CA Christine Buys took time out to find her ideal position


Christine Buys, a chartered accountant at ROMPCO, took a sabbatical and left her position as a manager in finance covering the retail business in Sasol Energy to consider her ideal role.

Covid-19 turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Christine Buys, currently a chartered accountant in the finance team at ROMPCO, which is partly owned by Sasol. Once most of the restrictions had been lifted, she could take the time to work out where she wanted to be in the job environment and focus more on herself, including her creative outlet of baking and travel.

As a result, she left her job and spent time thinking carefully about what her next steps would be. Previously a manager in finance covering the Sasol Energy retail business, Christine found that, as a single person with no children, she had immersed herself in work and it had become her life. “I had to step back, and I took a bit of time off. I actually resigned from Sasol and reassessed what my goals in life were; what it is that I wanted.”

This also gave her the time to really enjoy activities such as baking, a pastime she delved into over the past few years, and which was not just a Covid-19 baby, as it was for so many people who took up a hobby during the hard lockdown. “My mom’s always been a baker. She used to make wedding cakes when we were younger, and then my sister started baking for her kids’ birthday parties.”

Baking for herself evolved into cake decorating and baking for friends and family when they came over.

“I’ve always said my cake decorating is not perfect, but it gives me time out and that’s the important part.”

As a way of finding balance in her life, Christine also deliberately schedules time off for herself and her family.

After her sabbatical, a temporary role to assist with the implementation of a new accounting system at ROMPCO came up, and she joined the team there. “During that time, additional permanent positions were approved, so I applied.”

Christine is currently the statutory and management reporting accountant at the company, preparing the annual financial statements and various monthly and quarterly management reports, in addition to budgeting and forecasting. Her greatest highlights have been implementing projects, as she finds that working on these takes her out of her comfort zone. “My greatest highlights have actually been on projects where I’ve got to focus on something other than the day-to-day of financial accounting. I love financial accounting. But it’s nice to step out of my comfort zone.”

Christine found that becoming a CA gave her a structured route into the world of finance, and she did her articles at Grant Thornton. “My first step into the real working world was doing my articles. I think having to do articles makes it easier to develop a career path than for most other people who graduate. It helps you enter the job market more easily.”

After having been seconded to England by Grant Thorton, another opportunity to work outside of South Africa came up and she went to Bermuda during her time at Symphony Management, where she also had the opportunity to travel, another of her passions. “I loved being there, but I missed home. I missed South Africa. I missed being close to my family.”

Back in South Africa, Christine moved to RMB in a financial controller role, after which she went to Sasol, where she spent almost six years. “Most of my career so far has been in management accounting.”

While not currently in a leadership position, Christine has previously managed a team and found that what works best is to give direct reports clear direction, while allowing them to work independently, as they will still come up with the correct results, just in a different way. She also is approachable, which allows people to take problems to her for input. “It’s important to see people as individuals,” she says.

ROMPCO, being a small entity that is transforming into a company that is separate from Sasol, has smaller teams and a much less complicated organisational structure. This still gives Christine the space to provide input to other staff members.

“I don’t see it as a disadvantage that I don’t currently have a team. It’s actually given me space to develop relationships with other people, with non-finance people. If you look at the bigger picture, we support everybody in the business, whether it’s somebody that needs an invoice to be paid, or somebody that needs money for an unexpected project or expense.”

This, she has found, also helps her grow as a person. “Pinning down a specific transformation event is not possible; rather, it is a continuous process,” says Christine. “There are always elements to improve, from your career to your personal life. As uncomfortable as change can be, there would be no growth without it.”

ROMPCO works in cross-border teams, which means diversity, across different cultures and genders, comes naturally in its day-to-day work environment.

Should Christine move on, she would like to continue to work in a small entity with a strong sense of culture. “Sometimes we lose sight of ourselves and our purpose. It is necessary to take time out and come back to what is most important,” she reflects.

Related articles

CA Shakira Naidoo gives without expecting in return

Shakira Naidoo, a CA(SA) with almost 10 years’ experience in providing professional services, follows the Hindu practice of seva, a philosophy of giving without expecting anything in return.