After ICAG Presidency, What Is Next? Conversations With Ms. Sena Dake

Sena Dake ICAG President

Lounging in the serene UGBS lobby, ready to chat with Sena Dake, the reigning President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Ghana, I cannot help but be excited by the genuine warmth she radiates. With a friendly inquiry about my day and a playful remark about her uncertainty in tackling my questions, the atmosphere instantly becomes welcoming.

Veering away from my initial perceptions of Sena, our conversation takes a multifaceted turn. We delve into an array of topics–work, family dynamics, the empowerment of women, and the remarkable initiatives spearheaded by the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Ghana.

Growing up in the heart of Accra, Ghana, Sena’s educational journey had a unique start at St. John’s Grammar, where, owing to her mom’s bustling schedule, she found herself in the boarding house during her kindergarten years. The family embarked on travels, venturing beyond the shores of Ghana. Upon returning, they established roots in Ho, where Sena embarked on her primary and basic education at Prince of Peace Preparatory School. Her educational path continued with GCE O’ Levels at Mawuko Girls and A Levels at Kpando Secondary School.

Sena Dake ICAG President

Sena cherishes her childhood memories, particularly those moments when family members visited and generously bestowed her with money. “I felt pure joy because I was accumulating savings in my mom’s pocket, and whenever Mom was upset, I would playfully tease her about collecting my money,” she shares. “Even at that tender age, I sensed a kind of independence, knowing there was something to rely on beyond just depending on Mom.”

Emerging from a General Arts background, Sena took a significant step by enrolling in the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators program at the Institute of Professional Studies (IPS) now the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA). Despite securing admission to the University of Ghana, Legon, it was a tough decision. In a spirited battle of choices, she opted for the professional path of ICSA. Despite already receiving admission to ICSA, she made the ambitious decision to pursue the CA program. Regrettably, altering her program from ICSA to CA proved to be an unattainable feat.

“I dedicated a year to studying the ICSA, and then, through self-study, aced two papers in my CA program. As a result, the administration summoned me to a panel hearing to discuss why I could no longer pursue ICSA. Surprisingly, they granted me official enrollment in the CA pathway,” she revealed. “Transitioning from a General Arts background to CA posed its challenges, especially given the exceptionally high standards at IPS. Thankfully, I had a reliable study partner in Jude, and I consistently sought guidance from my seniors.”

Sena openly acknowledges that accounting wasn’t her initial dream; she had set her sights on studying geography and other arts subjects. Her father had envisioned her pursuing law. However, it was her brother and the unanimous persuasion of her entire family that ultimately convinced her to embrace and embark on the CA Program.

Sena has a lot of academic achievements. She’s not just a Chartered Accountant; she’s also a Barrister and a Certified Tax Accountant. She has a Master’s Degree in Banking & Finance, and has completed a certification as an Information System Auditor (CISA). Sena also has a certification in Climate Change and Renewable Energy Financing. She’s a trained Lay Counsellor with the College of Counseling and Psychology and currently enrolled in Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, Massachusetts to obtain her certification as a Public Leader.

Over Sena’s two decades in Strategic Accounting Leadership roles, she’s gleaned invaluable lessons which she learned the hard way. Firstly, she emphasizes the importance of not being overly harsh on oneself when mistakes occur, recognizing them as integral to life’s journey. Second, she underscores the power of collaboration and seeking assistance, emphasizing that navigating challenges becomes swifter and more manageable when one leverages their network. Lastly, she imparts the wisdom of not compromising on one’s virtues throughout your professional journey.

“In the Volta Region, I stand as the trailblazer, and on a national scale in Ghana, I proudly claim the fourth woman to assume the esteemed ICAG Presidency Position. With a supportive network of mentors and champions propelling me towards greatness, the overwhelming joy upon the news of representing all Chartered Accountants in Ghana as their new president was truly indescribable,” Sena expresses, a proud beam accompanying her words.

“… be honest at all times.”

After ICAG Presidency, What Is Next? Conversations With Ms.Sena Dake.

