Darlene Nzorubara (DN), Principal Quality and Development at IFAC, spoke with Assietou Diouf (AD), the Chief Financial Officer of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi). Gavi is an organization that plays a critical role in strengthening primary health care in more than 70 countries around the world through partnership involving sovereign governments, private sector foundations, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank and also vaccine manufacturers, Civil Society, and NGOs.
Assietou Diouf (AD) is a qualified professional accountant from the Ordre National des Experts-Comptables et Comptables Agréés du Sénégal (ONECCA Sénégal) with an international career that has led her to work in Ethiopia, the UAE, the United Kingdom, Senegal, France and now Geneva. Assietou has international experiences in global public and private organizations.
DN: Tell us about your journey: How has pursuing an accountancy education enabled you to have an international career? How has working across continents changed your world view and helped you become a better business leader?
AD: A career in accounting comes with international accreditations which opens opportunities in a wide range of fields and industries globally – as it has for me. It offers a unique advantage to be able to grow within an organisation; it is common to find professional accountants holding top management roles such as CFO and CEO.
I’ve had the incredible chance to work in diverse locations. This has pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to adopt an open and flexible mindset. Each landscape has its own needs and requirements (regulatory and cultural, for example), so a sound understanding of the ecosystem is essential to succeed. Thanks to this international background, I embrace and foster diversity which is an enabler for effective leadership in our interconnected world.
DN: Tell us about your current role. Gavi’s mission is to improve access to vaccines; how does the mission of the organization resonate with your personal values?
AD: Gavi provides access to new and under-used vaccines for millions of the most vulnerable children and strengthens health systems in lower-income countries. Access to vaccines saves lives, boosts economies and makes the world safer for everyone.
Gavi’s mission and operating model are impact-driven and contribute to building sustainable development.
Many of my personal ideals these days revolve around being useful and giving back to the community. This is not surprising for someone coming from the global south and largely explains my transition from the private to the public sector.
In my role at Gavi, I support and drive critical decisions that lead to this much-desired impact.
DN: You held many senior positions and leadership roles, is there a secret to work-life balance or is it a discipline or something else?
AD: As you grow in your career, it becomes increasingly challenging to balance your professional responsibilities and commitments that come with your role as a parent, child, or being part of a community. Situations tend to be more complex, and it is easy to get drawn into the constant demands.
There’s no miracle solution or standard routine for me.
I like to keep things flexible enough to decide on a day-to-day basis which priority must take the forefront while accommodating my physical and mental wellbeing.
DN: What is your advice for young people, women considering a career in accounting?
AD: Accounting is one of the world’s oldest professions, yet it keeps its relevancy by constantly evolving with the trends. Today, our profession is increasingly an intersection of technology, innovation, people and systems. My advice is to keep up with emerging concepts and tools by investing in capacity building.
For young people, this career provides an opportunity to have a positive impact on causes they may be enthusiastic about (climate change, social justice, gender equality, and good governance, for example). There is never a dull day and it keeps you on your toes!
For women seeking to join this line of work, you will find yourself growing and competing in a field where ethics, output and technical competence matter the most. Throughout my professional journey, confidence in oneself has been a defining pillar.
DN: When do you feel most proud of your work?
AD: A large part of my responsibilities involves stewardship of public resources, I take immense pride in knowing that the outcome of my work has a direct, effective, and measurable impact.
DN: Who or what inspires you, and what is your “superpower”?
AD: This is a hard question for me. I often reflect on the experiences of those that have come before me, but also rejoice in seeing the determination of the younger generation. A common link in these groups is resilience, a trait that I strongly respect and admire.
As I mature what grounds me in this ever-changing world is authenticity; to remain true to my values, objectives, and dreams.
DN: What is something you’ve read, watched, or listened to recently that you recommend?
AD: Les impatientes (The Impatient) by Djaïli Amadou Amal and The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. I was stricken by the fact that these two books, while by authors of different backgrounds, bring out the universality of issues still faced by women across the world regardless of their race, origins and socioeconomic status.