For Umair Javaid, being an ICAEW student has helped him become a more confident, well-rounded individual – and ignited his passion for sustainability.
Umair Javaid has always believed in helping others, but it was the Chartered Star competition run by ICAEW in 2020, offering a chance to attend the One Young World summit, that really sparked his passion for sustainability. “I had always been passionate about helping others, but I didn’t really know what my mission or main purpose was,” he remembers. “Then I took part in the Chartered Star competition, and that made me realise that my ideology and the things I was doing were all within the world of sustainability.”
Originally from Lahore, Umair has been dividing his time between Pakistan and the UAE since 2013. “The options for studying finance and accounting are limited in my country,” he explains. His uncle, himself a Chartered Accountant, recommended ICAEW, and the ACA route appealed to Umair – but he discovered that he wouldn’t be able to sit the Certificate and Professional Level exams in Lahore as they are not available in Pakistan.
He started work as an audit trainee, and spent the next few years travelling back and forth to Dubai to sit his ACA exams as an independent student. “It added so much more pressure, as I felt that I would be wasting the cost of my ticket and visa if I failed,” he says. In 2015, he secured a training agreement with Nishat Chunian Group in Lahore, and continued to travel to Dubai to sit exams, eventually moving to the UAE full time in 2017 to take up a position with his current employer, Driven Holiday Homes (Driven Properties).
In 2019, Umair completed the ICAEW CFAB qualification, and soon after gained the ICAEW Business and Financial Professional (BFP) designation. Now working towards the ACA, he was due to take his Professional Level exam in March 2020, before Covid hit. He is now planning to sit the Financial Accounting and Reporting exam in June. Finding time to study can be difficult, he says, particularly as his current role is not a training agreement.
“When I was at Nishat Chunian I was given time off work for study leave, but when you’re not with an approved training employer, you just have to manage it,” he says. “I try to find time in the mornings or during breaks each day to study. It’s important to me to keep up my professional development – I also recently completed my ATT UAE VAT Compliance diploma certificate.”
As a hospitality business, the past year has been particularly challenging for Umair’s employer – but it has offered him valuable experience and opportunities. “I really learned a lot from this Covid period,” he says. “As an assistant manager my role was to prepare financial reports and cash flow statements to help set pricing strategies and maintain occupancy. Many hospitality companies have been forced to stop their operations completely, but we managed to keep the business going successfully.” As a result of his hard work and initiative, he was promoted to financial controller, and is now responsible for financial planning and analysis, managing revenue, and measuring the growth and profitability of the company.
The pandemic also inspired Umair to do more to help others, and he spends his time when not working or studying volunteering in his local community. “I’m involved in the UAE chapter of Emirates Nature-WWF,” he says. “At the weekends we visit villages to help educate people about sustainability and climate change. It’s out of my professional scope, but I love to do these things.”
At the end of last year, he also founded a project called WE All Sustain, to help create awareness of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and provide practical solutions. “Its purpose is to create awareness and help communities to achieve sustainability,” he explains. “As part of the project we run two organisations, SahulatGhar and Robokids. SahulatGhar provides groceries and household items to lower-income families in Pakistan on credit and at lower cost, aligned to the goals of Zero Hunger, No Poverty and Reduced Inequalities. And Robokids is an initiative to provide STEM education services in Pakistan, with a motive of Quality Education for all.”
An active member of the ICAEW Sustainability and Climate Change Community, Umair wants to encourage other professional bodies and businesses to follow ICAEW’s example in becoming carbon neutral. And, as the current Vice-Chair of the ICAEW Middle East Student Committee, one of his first initiatives was to lead an awareness event on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. “I recommend to all ICAEW students to get involved in their local student community,” he says. “It’s really helped a lot with my ACA studies and professional growth.
“I want to make the whole planet sustainable,” he adds. “It’s about more than climate change – it’s about everyone having equal rights, and access to education and healthcare. This is not just about saving our planet – it’s about saving ourselves. For me, sustainability is the only future plan.”
As well as igniting his passion for sustainability, Umair says ICAEW has helped him become a more confident, well-rounded professional. Being part of the student committee and the Chartered Star competition have helped him become more comfortable with public speaking, and he has also benefited from one-to-one support from CABA. “Before Covid, they arranged face-to-face sessions with a coach for me in Dubai,” he says. Now, he acts as a CABA champion too.
“I’m very thankful for ICAEW and CABA. I feel that they are really committed to developing future leaders and supporting us through any difficulties. Their mission is not just to create chartered accountants; they are doing many things for the climate and the planet and for people outside of accountancy.”