Interview: Ally Macindoe, The British Council
Ally Macindoe CA Finance Director, Middle East and North Africa, The British Council.
When did you qualify as a CA and who did you train with?
I qualified in 1998 with PwC in London.
Brief career history
Following PwC I moved to Debenhams as a finance analyst. After gaining a broad base of experience through a variety of roles there I moved to Virgin Megastores to establish a new commercial finance department.
This led to a couple of overseas jobs, as CFO for the Virgin Mobile start-up in India, and CFO for the Virgin Health Bank (stem cell storage) start-up in Qatar. I’m based in Dubai, UAE, and have been here for three-and-a-half years now.
What is the British Council’s role?
The British Council works in more than 100 countries, connecting millions of people with the UK through programmes and services in the English language, the arts, education and society.
The British Council builds links between people and institutions in the UK and in other countries around the world.
What does your job involve?
I have a wide remit, with overall tactical and strategic responsibility for finance across 17 countries within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The security situation in the region adds to the challenge and complexity.
Who do you report to?
The regional director for MENA, with a 'dotted line' relationship to the CFO in the UK.
What appealed about this career path?
The purpose of the British Council, combined with a challenging and wide-ranging role, was hugely appealing. I often work long hours but the cause makes that hard work feel worthwhile.
What is the best thing about your job?
The role is challenging, largely due to the amount of change I am trying to implement to professionalise the finance function, which makes it extremely interesting, and I have a huge amount of autonomy in what I do.
Working in a global organisation means having the opportunity to work in more than 120 countries around the world.
…and the worst?
Being on the phone all the time. As well as the 17 countries I look after, we have a shared service centre in India and our corporate HQ is in the UK, so there’s a lot of people to talk to and time zones to navigate.
Proudest moment so far?
I worked as a volunteer teacher of English for underprivileged children in Mumbai for six months prior to starting my role at Virgin Mobile. It was the hardest and most nerve-wracking thing I have ever done, but an inspiring experience.
How is life as an ex-pat in the Gulf?
The Gulf, and Dubai in particular, is an amazing place to live and work. It’s incredibly safe and a great place to raise a small child, plus there are loads of things to do.
There’s a large UK ex-pat community here and you can get all home comforts – my local supermarket is a Waitrose.
It’s also extremely interesting working abroad, experiencing and learning from other cultures, and experiencing how other people see the world.
The only real challenge is the high heat and humidity of the summer, when it gets to 45 degrees most days.
How has your CA training helped prepare you for this role?
The CA qualification has been invaluable… it would be difficult to get an FD role without it. The breadth of experience I have gained has opened many doors.
What single piece of advice would you give to a CA looking to pursue this career route?
Go for it. As with many commercial organisations, the charity sector is looking to professionalise its finance functions and CAs with a commercial outlook and broad experience are well placed to succeed.