Ayesha Bedwei: I am still re-inventing myself

ayesha-bedwei-profileAyesha Bedwei: The modern day tax partner winning the numbers game

It is often said that life is a numbers game. If you work really hard and put yourself in the path of great things, by the law of averages, something will stick. This is definitely true in the case of Ayesha Bedwei, Tax Partner at professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers Ghana Limited.

Many will say that Ayesha, who is one of PwC’s two female partners, and the youngest of the firm’s 10 partners, is in a very favourable position. While this is most certainly the case, it is a position that did not come without perseverance, sacrifice and good old fashioned hardwork.

Those who have had the pleasure of working with Ayesha will say that she exudes calm confidence polished with optimism. What many will be surprised to know is that at the start of her career, becoming a Partner at Ghana’s leading professional services firm is something that she did not envision for herself.

“I have always had a penchant for numbers. I liked studying economics at school; I had a good teacher, Mr Samuel Azasu, who made the subject fun and easy to understand. I studied economics up to A-Level and really enjoyed it,” she remarked about her time at school.

It was after obtaining a degree in Business Economics from the University of East London in the UK, that Ayesha gravitated towards studying finance and made the change from economics to accounting.

She made the decision to study for the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) professional qualification in order to become a qualified accountant.

The numerous ACCA exams were difficult to get through, but giving up was never an option. “Anyone who has studied or is currently studying for their ACCA exams will confirm that it is a daunting task. Your life is effectively not your own for that period.”

With a degree and ACCA qualification under her belt, many job opportunities came her way: A two year stint at Auerbach Hope, a professional accountancy firm in London – “Working at Auerbach Hope was great, it was my first experience working in the corporate world and I learnt many valuable lessons. However after two years of building a solid foundation in my accountancy career, I was ready for the next challenge.”

Roles after that included Finance Manager at Steps Drama Limited, a professional training organisation and Group Financial Accountant at multinational insurance giant, Royal Sun Alliance Insurance.

“Working at Royal Sun Alliance really opened my eyes to life as an employee at a multinational company. I worked with a diverse range of people from different walks of life. No two days were the same and I was part of a team reporting directly to the board- it was a fantastic experience,” she recalled.

Homecoming and PwC Ghana

After eight years in the UK, Ayesha made the decision to relocate to Ghana. Eager to broaden her horizons before re-entering professional accountancy practice, Ayesha worked as a teaching assistant at Ashesi University and as a Tax Assistant Manager at Ernst & Young before starting with PwC in December 2005.

“The Ashesi experience was a seminal one. It was there I discovered that teaching was something I really loved to do. I now know that this is essentially my life’s work or calling,” she recalled fondly.

Reminiscing about joining PwC, Ayesha remarked, “I was very happy when the PwC opportunity came along. I had previously applied to PwC in the UK whilst living in London, but was unsuccessful. Getting a second chance to work at PwC meant so much to me. The timing was perfect- I was back home in Ghana, ready to start the next chapter of my career, everything was falling into place.”

By Ayesha’s own admission, she was drawn to PwC’s concept of ‘do-it-yourself’ career building. “I was happy in all my roles prior to joining PwC, however the firm’s investment in human capital in terms of training and development really appealed to me.

When I first joined PwC, I was just starting to specialise in tax, I felt and still feel that working at PwC is the best place for me to be a change- maker,” she says.

As the years progressed, Ayesha steadily built her career at PwC gaining recognition in Ghana and across Africa as a tax and oil and gas expert. Her dedication to her career paid off in 2014 when she was admitted into the PwC Partnership.

As a Tax Partner, Ayesha’s work days are varied. Her diary is often filled with conference calls, meetings with existing and prospective clients as well as meetings with her team. She also spends an increasing amount of time coaching others to help develop their careers.

She has a reputation amongst her colleagues as a connector of people and ideas, regularly challenging her staff to keep re-inventing themselves.

“I believe and tell my team that in order to stay relevant you must keep learning. One set of skills does not prepare a person for life. Real growth happens when you learn throughout your career,” she states.

Going beyond taxation

In addition to being a Tax Partner and PwC Africa’s Energy Tax Leader, Ayesha is also the PwC Corporate Responsibility and Diversity & Inclusion leader for Ghana and West Africa, a role which involves bringing greater ‘diversity of thought’ to the firm’s decision making processes.

“At PwC, we respect and value differences. We know that when people from different backgrounds with different points of view work together, we create the most value– for our clients, our people and society. We believe that to unleash human potential, you need to have an open mind,” says Bedwei.

Possessing an open mind and having a positive outlook often leads Ayesha to find solutions where others see only problems.

“I coach a number of people both inside and outside of work. I always tell them that with a positive attitude and a can-do approach, half the battle in any tough situation is won. This isCo the mind set I adopt when I find myself in the face of adversity both personally and professionally,” she adds.

Being philosophical

When asked if with all her career achievements she had reached the pinnacle of success, Ayesha’s response was interesting. “I like to take the advice I give my team,” she says with a smile, “I am still re-inventing myself.”

Another important factor that Ayesha credits to being successful is having faith in God and herself. “Having faith in yourself and your situation and believing that obstacles are merely tests that build strength and character is very important,” she added.

When asked how she succeeded when many would have opted to change careers Ayesha answered by saying, “My core values of integrity and perseverance have been the key to moving forward in my career. I have always been enthusiastic to work and excited to take on new challenges.”

Achievements

Ayesha’s high profile rose even higher in 2014 when she was voted as a finalist for the 2014 Vlisco Brand Ambassador for Ghana alongside Eugenia Tachie-Menson and Anita Erskine. Despite not winning the ambassadorial role, Ayesha describes the experience as a major milestone.

Also In 2014, Ayesha became a member of the prestigious African Leadership Network (ALN) and sat on the judging panel for ALN’s Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship.

Ayesha believes in sharing her knowledge and lends her expertise to numerous businesses, councils and not for profit organisations. She serves on the advisory board of The Art and Design Institute of Accra, an organisation focussed on skills training in engineering and design in the art industry.

Ayesha’s Energy sector expertise has also led her to sit on the board of the Ghana Oil Club, a non-profit friendly organisation for the energy industry in Ghana. She is also a representative on the board of theWomen’s Trust, an institution dedicated to empowering women and girls in Ghana through education, access to healthcare and economic development.

Other notable mentions include her appointment as an ambassador for UNAID’s ‘Protect the Goal’ campaign aimed at HIV awareness and reduction. Ayesha was also named as a Finalist for Ghana for the ‘Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government 2014’ award organised by CEO Communications of South Africa.

Ayesha is a regular contributor to articles in Ghana’s business print media, especially the Business and Financial Times (B&FT), she also appears on television programmes discussing various issues including tax, corporate responsibility and diversity and inclusion.

With all her achievements and accolades Ayesha has some important words of advice for young professionals hoping to take their careers to the next level.

“It is important for young people to realise that very rarely does success come overnight. It takes hard work, and dedication. It can be exhausting, it’s not always easy, and sometimes doors are closed in your face, but when you get to where you want to be, it’s all worth it,” she says enthusiastically.

Words to live by, especially coming from someone who is winning the numbers game. —

Source: Bernard Yaw Ashiadey |thebftonline |Ghana

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