As an NHS strategist working on the Covid 19 pandemic, Chekufeh Jash’s role is not a typical accountant’s one – but the ACA has given her invaluable skills.
In 2018, two years after completing the ACA, Chekufeh Jash decided to take a career break to go travelling. She didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do next – but she knew she wanted to help people. “I really wanted to feel the human value of what I was doing,” she says. “I wanted to do something where I could see something positive happening in the community, rather than just the cogs turning in a business. At PwC I was in the healthcare team and I’ve always had a passion for it, so when I came back it seemed obvious that I would stay within the healthcare sector.”
Returning to the UK just as the pandemic was taking hold, she joined NHS England as a strategy analyst, working on the national NHS strategy for Covid 19 – a role that unquestionably fulfils her ambition to help others. “My main focus has been on health inequalities,” she explains. “Obviously we’ve seen a lot in the press around how Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and the most deprived have been adversely impacted by Covid. Our immediate focus was on doing something urgent to protect them, as well as the impact on those people over the longer term, as the NHS works towards the inclusive recovery of services to improve overall health outcomes.”
One of the most significant issues, she says, is trust. “A huge problem we have found is that people from these communities, and the most deprived, have not been so trusting of the healthcare system and of the vaccines,” she says. “So I’ve been very involved with the issues of disinformation and misinformation, trying to educate people and encourage them to come forward for vaccination.
“I think following the pandemic, trust is going to be so important,” she adds. “A lot of people are going to need their faith restored not only in government, but in businesses too. They want to believe they can trust big business, that whoever is regulating those businesses can be trusted, and that they can believe the information they are given. The accountancy profession definitely has a significant part to play in that.”
Though her day-to-day role is not a typical accountant’s one, working at PwC and studying for the ACA have given Chekufeh invaluable experience – and countless transferable skills. “I think number one is time management,” she says. “Once you’ve done the ACA and worked at the same time, any other deadline pales in comparison! So I’m able to work at pace and balance my time between multiple different projects and tasks, as well as deal with a lot of different types of people and work streams.
“I don’t do so much data work now, but that’s something I find invaluable too – the fact that I can look at a set of financial statements and understand what’s going on,” she adds. “You just automatically assume everyone else does too, but when you realise that’s not the case, that’s when I really value the training I’ve had.”
Moving into the public sector has been something of a learning curve, she admits. “There can be more bureaucracy and steps to go through, so it’s quite a different environment,” she says. “But I’ve been able to bring my outside skillset into that – I’m very goal-oriented, working to deliver and working to outcomes. It’s been interesting working with people from different career backgrounds; civil service, public sector and private. And I believe my own background has meant I’ve been able to offer different approaches also.”
As well as opening up doors professionally, her time at PwC led Chekufeh to becoming a One Young World ambassador. “It’s something I’m really thankful for,” she says. “PwC sponsored myself and three others in my year group to attend the One Young World summit in 2016, and it was such a great experience. I’m still part of the community: as an ambassador you’re part of a global network where you can reach out to anybody – business leaders, prominent people in society, or peers who work in charities or corporations – if you have a business idea or if you want to volunteer or help out with someone’s cause.”
Although there have been online conferences and meetings over the past year, it has been frustrating not being able to travel, meet people and network as usual, Chekufeh says. At work, too, she is missing human interaction – especially as her new role has been entirely from home. “It’s been very strange – I went from meeting new people every day when I was travelling to being alone in my house for a year and a half,” she says. “I just want to be able to see people freely now – although I’m not desperate to get back into the office; I actually think remote working is great. It’s opened up so many options for a lot of people who were restricted with jobs before. Hopefully it’s going to make things a lot better now.”
When it comes to their careers, whether that’s finding a flexible balance or heading off into entirely new territory, Chekufeh encourages others to be brave. “With the ACA you’re building a good skillset that will be valued and recognised, and you can apply it to a multitude of roles,” she says. “It’s about courage: if there’s something you’re passionate about and really want to do, don’t underestimate yourself. Your ACA can definitely take you places.”
Trust is the first theme in our major new content series for ICAEW members, When Chartered Accountants Save the World. Find out more here.