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March 16, 2010 at 2:22 pm Leave a comment

George Abili: Finding the Adventure in Revenue Assurance

GRAPA member George Abili  spoke with staff writer Kathy B. while attending  a recent training event. George has a degree in economics and is a certified public accountant. He started his career with the Ministry of Finance in Uganda and was part of a team that set up an integrated financial management system program to computerize government accounting. “This was a country wide implementation of a financial system. I was involved in that project for five years.” During that time, he was also involved with IT and created white papers in networking and computers. george

George then joined PricewaterhouseCoopers in the process assurance function. This is part of the auditing field that supports the main financial accounting group , using IT to help businesses such as telcos, banking and manufacturing.

He stayed with PricewaterhouseCoopers for a year and then joined Warid Telecom in Uganda. “I started as a senior executive in revenue assurance and was involved with the management systems. Since June of 2009, I have been head of the revenue assurance department. Warid is a new company and launched commercially in Feb 2008. The department was in place when I began, but of course everything was still new and it is still a growing unit. I am helping develop the function further so it is more useful to the organization,” he explains.

Because of his experience with PricewaterhouseCoopers, George was already familiar with the telco environment, but he felt he did not have the whole picture. “The main difference in telcos is that things happen so fast. Changes happen almost every day. You really have to be on your toes all of the time. You have to be flexible to keep up with the new changes, programs or products.”

Outside of his work life, George admits to being a sports addict. “I keep a small window open on my laptop every day so I can watch sports scores and news, be it golf, cricket, Formula One racing, you name it.” Until recently, he played cricket, and still plays football.

George loves adventure too and often explores the countryside. Uganda is very diverse, culturally and geographically and George enjoys taking road trips to meet new people and see new areas. He has also participated in charity events, driving off-road vehicles to raise money for a chimpanzee sanctuary in Uganda. The races, routed over challenging terrain, tested George’s driving skills and the ability to work with a navigator. In one event, George triumphed over the tough course and conditions to finish in first place. “I have a short attention span, I don’t like to be bored, so I look for new ways to have fun and challenge myself. I enjoy being with friends, I like to learn new things everyday. I think if you are not living on the edge, you are taking up too much space.”

The GRAPA Blog features profiles of attendees of GRAPA training and GRAPA members.

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December 18, 2009 at 2:40 am Leave a comment

Chijioke Obuna: Keeping Up The Pace

 

For Chijioke Obuna there are rarely two days in a row that are the same. “My workdays go in cycles; it depends on what phase of the financial cycle we are in. That will dictate exactly what I’m doing at any given time,” he explains. “Working in two different offices means I have to move quickly to keep up. There are many reports to get ready, and challenges, like the systems themselves, that need to be dealt with.”

chijoke.jpbChijioke currently works for MTN Uganda. He has been with MTN over seven years. His initial work experience, after graduating from the university in Nigeria with a degree in finance, was with Arthur Andersen where he was involved in Audit and Tax advisory services and then Standard Trust Bank. “For me the main difference between working in a bank, and working in a telco, was that I found banking repetitious,” says Chijioke. “I have now worked in several different places in Africa, and in different departments within telcos. I find the telecommunications industry very exciting.” 

Credit management, interconnect and roaming are just few of the things included in Chijioke job description. He oversees several large teams responsible for these different services. This offers him a unique end-to-end perspective of the telco’s processes.

The penchant for fast paced, constantly changing scenarios requiring focus and agility is reflected in Chijioke’s choice of sport. He plays tennis several times a week at his club in Kampala. He is also an avid chess player. Even in his down time, Chijioke is ‘keeping up’, reading about new technologies and learning new software programs.

Chijioke is constantly upgrading his education as well. Not only does he have an MBA in finance as well as a diploma in Mobile Communications, he is also working on his MA in Economics. He is a member of Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and Institute for Credit Administration.

As part of his ongoing education, he recently attended GRAPA certification training. He took special interest in the information about wireless, SOX, and new technologies. “The training for me was exciting because, although I have attended some revenue assurance workshops before, I now have more experience on the job. The experience combined with the training has helped me to better understand the concepts we discussed and to envision how everything fits into the over all picture.”

