Farah Iqbal ACCA: My role and the ‘Covid-19 effect’
Farah Iqbal studied accounting and finance at Kingston University before going on do the ACCA Qualification, although accountancy was not her first choice of career.
‘When growing up I wanted to be an entrepreneur and have my own business,’ she explains. ‘However, I knew there were a lot of skills I needed to learn and experience to gain, so I thought becoming an accountant would be very useful for me. Also, I wanted a plan B in case that did not work out and I knew that there would always be a demand for accountants.’
She has over 14 years’ experience working in finance for large multinational corporations including BAA and Mars, and her current role finds her as planning and performance manager at BP.
Before the pandemic, Farah spent a considerable part of her job travelling – particularly to Africa. This is but one of the huge changes to her role and the way she works that Farah has experienced this year.
‘Since the official lockdown in March by the UK government, my employer had everyone work from home,’ she says. ‘The office was closed and we were requested to take all our equipment such as laptops and notepads home with us. It was worrying times as we had no idea when we would return.’
Farah initially found the new working arrangements challenging: ‘I had no office space at home and, within a day, I realised how uncomfortable it was without a proper desk, chair and IT equipment… I was used to having two large screens on my desk. However, for me, after six months I have now got used to the flexibility of work. I also now have an office setup at home with a laptop stand, keyboard and mouse that my employer kindly provided.’
BP – itself not immune from the economic fallout from coronavirus having recently announced plans to cut 10,000 jobs, representing about 15% of the oil group’s 70,000 staff by the end of the year – has also had to evolve to help ensure staff are up to speed with the new ways of working.
‘My employer has increased training into using Microsoft Teams to conduct video chats and team chats with my colleagues globally,’ she says. ‘This has meant it has now been much easier to communicate with my colleagues globally. The software has developed further during lockdown to improve quality of calls and to enable a larger group to meet.
‘It has actually been great speaking to my colleagues at home with their families and kids and learn more about them, which you would never see from working in an office. It also means that I don’t get distracted at work by people stopping me or coming to my desk if I am busy working. I can plan and focus my time and diary accordingly.’
Although Farah would one day like to travel again – her job involves ensuring the financial processes are adhered to covering new contracts, due diligence and ethic and compliance checks on third party suppliers, as well as working with local teams to identify areas to help with local communities for education, health and environment in West Africa, the base of BP’s largest new gas development – she understands it may be some time before she can.
‘It was the norm for me and my team to travel to Africa on a regular basis to meet the local teams, but through the development of technology this may no longer be required, saving time and money,’ she says.
‘As my job and many of my colleagues can be conducted without any restrictions from home, I foresee this way of working becoming the norm without the need to be in an office five days a week. Talking to my colleagues, they say that their work is now more productive with the flexibility to manage both personal and work life.’
This article was first published in Student Accountant in August 2020