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Tsogo Sun CEO Marcel von Aulock was once exactly where you are now: slogging through his articles and dreaming of a bright future. That time came for him and, he points out, taking the CA (SA) route had a major role to play in his success – with many of his most important lessons passed on during his three years as a trainee.
“Trainees gain exposure to a variety of basic business and finance lessons during articles, enabling them to learn and pick up the necessary skills so quickly,” he explains. “The system of articles works well because the growth curve is so rapid that you can generally take a trainee fresh out of articles and place them in virtually any division in the company.”
Von Aulock always knew he wanted to work in the hotel industry, but knew he didn’t have the people skills to succeed front-of-house. His father advised him to take the more sensible route by studying accountancy and entering the industry via the CA path, arguing that the qualification and skills gained would always stand him in good stead.
He took the recommendation, studied his degree at Wits and went on to complete his articles at PwC. Fortunately, PwC had a number of hospitality clients that Von Aulock worked on, and straight after he finished his training contract in 1998, he began working at Southern Sun – which later became Tsogo Sun - and was appointed CEO of the Group in September 2011.
Looking back on his career to date, Von Aulock pinpoints articles as the most fun and educational time of his life. “You work long hours, but it’s important to remember that there will be peak and off-peak times. You are creating the base of your entire career, so although there may be areas that you favour less – I didn’t particularly enjoy auditing, for instance – if you work hard and do it correctly, you will be set for the rest of your career,” he admits.
Another factor to take into account are the number of opportunities that the training period can provide. “Employers actively recruit from audit firms, so do every job that you’re given well. If you fail to do so and emerge from your articles half-baked, you will miss out and your career will suffer. So it’s essential to keep in mind that your three-year training contract can hurt you if you don’t perform. On the other hand, you can also use this period as a launch pad to a successful career,” he concludes.

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