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December 4, 2009 at 12:58 am Leave a comment

Sheila Leta: Finding a Vocation in Revenue Assurance

“How are you?” is one of the most common questions people ask in greeting. ‘’ When Sheila Leta of Uganda answers this question she does not give the standard answer ‘fine, thank you.’ Rather, her answer is an expression of her faith. Ask her how she is and she will tell you, “I’m blessed,” or “I am shining.” It is her faith that sustains her through her busy days as a revenue assurance professional, mother of two and wife of an aspiring church leader. “I love putting my faith to work,” she says. “The bible says; I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I like to see that at work in my life. “

sheila Her church is a very important part of her life and recently, she and her husband were responsible for running a pastoral charge. “This was a very busy time, because he was studying, we were both working and caring for our family.” With two very young children, time is always at a premium. “I have the help of a nanny who stays with my kids, but there is still a lot of work to do when I get home —I jump from one job to another!” she laughs.

Sheila attended university in Tanzania where she graduated with a Bachelor of Electronic Science and Communications. After graduation, she worked for a clearing and forwarding company and later telecoms. She has been in her current position for the last two and a half years. Always testing her own strength, she found her original position lacked challenge and she asked to be transferred to another department where she hoped to find more challenge. She worked in the more technical areas of the telco before finding her true vocation in revenue assurance. Now she feels she has a job she loves. She enjoys the broader overview over the entire company and being able to follow the revenue stream from beginning to end is a process that interests her greatly.

Sheila has found the GRAPA training to be very enlightening. “Management was always as helpful as possible, sharing what they knew, and often referring to The Telco Revenue Assurance Handbook, but we still didn’t feel we were being effective. We knew there was revenue leakage, but didn’t know where to find it or the best approach to stop it.” She found the handbook essential. However, with the GRAPA training she is finding that she is learning much more and learning to focus on the exact scope of revenue assurance. “Now I can take the initiative and do what I believe will fix a problem from the roots. The results will be more accountable to management, consistent and quantifiable. This training has helped me to focus. I will waste less time doing things that are not priority. I feel I finally know what revenue assurance is all about.”

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November 20, 2009 at 1:01 pm Leave a comment

Change and Challenge in Revenue Assurance and Auditing: Jeffrey Singayan

 

“As auditors it is not enough to know how to detect controls and put them in place. We have to acknowledge that telecommunications is a fast moving industry and we need to keep abreast of new developments, gather the right knowledge and marry these controls into a very high powered technology,” explained Jeffrey Singayan during GRAPA training in Luxembourg. “This training has strengthened my impression that the telecom industry is very dynamic and you have to be on your toes to keep up.”

However, for Jeffrey, that very dynamism and energy makes his role as internal auditor appealing. “The auditing practice is, I think, built on precepts that are quite established. Although there are relevant controls in all industries, in telecoms the practice becomes more challenging because of the rapidly changing technology. I find that exciting. This is a place I enjoy being.”

Jeffrey completed his education with a bachelor’s degree in accountancy. He then worked for the Bank of the Philippine Islands, one of the largest banks in the country. He began as a financial auditor, and after he took his CPA exams and a programmer’s aptitude test he qualified to be an IT auditor. From there Jeffrey moved on to Sykes, a business process outsourcing service, based in Florida and with many locations in North and South America. “I was with them for about 1 year and received experience in SOX audits from there.”

Now, working for a multi-national telecommunications provider, Jeffrey finds himself in a very new industry. “This is a big change and challenge for me. IT audits in banking are very conservative so the controls are extremely strict and stringent. I am not saying there are no controls in the telecom industry but here, in my situation, the technology dictates the controls. You have to adjust the controls based on what the technology gives you, as opposed to banking, where it is more about procedures and practices.”

When not working, Jeffrey admits to being a channel surfer. “I admit I am a television addict and will watch almost anything on TV. I am always flipping through the channels. I like to watch series like the American science fiction drama Heroes and the espionage series 24.” When he is home in the Philippines Jeffrey likes to work out at the gym where he spends time with friends. “I’ve become a lot more fitness conscious. In between assignments, that’s where I go to socialize.” He also enjoys reading novels during his downtime.

Even though he finds the travel tiring and the job is still new, Jeffrey says he is excited to be learning and experiencing what his new field has to offer. “I really enjoy going to new places. It is interesting to be able stay a little in each place and get to know the people. I am learning more about cultures and meeting new friends. That is very enjoyable for me.”

