Today you’re going to learn exactly how to find a job opportunity in the Middle East from your home country (even if you do not have a CA degree).
Let’s get started.
Why did I decide not to become a Chartered Accountant?
I am a Punjabi by ethnicity and Sikh by religion, born and brought up in the capital city of Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur.
My grandparents had moved over from Punjab to Malaysia a long time ago and as such, my parents are also Malaysians.
While growing up, I was an above average student.
I did my graduation from HELP University in Malaysia, 3+0 affiliation programme with the University of East London, which means I have a degree from the UK but I have completed my studies locally in Malaysia.
Coming from a below average middle-class family, I lost my dad when I was 16.
Being raised by a single mom thereafter was not easy.
I had to make decisions early in life to support myself and my mom financially.
I sacrificed a lot of my personal goals (i.e. wanting to study abroad, wanting to train to play badminton professionally, travel, etc) in order to be where I am today.
What kept me going was the desire to be financially independent so that I could have the freedom to live the life I want without depending on anyone.
This fact motivated me to attain a stable working life and getting financially independent, without having to do something I disliked.
After graduating, I got an opportunity to experience a glimpse of the corporate world by securing an Audit internship in one of the Big 4’s in Malaysia.
During my internship, I interacted with a lot of Chartered Accounting students who prepared for long examination routines, juggled between the extensive working hours, all while maintaining excellent performance at work.
Initially, even I wanted to become a Chartered Accountant but looking at all of this made me rethink my decision of pursuing CA.
I asked myself, would pursuing CA take me closer to my dreams? And the answer was No.
That’s when I knew auditing and assurance was not my cup of tea. At the end of the day, some things are only worth the struggle if you enjoy doing it.
How I discovered Transfer Pricing as a career?
Once I decided CA is not what I want to pursue, I started looking out for other opportunities that were available.
Taking into account my burning desire to work abroad, I knew I would be interested in something that I could leverage in the future in the form of international work experience.
I expressed my concerns to one of my final semester lecturers, who had been mentoring me.
Since she taught me 4 subjects during my Accounting degree, I was confident that she knew my strengths and weaknesses.
She also had experience working in both the Big 4’s and commercial firms prior to her lecturing career.
Considering my intention to someday seek an opportunity outside of Malaysia and pursue a career outside of Auditing, she introduced me to International Taxation.
And her insight led me to discover Transfer Pricing as a sub-division of International Taxation.
I personally found it very interesting as it required a lot of reading, researching, and application.
I did my due diligence thereafter on all the available sub-divisions of tax departments available primarily in a Big 4 firms.
I also researched the job availability for experienced professionals in the Transfer Pricing market.
Since I am not an exam-based person and always understood things better via application and having a hands-on experience Transfer Pricing seemed perfect.
From there on, I made the decision to learn, grow and pursue a career in International Tax specifically in the Transfer Pricing division.
I applied to EY, Malaysia and got into their Transfer Pricing team.
Why did I move from Malaysia to the Middle East?
After my 4-year tenure with EY Malaysia, I needed a change of environment.
Better financial health to serve my commitments was also a motivating factor all while keeping the theme of doing something that I enjoy.
Middle-East was my main preference as I had connected with a lot of people who had worked there.
Everyone had been encouraging to move to the Middle East mainly because one is able to save a lot more in the middle east because of the non-taxable income (saving up the same amount in Malaysia would take me years).
As speaking to a few people, I actively started looking out for an opportunity in the Middle East.
And luckily managed to secure employment with PwC Middle East in Qatar.
The whole process took 2-3 months and I cannot thank my loved ones enough for the incredible emotional support throughout this journey.
I am currently employed as a Senior Consultant with the regional team of PwC based in Qatar.
However, I am required to travel to the UAE frequently to work with the Transfer Pricing team there.
How did I find a transfer pricing job opportunity in the middle east (Qatar)?
When I first decided to move to the middle east, the first step I took was to update my CV and make an introductory point that I am open to pursuing opportunities for exposure in different jurisdictions and working cultures.
So there are no particular exact steps that I took, I just:
- Updated my CV
- Linked-in profile
- Looked out for recruiters and available opportunities out there
In my case, a recruiter from PwC reached out to me via LinkedIn to understand my relocation needs.
That conversation with the HR landed me an interview with the team leader of the Transfer Pricing team in the Middle East.
I was also approached by other recruiters from recruitment agencies in the process.
I received the offer letter from PwC Qatar in May 2018 which I accepted and signed it on 3rd June (it was my birthday and I thought that would be a big gift to myself).
I had requested to start in August 2018 with PwC Qatar.
Thereafter, I had to serve my notice period with EY Malaysia and mentally prepared myself to relocate.
The entire process from me accepting the offer letter and joining PwC Qatar took about 2-3 months. I believe this process may vary from person-to-person depending on their relocating needs or notice period to serve.
