Shereena Wilson is a Rwanda-based fractional CFO. She initiated her freelancing journey in 2020, and is part of a growing trend of professionals finding fulfilment in remote freelancing.
Shereena Wilson is a Rwanda-based fractional CFO. She initiated her freelancing journey through an international platform called Upwork during the pandemic-related lockdown in 2020, taking on a few projects.
Within three to four months, she successfully built a strong profile with positive reviews. Upwork is not limited to finance professionals but encompasses freelancers from various fields globally, providing a diverse marketplace for clients and freelancers.
Currently, Shereena serves as the fractional CFO for a real estate firm, based in Texas, and is finalising a forensic investigation project for a partnership firm, based in California. This remote working flexibility accommodates different tax regulations, with Shereena adhering to Rwanda's tax regulations as a resident.
Transition to accountancy
Shereena's journey from India to Rwanda is a fascinating tale of career evolution. After completing her engineering degree in computer science in India, she took an unexpected turn from software developer to becoming a chartered accountant (CA).
Her husband’s family are founders of Nambiar Associates, which was a member firm of Grant Thornton in Rwanda, where she worked as a technology expert during 2009 and 2010 before falling in love with the business of accounting.
Reflecting on this transition, she says, "I never expected myself to become a CA, but I love what I do."
Shereena returned to software development for two years, during 2011 and 2012, after her first child was born as she could work from home. Later in 2013, she returned to the audit firm and worked there for another six years, handling risk management and leading specialised audits. During the same period, Shereena also worked in a remote role with a technology start-up based in the Middle East as their head of finance and analytics.
Shereena took up the role of CFO of Sawmill East Africa in 2019. “I was pleased to join a new organisation, and the experience was valuable," she says. “Managing a business outside the family dynamic brings a unique set of challenges, requiring adjustments in approach and handling of various aspects. This is why I wanted to explore opportunities beyond the familiar setting.”
“After a year at Sawmill, I decided to join King Faisal Hospital as CFO, where I oversaw finance, HR and led the digital transformation process, including the implementation of cost centres. Working with a team of 700 people was a rewarding experience, and despite being pregnant with my second child, I remained highly committed, often putting in long hours,” she explains.
King Faisal is the topmost referral hospital in Rwanda. During the one year she spent at the hospital, Shereena found joy in addressing issues beyond finance. For instance, if there were concerns in the neonatal intensive care unit, she would proactively intervene to ensure resolution. Her passion for facilitating healthcare led her to engage in various roles, not just as a CFO, but also as a CEO and chief of operations at different times.
“People would often refer to me as a doctor due to the nature of the healthcare environment, emphasising the responsibility of dealing with matters that directly impact human lives. Ultimately, the diverse roles I undertook allowed me to gain extensive experience and a broader perspective, reinforcing the importance of addressing challenges that extend beyond the financial realm," Shereena explains.
After her second child was born in September 2021, Shereena opted for remote work to spend time with her baby. She says, "I cherish the flexibility of remote work. Also, you get to work with diverse clients across the globe. I am currently part of a few communities for executives and I get most of my clients through referrals."
Her experience underscores the growing trend of professionals finding fulfilment in remote freelancing.
“I have worked in both family-owned businesses and large corporations,” Shereena says. “One of my lessons is that you need adaptability and polished professionalism to be successful.”
Living and working in Kigali, Shereena has developed a love for Rwanda, highlighting its cleanliness, safety, and pleasant climate. She observes the country's progress, saying, "Rwanda is home to me, and I love being here.”