Being in over your head enables you to know how tall you are
"I have always been inspired by the words of T.S Eliot: "If you aren't in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?' Unless one is prepared to take risks, and push oneself out of one's comfort zone, one will never really know what one is truly capable of. This philosophy has always informed everything that I have ever done. It has also enabled me to inspire those around me to achieve more than they believed possible," says Head of ACCA SA, Nadine Kater.
Kater has a passion for education, training and people development. "This passion is part of my DNA. I come from a line of accountants and teachers. My parents were both accountants and my grandparents were teachers. Throughout my entire career I have only ever worked within an education or training environment," she explains.
Kater was appointed Head of ACCA SA in May 2011. Prior to assuming this position, she was the COO of Fasset (The Seta for Finance, Accounting, Management Consulting and Other Financial Services), a position, which she held for approximately six years. Extremely modest, Kater omits to mention that she was instrumental in Fasset taking the lead in registering and implementing the first six learnerships in South Africa.
While at Fasset, she also pioneered and facilitated the role of accounting professional bodies in quality assurance. "This model resulted in professional bodies being accredited as Quality Assurance Partners within Fasset, thus strengthening partnerships with the accounting sector," she informs.
Kater concedes that the position of Head of ACCA SA is extremely challenging: "ACCA South Africa has been restructured, and is now more closely aligned to our head office in London. Our staff complement has more than doubled. The allocation of increased resources means that stakeholder expectations have also increased. Fortunately, the ACCA SA team consists of very capable and competent individuals, who are more than up to the challenge," she reveals.
Kater says she is well equipped for the leadership challenge, associated with taking ACCA SA to a new level of delivery: "Nine years' work experience as an accounting teacher means I have a very good understanding of the challenges that learners face coming out of the South African education system. More than three years' experience as SAIPA National Training Manager, followed by a ten-year stint at Fasset has equipped me with an in depth understanding of how professional bodies operate, the challenges, which they face, employer needs and learner needs. I also have a very good understanding of the Seta environment."
Kater's academic qualifications include a MBA (GIBS), a B Com Accounting (UJ), a Higher Diploma in Education (Wits), a Project Management Professional (PMP) through the Project Management Institute.
Kater describes her leadership style as empowering and transformational: "I have always believed in taking people out of their comfort zone. In doing so, I have always ensured that individuals have the requisite capacity to deliver."
Results-driven, she has always believed that "unless it is measured, it never gets done". It comes as no surprise to learn that her MBA research report focused on: "The perceived value of the return on investment of accounting learnerships for employers." Her research convinced her that learnerships have a very important role to play in skills development in South Africa. Kater cites Fasset CEO, Cheryl James as an important mentor, earlier in her career: "Cheryl and I enjoyed a very close working relationship at Fasset for a period of ten years. We also worked together at SAIPA. Everything that Cheryl does is characterised by integrity, honesty, fairness and quality. These values have not only shaped my own leadership style and my work ethic, but have impacted on those whom I mentor."
When mentoring others, Kater always tries to inculcate a passion for lifelong learning: "I find myself constantly citing former South African President, Nelson Mandela's words: 'Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.' It is only through education that South Africa will be able to unlock its true potential, and in the process, create a better life for all South Africans. It is also only through education that individuals will be able to reach their full potential." Kater acknowledges that the skills crisis in South Africa poses and enormous challenge, but says the challenge is not insurmountable. "Employers, parents, educators, and individuals need to change the mind-set of the unemployed, the unskilled, the marginalised. I am reminded of a quotation by an anonymous source: 'If you really do put a small value on yourself, rest assured that the world will not raise your price.' We need to instil a sense of self-belief. If you aren't in over your head, how do you know how tall you are? South Africa is awash with opportunities. Individuals need to be pushed out of their comfort zones. Never before in South Africa's history has so much funding and so many opportunities been available to individuals, who have the ability, tenacity and the willingness to do what it takes, to succeed in their careers," Kater concludes.