Meet Siobhan Van Der Merwe

Why did you decide to become a CA(SA)?

My favourite toy as a child was a cash register and monopoly money. I have always been fascinated with bank tellers and cashiers. I think it is safe to say, even as a child – money and business fascinated me. I will never forget a memory at the age of 14, I heard my mom mention the word “Chartered Accountant”. Not knowing what she was talking about, I researched what a chartered accountant is and what they do. I was intrigued. Given my lifelong interest of the business world, I thought this was a good fit for me. I still do! This designation is a great one to have, whether you want to work at a bank, be an auditor, be the CFO of a company, be an entrepreneur, be a lecturer or even the owner of restaurant/franchise, the opportunities that this designation awards are endless. I think it is extremely rare to have a qualification that is so versatile. I am proud of the decision I have made as a little girl. This will serve me well, regardless of what my future holds.

What was your experience like on our programme?

One of the things I love about the UCT APC programme is the flexibility it allowed me to have. As someone that works in a tough industry with intense deadlines, UCT’s APC programme allowed me to work at my own pace and in my own time. The assignments that I completed throughout the course were extremely helpful in teaching me exam technique. I also appreciated how approachable the lecturers were. Whether it be our weekly emails from Paul Maughan or another team member answering any technical question we may have had. The lecturers were always available and keen to assist. UCT’s APC programme was definitely one of the best decisions I could have made.

How did you prepare for APC 2017?

    • Emotional preparation is just as important as mental preparation. I took a few days off before the exam to switch my work-mode off so that I could concentrate and give the case study 100% of my focus. Throughout the pre-release period, I went to gym and ate a healthy balanced diet. Do not cut this out of your daily routine, as the exercise gave me clarity.
    • Something that worked well for me was to create a “to-do list” board – write all your triggers/research items on a sticky note and scratch this off as soon as you are done. Although small, it is a very rewarding exercise. In addition, if you feel overwhelmed by what needs to be completed, it helps to see what you have already completed.
    • Do not get lost in what other groups are doing. You have to trust your group completely and stick to your action plan. The pre-release period can become somewhat overwhelming if you bring other groups’ work into the equation.
    • Print the documents you want in your file as you have worked through that trigger – do not leave all the printing for the night before. As Murphy’s Law will have it, the printer will jam or you will run out of ink or paper.
    • Try not to work the afternoon or night before. I watched a movie and went to bed early. This helps you switch off and get a good night’s rest.

Any advice for the Trainees attempting their APC in 2018?

On the day of the exam allow yourself time to be at the venue early, set up your workstation and re-read the case study. Try not to talk to anyone and stay in the zone.

If you get a task that is unexpected or difficult to answer – DO NOT PANIC! Rather take a walk to the bathroom, splash your face with some water and think about it. The chances are that you know ‘the answer’ since you have come this far. Give yourself the credit.

Allow yourself ample time to answer all the tasks and do not leave a task unanswered / unattempted. If you do not make time management a priority in the exam, you are not serving yourself well.

Most importantly, make sure you are answering the required task and that you are not “forcing your research” into what you want the required task to be.

After the exam, do not dwell on the past. If you have left ‘yourself’ on the page and answered the tasks to the best of your ability, there is nothing more you can do. Paul gave us some great advice and that was to find something to do to pass the time. Make a list while you’re still thinking about APC with a sound mind: “What if I pass – what am I going to do?” and “What if I fail, what am I going to do and what is my plan of action” – that way when the day comes, you have a plan in place for both outcomes.

I received a great tip from a friend that wrote APC the year before I did, “from the start of the year practice writing to your target audience every day. In every email you compose or paper you document, make sure your tone, content and level of detail is correct given your audience. This way, when you get the pre-release and tasks you are well practiced in addressing your target audience.”

Second year is a tough one but do not let it frighten you – get excited. The level of growth you experience is worth the sacrifice and pain. I promise.

Lastly, I would like to leave you with a quote from Newt Scamander (Fantastic Beasts and where to find them)Worrying means you suffer twice. Do not suffer twice, it is unnecessary.

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