Ms. Sena Dake holds the belief that Ghana is making strides in advocating for women, fostering inclusivity, and promoting their presence in top-tier corporate and state roles. Reflecting on her experiences with the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs while working on the UN Systems Gender Programme, she notes a significant shift. “Times have indeed changed and are getting better. Back then, there were few women in leadership roles, even when it came to driving, you could easily identify the women – there were shockingly few,” she recalls. “Now, we witness more women behind the wheel, more women taking the lead in various capacities, such as the Vice Chancellor for the University of Ghana, female CEOs, and women ascending to these spaces not solely because of their gender, but because of their competence. Although we haven’t reached a perfect 50-50 balance, Ghana has made commendable progress, and there’s still room for improvement,” Sena expresses hopefully.

Sena generously imparts pivotal virtues that have been steadfast guides in both her personal and corporate endeavours. Foremost among them is honesty—she upholds an unwavering commitment to honesty in both work and life. Despite the potential drawbacks and occasional repercussions of speaking the truth, she firmly believes it is a worthwhile path to tread. “Be honest at all times,” she advises. The second virtue she treasures is integrity, recognizing its universal applicability across all facets of life.

In Sena’s immediate family, she is one of six members. However, her familial connections extend far beyond this core group. “I have a lot of family aside from my immediate family. From over 10,000 Chartered Accountants to the youth at church and international accounting bodies, these extended family connections are what keep me going,” she affirms.

Sena adeptly navigates her demanding schedule through a combination of tenacity and resilience. Enduring long work hours, skillfully delegating tasks, and when faced with urgent matters within tight timeframes, she extends her work hours into the late night to address pressing issues effectively.

Ms. Sena Dake offers a sneak peek into AWAG (Association of Women Accountants in Ghana) and the upcoming 30th-anniversary celebration slated for March. Having joined AWAG as a student, her commitment has endured throughout the years. “AWAG is an association I am immensely proud of. We are deeply engaged in mentorship programs for young female accountants,” she explains. Additionally, they have ventured into Youth Mentorship, reaching out to secondary and primary schools in Sokode, Tamale, Kumasi, and Accra. Sena continues, “We’ve also taken up financial literacy initiatives, extending our support to the informal sector by guiding filing returns, basic bookkeeping, and secure fund management.” According to Sena, CA needs more women. If you look at the women in practice as auditors, they are few compared to the men. 

Sena holds a firm belief that anyone with a genuine passion can achieve the status of a chartered accountant. However, she emphasizes that this requires hard work, as the field is intricate, requiring significant time, resources, and unwavering commitment. Sena also underscores the opportunities that ICAG (Institute of Chartered Accountants Ghana) can open, such as exemptions for certifications like CIA (Certified Internal Auditor) and CITG (Chartered Institute of Taxation, Ghana). Once an individual becomes a CA member, they can apply to become a member of ICA England and Wales, further expanding their professional horizons.

In our icebreaker, Sena engages in a lively “this or that” game. Opting for being a Chartered Accountant over a lawyer, she reveals that this was her primary profession of choice. Similarly, she chooses water over electricity, emphasizing the importance of water in sustaining life.

 “To the youth, the future is bright- it depends on you. Always imbibe excellence, do not be mediocre, aspire to do better for yourself and your community,”

Sena sheds light on the significance of celebrating International Women’s Day. She underscores that such celebrations provide women with a platform to speak up, share their stories, and seize opportunities to make a meaningful impact. Importantly, she emphasizes that the celebration is not meant to sideline men; rather, it offers men a chance to celebrate the women in their lives. International Women’s Day becomes a shared space for both genders to appreciate and acknowledge the contributions of women.

Ms. Sena Dake highlights some intriguing projects undertaken by ICAG, including the infrastructure project, the adoption of sustainability standards (IFRS S1 and IFRS S2), and the Digitization Agenda. She shares that starting next year, students will have the option to write exams online, beginning with level 1 candidates. The approach will be fully remote, incorporating cutting-edge technology and systems to ensure the prevention of exam malpractices.

After the ICAG presidency, Sena envisions dedicating more time to her family and aiming to make a broader impact on the international stage.

Sena expresses her heartfelt concern for her CA students, stating that she consistently prays for them. As they get ready for their exams this time around, Sena’s final words highlight the significance of being resilient. She encourages them not to give up- a challenging experience with one paper should not dampen their enthusiasm for the next. Sena extends her best wishes to all students, hoping they excel in each of their papers. 

We finally conclude our conversation as the chilly night weather greets us, and she gracefully says, “I hope I answered all your questions, thank you for this amazing conversation, Happy International Women’s Day to every woman out there striving and changing the status quo!”

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