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November 6, 2009 at 11:34 am Leave a comment

Marie Laure Steichen: Taking on the Human Challenge in Revenue Assurance

Marie-Laure Steichen is 29, of French and Luxembourgish descent and currently working for a multi-national telecommunications operator in Luxembourg. Marie attended business school and has a Masters Degree in management with a major in marketing. She graduated in 2004 and although most of her education was in France, she briefly attended school in Sweden. Marie describes the experience of living in a different culture with students from around the world as very rewarding. She feels studying in Sweden improved her English but found the style of study quite different to what she had experienced in France. “I was with many foreign students and the teaching was quite different. It was more pragmatic and proactive, based on discussions and reactions rather than the lecture based model I was used to.” Marie’s education also included two internships, the first with IBM France.marie

On completing her education, she joined ArcelorMittal, a steel company before moving on to her current employment. “IT, telecommunications and new technology has always been appealing to me, but it’s not something I envisioned at the beginning of my education.” In fact, Marie did her final internship with the European Court of Auditors based in Luxembourg. “The European Court of Auditors basically checks the EUs funds. There I was doing project management and process evaluations.”

The concept of revenue assurance may be new to Marie, but with the focused GRAPA training, it is something she intends to integrate into what she already does. “The training has helped me understand the process and the language,” she explains. “I had no idea how deep, different and detailed the process of revenue assurance is. Certainly, in the area of forensics, there are many similarities between revenue assurance and internal audits. But, the internal auditor doesn’t have any of the operational responsibilities.”

Travel is a large part of Marie’s role. Although the first challenge of her job within telecommunications is to understand the processes, she found equal challenge in the human factor. “Fifty percent of our work is human relations and you constantly deal with people of different cultures and backgrounds. Even your colleagues are of different cultures. You have to be sensitive about how you behave, and speak to people in a way that makes them comfortable answering your questions. You have to respect the rules even if it is against a personal belief.”

Work takes up a great amount of Marie’s time but she does like to indulge in her passions—music, cinema and socializing with her friends. When her schedule allows, she enjoys volunteering at cinema festivals and comedy and science fiction movies are her favorites. She also enjoys pop and rock music, going to concerts and dancing. From her mother she received a treasured collection of cookbooks and she has taken cooking lessons in Indian cuisine. Her specialty is dessert, that culinary universal language that her friends new and old, appreciate.

The GRAPA Blog features profiles of attendees of GRAPA training and GRAPA members.

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October 23, 2009 at 2:41 pm Leave a comment

Patrick Koen: Precision and Foresight in Revenue Assurance

What does the game of squash and revenue assurance have in common? Both are fast paced, requiring precision and good foresight. In addition, both are Patrick Koen’s passions. Patrick describes himself as competitive and analytical with a ‘go for it’ personality that serves him both on and off the squash court. “I like to take on problems or tackle projects and make them work. I am the type of person who likes to see the big picture and meet challenges head-on,” Patrick told staff writer Kathy B, during GRAPA training in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Patrick presently works for KPN and lives in Haarlem, Netherlands with his long time girlfriend.patrick

After receiving his master’s degree in business administration, Patrick began working at Deloitte as an IT auditor. “During that time many of my clients were in the media and telecom industry. I did IT audits for annual statements at some of the larger telecoms.” While working at Telfort he got to know the revenue assurance manager. That was his first introduction to revenue assurance. Later in his career he did internal audits for KPN and spent a few years in corporate Internal Audit. “I started to focus on the revenue cycle for KPN’s mobile business. Then KPN bought Telfort and because the revenue assurance manager remembered me, we started talking. That is how I became part of the revenue assurance department at KPN,” says Patrick.

Patrick has worked in the revenue assurance department for about a year now. “I work more with revenue assurance on the operational side. We work in two teams; business, DSL, internet and postpaid and prepaid mobile. I work with the mobile team,” explains Patrick. “It has been interesting seeing how the revenue assurance department has come together.”

When he is not working, Patrick spends a lot of time on the squash court. “Winning is the second most most important thing,” says Patrick, “the challenge is the first.”

Although it is difficult to imagine Patrick sitting still long enough, he also enjoys reading. His favourites are American writers like John Irving who wrote A Prayer for Owen Meany and The World According to Garp, post-modern writer Don DeLillo, and Thomas Wolfe.

The GRAPA Blog features profiles of attendees of GRAPA training and GRAPA members.

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October 11, 2009 at 7:50 pm Leave a comment

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