- Hi, I am Jonathan Wood a qualified Chartered Accountant from SAICA (The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants).
- I was on a constant search for doing something meaningful (outside of the typical 9 to 5 job) which made me leave big corporates with fancy designations.
- As I moved within different industries under many challenges, life circumstances unfolded a new chapter for him – When I got an opportunity in a fast-growing company in Dubai. Here I handle multiple roles from – Business operations to Marketing to Finance and I am able to learn the ins and outs of running a business (which is just what I wanted).
- Presently I am working for a Small Business in Dubai in the hospitality segment. I also personally mentor and coach various businesses creating strategies and increasing business efficiency.
- Finding my area of interest was not easy but I DID NOT QUIT. Here’s my story!
Tracing Back Roots – How I Began My Career In CA?
Hi, my name is Jonathan Wood; I originate from Port Elizabeth South Africa. I have been Johannesburg for the last 10 years and I moved to Dubai almost two years ago.
I haven’t stuck to one specific industry. I have diversified experience from – Finance, Operations, IT and even Sales. So, that’s me!!
My decision to become a Chartered Accountant started at a very young age. My dad’s business was not doing so well. He was in textile manufacturing and there was an influx of cheaper Chinese goods in the market. And I think the lack of understanding of how to be competitive also lack understanding of finance, and how ‘not to over-leverage yourself’ affected my Dad’s business.
It was then that I decided I wanted to be an entrepreneur or help other entrepreneurs run their business. So both the competitive nature of entrepreneurship as well as the backend understanding of finances at a young age, I figured it out and not quite sure how but how one plus one equal to two and decided to pursue Chartered Accountancy.
I knew early on that if I wanted to be an entrepreneur or even if I wanted to be in business, having a good grounding in finance would be key. So at a very early, I decided to become a Chartered Accountant.
Starting my CA journey and Overcoming Failures
I actually applied to one of four bigger Universities in South Africa called the University of Cape Town (UCT). Unfortunately, I got four rejection letters in the same envelope…I don’t know why they printed four!
Luckily I got into the University of Port Elizabeth (which is now the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University) so I studied there for 4 years. I failed my honours year and then studied for the fifth year. So, I repeated honours. I wouldn’t say that I fell off the waggon but the failure was unexpected.
Fortunately, I gave my best after this failure and qualified as a Chartered Accountant.
“Did I Love Auditing?”
For me, auditing was the boring part. You have got boxes, it’s a check in the checklist. When something doesn’t work on the checklist you have got to go and figure out why? Ask the questions, investigate a little bit here and there.
I think that one thing that if I could go back and change during my articles? Not how I push the boundaries or not how my personality was to over for auditing but that will be changing myself and actually using the experience to better gain a more well-rounded knowledge of what I could achieve. In short, I would ask more questions and try to understand everything about the business and industry of my auditee. This would prepare me for the future and give me first-hand experience in various businesses.
What Next After Qualifying as a CA?
Post articles, one of my good friend, Nick actually approached me for the opportunity to travel!
I basically sold everything I owned and cashed my Unit Trusts and travelled South East Asia for 3.5 months. It was a much-needed break of no pressure and life just happening! You don’t have to be anywhere tomorrow, that was really refreshing. In fact, during the last leg of our holiday, we visited Dubai for six weeks. We literally walked Business Bay and DIFC dropping our CV.
In fact, I even got a job offer but the salary offered was equivalent to what I could earn back in South Africa (even after-tax), which made no sense to me. So, I said no, declined the job offer back and returned to South Africa.
Once back, I travelled around SA for a few months basically couch surfing with friends. After that, I went for a couple of interviews and lucked out in finding a job at Rothchild in their Mergers and Acquisitions / Investment Bank team. I lasted two months. I knew this role was not for me.
I really wanted to shift into something more entrepreneurial and see if I could use my newly acquired finance skills in a real-life scenario but not something that was pre ingrained structured corporate.
I had a friend from Port Elizbeth back home who had brought in a shoe brand into South Africa. I am already now on job number three post articles and everybody must be thinking
“You cannot jump around that much?”
What your CV is going to look like?”
“You are going to look flaky and non-committal”
But how do you know what it is like to work for an investment bank if you don’t do? How do you know what it’s like to work as a VAT or Tax consultant if you don’t do it? How do you know what it’s like to work with friends that run their own business?”
How do you do all of that without actually living it?”
You have to move around if you’re in a job that you don’t like. Put your CV immediately back on the market.
Why aren’t you consistently trying to either do something on your own leveraging your personal networks or looking out for something different it’s because we are lazy.
Starting my Career in Dubai
I moved to a company called Cafe Rider Custom in Dubai it’s once again a jump from industry to industry. We have three business units – There is Roastery, the cafe business and lifestyle business.
I was lucky enough to have access to the business prior to joining, but all the hard work came after moving to Dubai and starting all over.
Leverage your networks
If in 5 years you are not where you want to be – You’re the only one to be blamed.
Explore without worrying how it looks on your CV.
Jonathan Wood CA(SA) is an experienced Chartered Accountant who is an expert in running small businesses. Apart from heading a small business in Dubai, he also provides mentoring and advice to other businesses in Dubai and South Africa. He is an expert in the business transformation.
(Image edited by Ankit Lodhi)