By Yashivan Govender
“To compete you need to be able to reinvent and adapt yourself, have goals and never forget about your dreams”.
As I am being patched through to his office by his personal assistant, I skim through the CV of Ben Frey and without even thinking twice I start to prepare myself for an interview that possibly isn’t going to go further than the day in a life of a typical accountant, I line up my interview template and ready myself for what seems to being a pretty standard encounter.
He addresses my call as slick and as calm as any lawyer would and answers my questions as innovatively as a world class businessman. Was I really on the phone with a Chartered Accountant (CASA) and Registered Auditor (RA), I am not sure…As Ben speaks I start to jot down his words into my notebook and at the same time I page again through his CV, his age upon my double take…is thirty.
As I pummel questions towards Ben, he illustrates a story of a young lad fascinated by the accounting industry. An opportunity came his way whilst in high school when PKF one of the world's largest Auditing firms approached his school about the chance for individuals to study part time through the University of South Africa (UNISA) whilst doing a learnership programme with the firm. It seemed simple and smart, getting paid to work and study, why not! At the end of day you could walk away with a valuable qualification and if not at least it was worth a shot. A young lad from Welkom in the Free State of the sunny climate that is South Africa, Ben had nothing to lose and seized the opportunity with great gusto. In good time he picked up his B. Compt degree along with a B. Compt Honours then followed it with the professional qualifications of a Chartered Accountant and a Registered Auditor. Flying through the ranks of PKF, Ben became a faster climber than most in the industry and in January of 2008 he assumed the position of a Director at PKF’s Johannesburg’s office.
Balancing his career seems to be Ben’s key to success and as he converses that his life’s lessons have attributed to his career and vice versa, a common factor starts to develop, Ben is not your ordinary accountant. He continues to further his thirst for knowledge by reading for an Industrial and Organisational Psychology degree. He talks about celebrities like Ryan Seacrest who run themselves as a business and not as individuals with a job. He draws inspiration from biographies that showcase the success stories of today’s and tomorrows heroes. He explores the world one country at a time! From Hong Kong, to Australia, Malaysia and Dubai and even Swaziland to boot, Ben explains that his career and life has been shaped to allow him to adapt to various situations that occur in the work environment.
“Despite peoples perception of it, the accounting and auditing industry has changed so much over the past fives years. It’s become so diverse that one has to be creative in order to accommodate and survive in the industry. It’s no longer a straight forward numbers game and as the economic as well as the business climate of the world changes so must the individuals assigned to help keep it on track”-says Ben in his cool, calm and collected manner. By keeping an open mind and allowing himself to have balance in his life Ben has managed to stay on top of the accounting game. Young accountants and auditors who are now seeing a new unchartered accounting environment look to leaders like Ben as individuals paving a new way forward in a career that not only needs an analytical set of thoughts but a dynamic one as well.
“To compete you need to be able to reinvent and adapt yourself, have goals and never forget about your dreams”. With these words I hang up the line and scrunch up my interview template into a paper basketball, I shoot for the dustbin and realize that never again shall I stereotype a career.