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 Ismail Seedat, Group Reporting and Taxation Manager, One Africa Media, 34

Ismail Seedat’s family has played an important role in South Africa’s accounting history – his father, Ebrahim, was the first black article clerk to join Ernst and Winnie (now EY) in 1976. As such, his father has always been an inspiration to him.

Ask Ismail and he will tell you that he’s a ‘techie’ at heart. Not surprisingly his early career plans involved following his passion for IT. However, after the dotcom bubble burst he realised that this was probably not the most sustainable career option for him.

Today, however, he speaks of coming full circle – while he ended up following in his father’s footsteps and qualifying as a CA(SA), he is also working at a technical company and enjoying the best both worlds have to offer. Ismail still gets to indulge his interest in technology through his interactions with web developers, digital marketers and analysts.

Entering the business world as an audit trainee, Ismail worked his way to senior manager position at KPMG Durban. He gained a wealth of experience working in an audit unit where he audited businesses across a wide range of industries, from banking and unit trusts to FMCG and industry.

More valuable experience was gained when he formed part of a global team working on a climate change and sustainability review engagement for a listed client. As a result, Ismail became the recipient of a number of awards while he worked at KPMG, gaining the respect of his colleagues, who subsequently nominated him for a secondment to Grindrod Freight Services, acting as the divisional head of finance.

Back to the present, and Ismail is currently living in Lagos with his family, which he admits has been challenging. Managing the reactions of his friends and family when he informed them of the move wasn’t easy – he was moving to a place where attacks from Boko Haram happened almost daily, Ebola and malaria are very real threats while fuel and electricity shortages make life even harder. That said, when an opportunity arose at One Africa Media to be responsible for the financial oversight of the company’s Nigerian and Ghanian operations, Ismail and his family jumped at the chance.

One of the highlights of working under the mentorship of Justin Clarke (2014 EY Entrepreneur of the Year) was the freedom and flexibility he was given in terms of making strategic decisions. Ismail is particularly good at thinking laterally and has identified a niche in funding Nigeria’s financially excluded population. “As such, I built a model, created all the document’s and entered into the company’s first vehicle sale agreement. I am now leading the product thinking on solving the problem of rental property finance in Nigeria,” he explains.

He advises aspiring CAs never to be afraid of stepping out of their comfort zones – it’s the only way we will ever develop and grow as people, he says. 

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