Alumna Olga Granova-Mooi places much emphasis on working hard to improve accountability and corporate governance in the higher education sector. A sense of natural justice and fairness is equally important in her life, the current Head of the Unit for Internal Audit at UP, points out. A set of undergraduate degrees, an Honours and a Master’s degree and a determination to make a difference for the better, led to an exciting career path, both locally and abroad. Read more about her journey from a first-year student to the present day.
Q: What is your current position and what does it entail?
A: I am currently the Head of the Unit for Internal Audit, responsible for compliance, forensic investigations and ethics hotline management at the University of Pretoria and its entities.
Q: Please provide a brief summary of your career since graduating from UP, with special mention of specific highlights/milestones.
A: I have graduated from UP twice: with an undergraduate degree in 2004 and a Master's in 2009. My honours degree in Accounting Sciences is from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. I registered as a Chartered Accountant (SA) in 2007 and completed my LLB at UNISA in 2018. Owing to financial constraints, most of my tertiary studies were done concurrently with working full-time, which was hectic, but in hindsight it was a privilege as it fast-tracked my learning and career advancement.
In my work, I have spent time in the public sector in South Africa and in the private sector in New Zealand. Thinking of highlights, one of the earliest ones during my articled clerk days was identifying that the accounting basis for the financial statements at one of the public sector entities I was auditing, was using an incorrect method to recognise its income and expenses, which made for a scary-looking bottom line in a specific financial year.
In later years, I had an opportunity to audit the United Nations (UNIDO) office in Vienna, Austria. Joining the Department of Risk Management and Internal Audit at UP as a young Deputy Director in 2011 was a major career highlight and a shift to the profession of internal auditing and forensics, which I found to be fascinating. After having been a UP student for a total of six years, coming back to the University as a staff member, was also a special highlight of my career!
Q: To what extent did your studies at UP benefit you in your career/contribute to your success?
A: The undergraduate degree was the stepping stone to joining the finance and auditing profession. The UP lecturers did an outstanding job in broadening my horizons with their passion for the field and its valuable contribution to the economy. On master's level, I was taught critical thinking and confidence to find practical solutions to complex situations. These aspects were helpful in the workplace and I built on these principles over the years.
Q: In terms of your own studies and experience at UP, do you have any advice for current students?
A: Do your utmost and get the best possible marks while you are studying. Getting your degree is an important step towards lifelong learning. In my experience, finding a mentor or two or three to support and guide you on your journey through your studies and in the workplace, is most helpful. It is however important not to become self-centred once you qualify. Become a mentor to the younger generation. They are always many ways to help others. How you use your skills and resources to uplift your family and make a positive difference to others in your community is what adds depth to the meaning of life.
Q: What is your “golden guideline” that keeps you on track?
A: In all things, I am first and foremost a person of faith. With this, I place a lot of emphasis on integrity, working hard and having a positive impact. A sense of natural justice and fairness is also important in my life.
Q: Which publications (magazines/newspapers/blogs, etc.) do you enjoy reading?
A: I enjoy cooking videos and blogs, especially about baking on social media. I also follow the National Breastmilk Reserve Facebook page (similar concept to the Blood Bank), which is aimed at saving vulnerable new-borns with donated milk. Their work is of particular significance to me owing to the ongoing stigma associated with breastfeeding in general as well as societal prejudice to donation of the milk to the neonatal ICUs. I have experienced both aspects as a mother and a donor.
Q: If you could have a face-to-face meeting with an inspiring person, in any domain, who sets an example in transforming the world and inspiring others to do the same, who would it be and what would you discuss?
A: Ma (Prof) Thuli Madonsela is one of my heroes. I am amazed at her courage, calm determination and dignity in her work as the former Public Protector. I briefly met her during a photo opportunity at a conference, but given more time, I would have loved to discuss her views on how ordinary South Africans can contribute to building a better country for us all.
Q: Going forward, what are your career and personal goals?
A: My career goals include becoming an executive director and personally, I would like to complete the Comrades Marathon and a PhD one day.