Sunday Success - Samantha Mbano
Who is Samantha Mbano?
I was born and raised on the Caribbean gem of Barbados. My upbringing was punctuated with reading, singing, poetry, crochet, debating competitions and public speaking. However, my family has always emphasized the importance of education and learning in all its forms. Consequently, my parents ensured that I was the proud alumni of both the Barbados SDA Primary and Secondary Schools. I studied towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and Accounting from The University of the West Indies (UWI) at Cave Hill Campus and attained the ACCA Certification three years later. I moved to the UK to accept an opportunity to work with one of EY’s (Ernst & Young) regional offices. My experiences there have shaped me to be a more confident, driven and focused individual who enjoys learning and helping others.
What does the life of an Auditor entail?
A day in the life of an auditor can range from a stock count in a freezer to an executive meeting with the Board of Directors of a listed international company. I have spent countless hours analyzing spreadsheets, writing reports and emails, making phone calls, travelling locally and abroad, coaching staff and networking with teams in various time zones, simultaneously! It is tough work but the experience is bar none for developing key interpersonal, analytical and organisational skills, and gaining a thorough understanding of business processes in multiple industries.
As the pivotal contact on the engagement to the audit partner, the audit team and the client, you are responsible for delivering a high-quality audit file, identifying efficiencies for subsequent projects and building the EY brand through integrity. With significant advancements in digital technology and increasing expectations from the public amid high-profile company failures, the face of audit is rapidly changing from a mere tick-box exercise to using the insights from our audits and reviews to add value to the business and transparency to its stakeholders.
Did you always see Audit as a career option?
No. When I graduated from secondary school, I did not know what I wanted to do. My closest friends were all interested in the medical profession and my grades were strong in science, but I knew it was not for me. So, in a leap of faith at the Barbados Community College (BCC), I majored in Mathematics, Information Technology and Accounting. I enjoyed and excelled most in my studies of the latter and therefore pursued a career in finance. My first job opportunity after university was at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Barbados, which was my introduction to the world of Audit.
Though I am an Auditor by profession, I also have a passion for coaching and I actively seek ways to integrate that into my role. In the future I may explore the opportunity to marry my love for accounting with teaching. I am privileged to have had excellent mentors and educators throughout my studies and career and I aspire to be the same for others. Every day, I believe that we should be learning, evolving, honing our craft and trying new things.
How was the experience studying for your ACCA?
Balancing work, studying and everything else life throws is a fine art and a bespoke challenge for each person. The audit role itself can be very demanding so it was essential for me to dedicate and fiercely guard specific times for study. I also had to be creative with the way I studied by using voice recordings to revise while I did household chores or when travelling and by tutoring others on the topic. I realized that teaching others reinforced what I was learning and there is merit to the quote that ‘If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough’. I continue to tutor persons who are preparing for their accounting and audit examinations (ACCA, ACA and AAT) and interested persons can contact me by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Further, I have found that exam technique is equally as important as knowledge on the subject. For example, every sentence in a scenario is for a reason. Rather than highlight or underline it, ask yourself “Why have they included this information?’ and note the answer to that instead. Another practical tip for financial statements and consolidation preparation would be to create a proforma of your final answer and reference each line item to a separate page with the calculation(s). More marks are allocated for the workings than the final answer.
While the aim was to pass the exams, my emphasis was always on making sure I understood what I was learning, so I was not afraid to ask as many questions as needed to get there. Exam success is one by-product of that process. Despite your progress to date, you can do it! Don’t give up! ‘Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might’ – Eccl 9:10.
Do you have any advice for an aspiring Audit professional?
It is an invaluable opportunity to be part of a profession which gives the breadth of knowledge and experience as audit does. In the last few years, I have noted that while having the grades to qualify for the position is important, more emphasis is placed on identifying whether the candidate is a good fit for the company’s culture. Most firms are looking for goal-oriented, focused individuals who are eager to learn, not afraid to speak up or ask questions and embrace change. ‘Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude’ – Zig Ziglar.
Tell us about your transition from Barbados to the United Kingdom.
The initial year of life in the UK was challenging for me. I often questioned why I had traded sunsets at the beach for a concrete jungle, coconut snow cones for a tea with two sugars and how it was possible I still needed a scarf and jacket in summer! I’m also naturally a friendly person and quickly learned that saying ‘Good morning’ to people you don’t know is not a social norm in London – for safety reasons.
I have a few relatives in the UK who were supportive during this time and helped me to understand the NHS (health care), travel and most importantly, where I could find the best Caribbean food. I was also surprised to find that the EY regional offices are very diverse and I have met colleagues from every continent of the world, except Antarctica. Everyone was very pleasant and happy to help.
What do you miss most about home?
Family, food and weather. In that order. Most of my family still live in Barbados and we are close-knit. I find it most difficult to be away from them and missing out on key moments, including weddings, birthdays and other events. I also miss life’s simple pleasures – fried flying fish, bread and two, conkies, rock cakes, tamarind balls, mauby and soursop punch. My mother is the best for surprising me with ‘care packages’ of the Bajan things I love. Then there’s the weather ... need I say more?
You don’t realise how much you take for granted until you live in a different country. I totally understand why people pay so much to travel to the place I am proud to call home.