being a woman professional, you must work extra hard to be relevant. You have to make that extra effort to be acknowledged and be recognized, to make a place for yourself in a male-centric corporate environment.
I know this sounds too harsh, but that’s the truth about the world we are living in.
Moving To Canada - The Next Step
I had been working in Dubai from 2014-2019 that is for more than 7 years. And I was looking for the next step in my career. So, what better than exploring opportunities and growing in another country. So, I chose Canada.
I have a number of friends and family based in Canada. So, it made sense to transition to this country for the next phase of my career.
Currently, I am in the phase of transition in this country. This takes me back to the time when I had first moved to Dubai.
Every city has its own challenges and attractions. And I am hoping for the same success and warmth from this country that the UAE gave me.
“I want to relocate to Canada. How do I apply for CPA Canada?”
I did not pursue CPA in Canada.
After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant from Pakistan, I pursued Accounting from ACCA, a UK Body.
Since I was already a CA from a UK body as per the MRA with CPA Canada and global professional bodies (like ACCA), CPA Canada is an exempted qualification for CAs on the charter.
CPA Canada has an International Accreditation recognition - MRA with other professional bodies across the globe. Finance professionals who are members of any other recognized body can apply for the CPA qualification from the province they are based in.
However, I did have to give a local tax and law exam, which is required for the CPA Canada qualification. For more information, please visit their official website: https://www.cpacanada.ca/
If you wish to settle in Canada, you must go through the route of skilled immigration. For more information, visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/immigration-citizenship.html
Professionally, weigh in the options where you stand and where are you eligible for employment in Canada. Plan accordingly.
“I took a sabbatical for my family life. What are my career options now?”
Girls! (and everyone…) Put your education to good use.
You have worked so hard to get here. Utilize your qualifications. Whether you choose the family life or have taken a break - do not make that an excuse to give up. If you want to build a professional career, your family life should not hamper it and vice versa.
I see so many women balancing personal and professional lives effectively. With strong determination, anything is possible.
A friend told me: “I would not get opportunities like you. You have been working for 11 years. I took a break for 2 years. I won’t find a job.”
A colleague told me: “I don’t have the courage to move abroad alone or the resilience to look for a job.”
My response to both of them: “...then you don’t want it bad enough.”
I am really happy to see how my life shaped up. What is important to me is that I was not forced to choose this path - I wanted to make this MY PATH. A lot of us don’t have that option.
I chose to focus on my professional life and I am glad I did. This has made me the person I am today. I am grateful to my parents who supported me to follow my dreams and didn’t bog me down with societal pressures.
I have seen things changing now. Society is coming out of its orthodox mindset and more women are stepping it up and breaking the tough shell. More women are becoming successful professionals and entrepreneurs. More power to us all.
“Success comes to those who want it.”
Now It’s Your Turn!
Do you want to make a leap in your career? What are you waiting for, then? Take the inspiration from Nishat’s story and just go for it.
We are eager to know your story. Comment below and don’t forget to share it with your friends.)
(Edited by Simran Doshi)
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