Seshnie Naidoo: from dream to CFO reality

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Logicalis CFO Seshnie Naidoo is living out her mom’s career aspirations, and making them her own.

Determined and ambitious, Seshnie Naidoo ventured into the world of finance very early. She says her mom studied accounting when she was younger, but explains:

“This was in the age of apartheid. She was female and not white, so at the time it was really difficult for her to get into articles. As a result, she never managed to live her dream and become a CA. But when I was younger, she always talked about that dream and it sounded exciting in my mind.”

As she grew older, Seshnie realised that she was good at numbers and passionate about finance, and ultimately, that was the direction that she wanted to go in. While in university studying accounting, she needed a job to help pay for school. That was when her mom saw an announcement that PwC was starting a new programme where you could work, study and do your articles all at once. “The opportunity sounded amazing, I applied and, miraculously, was accepted into the programme despite going up against people I thought were more qualified than I was.”

It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so Seshnie completed her entire degree as well her honours while working on articles. “We would work from 8am to 5pm and then from 6pm to 10pm and on top of that have classes; the pace was unrelenting. In fact, it was so gruelling, I was determined not to have to repeat it ever again, so I passed my CTA on the first try. Pulling that off became one of my biggest early achievements. It was a hard-won victory and showed me how persistence and hard work can pay off.”


Overcoming early hurdles

Seshnie says one of the biggest challenges she has faced in her career is the fact that it has progressed quickly. “I was in my 20s when I started my first executive position, and at that point I didn’t have much confidence, because I felt as though what I knew couldn’t compare to these guys who’d been working longer than I had.

“But as my career progressed, I started having my own views, and even though it was hard in the beginning, I started sharing my opinions on what could help move the company forward. As my views were considered and accepted, I expressed myself more; it was just a matter of building confidence.”

She says:

 “Sometimes people look at me and think I can’t do things because I’m young. It can be frustrating, because I have to keep showing them that I can do it. It’s a challenge to prove myself, but it’s also an opportunity because people underestimate me.

“When I speak with younger colleagues, I always share the story of my early career, that I was working and studying at the same time and put my mind to it. I emphasise that If I could do it at that age, imagine what they can do with equal or more experience and discipline.”


Current triumph

Throughout her career Seshnie has worked in diverse industries, from education, pharmaceuticals and agriculture to veterinary pharmaceuticals and FMCG. Now she is the CFO of digital service provider Logicalis. “I’ve learned that I’m really good at adapting to new industries and learning quickly,” she says. “When I started at Logicalis, I didn’t have a lot of experience In the IT industry , but I was able to learn quickly and understand how the company makes money. This has helped me in all of my jobs because I can start adding value right away. I love learning about new industries and it makes my work more exciting.”

This is the first time she’s been part of such a big group on a global scale. She explains that Logicalis in South Africa is only six years old, and so now she gets to be a part of building its legacy with her new position in the company’s executive team. For her, this is an exciting opportunity because her ideas and experience are influencing the strategy of Logicalis as she helps to make decisions that will affect how it will grow in the future.

In previous roles, she used to mostly focus on the finance team, and now her focus has to be the entire company. “In this role I have had to get insight on other divisions and it’s part of my job as part of the executive team to come up with solutions to a variety of problems, and that has been a journey,” she says.

She adds that she has had an awesome chance to work with lots of different people in the company. “We’re trying to create a global finance team where everyone can help each other out no matter where they are in the world. So if you need help in the US, UK, Australia, or Asia, you can call on someone from our team.”


Coming full circle

In a way, Seshnie is living out her mom’s dream. Her mom, despite facing challenges, managed to get her degree in accounting and is a financial manager at a property company. However, she couldn’t progress as much as she would have wanted because CFO roles generally require a CA qualification.

“But she’s very proud of me. She’s always my first cheerleader and gets very excited with every accomplishment or hurdle I overcome.”

A mom herself, Seshnie has bonded with her two boys over their love for superheroes. “I’m a massive fan of all the Marvel comics universe and have watched the movies,” she says. She also collects Funko Pops – vinyl figures that have giant heads and eyes on small bodies based on movie characters. “I have a few and they sit in the office and are always an attention grabber.”

She moved to Cape Town two years ago, which has seen her spending more time outdoors. “Now I walk on a daily basis, and we want to try and do biking. I’m a little bit more outdoorsy than I used to be.”

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