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Hatitye Zhakata

I am from Zimbabwe. My father was an educationist whilst my mother was an economist. Given this background, it is not surprising that as I was growing up there was a strong emphasis on having a good education. At a very early age I started gravitating towards the business world where I took a very keen interest. I read my first business newspaper at the age of nine and, interestingly, I recently wrote an article for the same publication; a true sign that dreams come true if you ever needed a reason. Anyway, as I got older I knew that I wanted to be in business but I didn't know what exactly I wanted to do. I had a head for figures and so when I started studying accounting in high school and I enjoyed it I knew I was in the right place. It was purely fate - nothing more, nothing less.  From then on all I focused on was accounting.

Where are you doing now?

I am an independent consultant who specialises in assisting companies to curb fraud, waste and abuse. After leaving Ernst & Young in 2004, I founded my own forensic advisory business which has seven employees. In 2012 I decided to 'fly solo' and work on my own in order for me to focus on preventing fraud, waste and abuse instead of investigating it after the fact. Critically, if you were to ask me my profession then I would say that I am a Forensic Accountant, however, I have found that that term has negative connotations amongst a lot of people I meet and so I try to stick to the term Independent Consultant which perhaps they find more palatable.

How did studying at Northumbria help you achieve your career goals / give your career an edge?

What attracted me to Northumbria was that instead of just having a Faculty of Business it had a Business School. To me, this meant that presumably the University dedicated a lot of resources towards research and academic leadership in business.  In addition, one of the key things that I liked about the BA Accounting (Hons) course was that it not only allowed me to study accounting but other facets of business, such as business law, information technology and so on.  Furthermore, we were allowed to select the course electives that we found of interest.  I studied Business Forecasting, Total Quality Management and Running A Small Business as course options.  Instead of becoming another run-of-the-mill accountant, I became a well-rounded businessman after graduation.  It is impossible to describe in a sentence how invaluable the skills I gained whilst studying at Northumbria have assisted me to achieve my goals, suffice to say that in order to become a successful forensic accountant or business consultant you have to have a thorough knowledge of business and studying at Northumbria helped me to achieve this.  Today, as a result of the knowledge I obtained at Northumbria I have co-authored a book, 'The Computer Fraud Casebook - The Bytes That Bite', and I am looking forward to publishing another one in the near future.

What was the best thing about your course?

I think that the best thing about the course is that students are allowed to think outside the box. That said, I don't like being trapped in a square and so I try to get rid of the box altogether! It is this flexibility combined with the up-to-date and comprehensive course content gave me an unparalleled experience.

Who inspired you the most, and why?

Without a doubt it was my course leader and mentor, Donald Halliday. He provided me with the guidance that I needed throughout the good times and the bad. From my experience, I think it is very easy to get inspired if one has the appropriate guidance.

Which skills/knowledge did you learn on your course that you use most now/throughout your career?

I think the most critical thing that I learnt throughout the course is how to apply my theoretical knowledge to the ever-changing business environment.  As a result, I managed to obtain the skills that allow me to adapt and prosper in the business world and have a very successful career. I would also add that continuous learning is another skill that I obtained which is necessary especially given the rapidly changing global operating environment.

What did you enjoy most about your time at Northumbria University?

In addition to studying, I think that the night life in Newcastle as well as the other experiences that I encountered whilst at Northumbria were absolutely delightful.

What advice would you give somebody who is thinking of studying at Northumbria?

The first thing is that you need to make sure that you are PASSIONATE about what you choose to study otherwise the whole experience will be a total nightmare. The lecturers and staff can help make your stay an enjoyable and unforgettable one but the course content may not be as kind.  If you are passionate about what you are doing then I think that you will enjoy yourself. Secondly, I can assure you that Northumbria University delivers what it promises but you also need to make sure that you are committed to studying because your education is not just an investment but also a life-changing experience. Those two things will give you a very good start towards achieving the same success that I and many others have had over the years.

How would you describe your time at Northumbria in 3 words?

Incredible, fun and life-changing.

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