Moving to Qatar from Malaysia
Moving to the middle east from Malaysia was a very scary and bold move for myself.
It was a new beginning. Everyone warned me about how it would feel, but the magnitude of it only sets in once you are there all by yourself.
However, I knew if I could just push through the first month or so, it was going to be worth it thereafter – and that is exactly what I focused on.
Despite relocating with an open mind, the first day I landed in Qatar felt odd.
It was a region and a country that I have not visited before but only read about and seen pictures of it. It took me a while to digest the fact that this is the place I am going to be living on a permanent basis.
The first day was very difficult emotionally; hence I tried to keep myself occupied by connecting to people from home to make me feel better.
However, as my employment started the second day itself, it got better as days passed by.
As such, it definitely felt odd and depressing, but once I got used to the environment, it felt better with all the support that I’ve received.
I am extremely thankful to be receiving incredible emotional support from my loved ones back in Malaysia.
How I found a place to live in Qatar?
Having employed with a multinational enterprise in the Middle-East, it is common that the firm will likely provide you accommodation in your first month of being there.
Similarly, PwC had arranged for me a pick-up from the airport as well as hotel accommodation close by to the office for my first month.
Having such support from PwC, I had a month to look for accommodation whilst being in Qatar.
In the process of my search, I managed to sustain a shared-accommodation close by (walking distance) to office within 2 weeks being in Qatar via the website Qatar Living.
This website is indeed very helpful to give me an overview of everything that I needed to start a new life in Qatar.
Cost of Living in Qatar
In the middle east, I think anyone’s main portion of the expense is contributed towards the rent.
You can try to follow a salary ratio for your expenses in the Middle East or customize it with your priorities:
- 30% – rent
- 20% – living expenses (food & transportation)
- 50% – savings.
Besides the rent, I feel everything else is not too expensive in Qatar (provided you don’t aim for the 4/5 star range of food in hotels frequently).
As for Malaysians (myself) – it is very easy to attain a driving license in Qatar, which would only cost 250 QAR for a 5 years validity, and car rentals are sustainable with the kind of income you gain here.
Holders of driving licenses from the UK, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, South Korea, and Malaysia are now eligible to get a Qatari driving license without any tests.
Benefits of working in Qatar
It is not just a career growth I have attained by this move to Qatar, but there has been a lot of personal growth for me in the process.
I can say I am a better person to have experienced living away from family as it taught me to appreciate things which I may have taken for granted in the past.
Being a jovial and sociable person, it didn’t take me long to make good friends around. I made myself very approachable to anyone who needed anything from me to establish good networks and friendships along the way.
I also had decided to stay in a shared apartment to avoid feeling lonely and that definitely helped – thankfully I have amazing housemates!
Think beyond CA
I think many students with accounting and finance degrees out there restrict their options to only venturing into chartered accountancy. Thus, only exposing themselves to the world of Audit & Assurance and limiting their experiences as compared to what other job options may offer them.
I would encourage students to other interests outside the scope of accounting or discover divisions like tax and advisory.
Its better for a graduate to fully do due diligence of all the options available than to just get into chartered accounting without fully understanding what other opportunities are available to them.
Do you need to be a CA to get into Transfer Pricing?
In my opinion, Transfer Pricing is something you can pick up and learn coming from any background.
I say this because TP or the concept of TP is not really taught extensively in school or universities. It is really something you can pick up and learn if you have a genuine interest.
Now 5 Years into my career having worked with leaders from various backgrounds, I can attest that it is not compulsory for one to be a Chartered Accountant in order to climb up the corporate ladder in Transfer Pricing.
Naturally, in some countries it is highly preferable or advantageous but, as far as Malaysia or the Middle East is concerned, it isn’t a must.
I personally think it is best to move to the Middle East when you know someone there who can share and guide you with their experience with you.
Those out there who are genuinely interested in securing a job in the Middle East should try to build a network with as many people as possible who are already there.
I also consistently kept an eye out on the career pages of potential companies that I would consider working with and submitted my applications accordingly.
This process can be very draggy and exhausting at times, but best is to not give up as it would definitely be worth it.
Have a strong support system
Having a supportive mom who I can call and talk to anytime has definitely helped.
Having a partner who has been away from home himself and knowing what it felt and what it takes to get through such a journey helped me greatly.
He always knew the right things to say and had always been there and reachable at any time of the day to address my emotional struggles of moving to Qatar and being away from home.
Having supportive friends who have been very encouraging and proud of me with this move and always kept themselves approachable as to whenever I needed anyone to talk to also helped me feel better.
And from this I learned, sometimes you just need the right form of support and motivation from the right people to be able to achieve your best potential, live your dream and be the best version of yourself.
Now It’s Your Turn!!!
Have you considered moving to the Middle East? If yes what is the first step you have taken?
Do you have questions for Taran?
Feel free to comment below and ask Taran your questions.
You can also connect to Taran on LinkedIn – Taran Kaur