Moneeza Usman - A Woman, Her Dreams And Her World

I ‘With rebellion, awareness is born”- Albert Camus

I had the fortune of being born into a conservative yet extremely enlightened family. My father was a leading surgeon of the country and growing up it was an unsaid rule in our house that all four of his children would all take up his noble profession. Our dinner table conversations always rallied around medicine and discussing different medical cases. I developed an aversion to hear about such misery of people and resolved that I would not opt for a career in medicine, though convincing my mother would be a formidable task. My father passed away when I was in middle school. My siblings were in medical college at that time and my mother became occupied with managing the hospitals and legacies my father left behind. I wanted to do MBA but was made to do my Senior Cambridge in premedical for wider scope of career options. I got admission in intermediate in premedical as well but the rebellious streak in me surged and one day I switched to pre engineering much to the dismay of my mother. I wanted to switch to commerce but realized that would be too much of a shock for her and that I would need to convince her gradually.

“Failure is not opposite of success; it is part of success”- Arinana Hiffington

After completing my intermediate, my eyes were set for admission into the coveted IBA for BBA and then MBA. In the 1990s, getting admission into IBA was like striking gold and I worked laboriously towards the arduous admission requisites. I was heartbroken when I could not procure admission there. I felt an emptiness and was completely lost as I was extremely confident that I would succeed in my goal. My mother’s reminders about my mistake of not pursuing medicine added fuel to fire. It was then that my elder sister saw an advertisement in the newspaper about ICAP conducting admission tests for Basic Accountancy Course (BAC), a newly introduced route that they had come up with to pursue chartered accountancy. No one in my entire family had ventured into this field and from hearsay we knew that people rarely passed CA exams. Though not fully convinced about doing CA, I sat for the admission test and passed with flying colors. This provided some respite. I was extremely confused given the repute of how difficult CA was as a profession with negligible number of females in it and with no one in my family from this profession to lend me advice. However, the adventurous side of me, prodded me on despite my family’s skepticism. I thought I would give it my best shot and see what this challenge of CA is all about.

“Opportunity follows struggle. It follows effort. It follows hard work. It doesn’t come before.” – Shelby Steele

As fate would have it, I passed my BAC exams and soon found myself applying to firms for article ship.   Little did I know that the real challenge starts now! My life got enveloped in a world of spending endless hours of meeting deadlines, late sittings, studying till late into the night and struggling to report to office the next day on time! In those four years of my life, I found myself cut off from my friends and family not by choice but because the hectic routine of being posted from one client to another and at the same time burning the mid night lamp to pass my CA exams. It was the time when a refer in one paper if not cleared in the next two attempts resulted in the lapse of the whole group of papers and having to appear in them again! Thankfully, I never had to face that misfortune, but its tension loomed over like dark clouds on every student’s head. Further, there being only a handful of females in this male dominated profession did not help much either. It required double the effort to prove worthy of standing equal to male counterparts. It involved being the only female not just in audit teams but also at the clients you were posted to and sticking out like a sore thumb. Nevertheless, I did not let my gender deter me or my objective to become as proficient at my work as possible. When I look back, I treasure my article ship days. It was period of great learning, on the job training and synonymous of the way diamonds are mined. Those grueling years taught discipline, patience, fortitude and resilience – all the ingredients necessary to hone a CA professional.

“Leadership belongs to those who take it”- Sheryl Sandberg

I passed my professional exams within my article ship which surprised me as much as my family given the precedent of low passing percentage of chartered accountancy. Being through different managerial positions I realized that it was easier to be part of a male dominated team than to lead one!  Maybe it is a natural characteristic of men not liking to be led by women, but I realized that since I was here to stay, I would need to develop a leadership style with tact, discretion and firmness so that teamwork and results are optimized. Hence, another lesson learnt during article ship of how to deal with a variety of people at different clients helped me to achieve this. I firmly believe that dedication and hard work never goes unnoticed and within eight years of my qualification I was offered partnership in my firm. It was a most vulnerable time of my career as I had just given birth to my first born and the thoughts of quitting my profession to look after my child were crossing my mind. I consider this offer of partnership was a sign from The Almighty for me to continue as I knew I would be making history by becoming the first lady partner in the big four firms of Pakistan. I have never looked back since though it has been a tough ride managing family and a career. It is basically a balancing and juggling act but if one has the determination to succeed there is no challenge that is unsurmountable.