Sahar Zafar: BA (Hons) Accounting and Finance 2016-2019; Trainee Expatriate Tax Consultant and Owner of Sahar’s Cakery

15 Jun 21

“My lecturers still show me so much support. They know you by name and as a person rather than just a number. My lecturers even keep track of my cake business. I miss Winchester so much!”

Sahar Zafar is a Trainee Expatriate Tax Consultant and self-employed business owner. After graduating with a BA (Hons) Accounting and Finance degree in 2019, Sahar became a Trainee Expatriate Tax Consultant alongside running a cake business which she started while studying at Winchester with the support of her lecturers.

“I’m a Trainee Expatriate Tax Consultant. I work for a small company so I’m their first trainee. We have private clients and complete their tax returns.”

“Working in real life is completely different to university! I work in a shared office and so, to begin with, I would make sure to always ask questions as I had never worked before. My manager and director have taught me so much.”

“Some people think tax is boring, but you get to learn so much about your clients and there are so many interesting aspects to this part of the finance world. I never thought I’d go into tax but now I’m studying towards my Association of Tax Technician (ATT) exams and I’m really enjoying it.”

I also run my own baking business. I do the baking, the marketing and the finance. It’s a registered business so I also do my own tax return. I didn’t realise what it would involve but I’ve learnt a lot from it. I also took part in the Inspiring Enterprise scheme recommended to me by my lecturer in my second and third year and after finishing university.

"Even after graduating, when I first started working in my current tax role, I would attend the workshops. You are given mentors and it’s all for free. If you’re a student they’ll cover your train costs if you commute to attend. I’m still getting help now – it’s all ongoing support. That’s the nice thing about lecturers at Winchester, they remember you and contact you if they see a good opportunity.”

“I make the time to study and make cakes but I have to make sure I’m prepared so I bake in the mornings. Work is a short drive from home but I wake up at six. I’ve had to learn to be a morning person – I’ll thank myself in five years. The weekend is for making more cakes and spending time with family and friends!  It’s really good to get into a routine because once you start working you’ve got to fit your passions in.”

Sahar explains how she started looking for work before and after finishing university, further stating how important it is to seek out additional careers support.  

When I got to my final year I hadn’t applied for any graduate jobs as I didn’t want to work for a big company. The Careers department helped me with my CV. I would go to the Careers service often and I recommend this to students as it’s a great way to get help while figuring out your next steps.”

“I took a break in the summer to focus on my cake business. I waited until September to apply for jobs properly, then I graduated in October. I was asked by Reed to send my CV and then asked into to go to my employer’s office for an interview. It’s good to get help from an agency; they also helped me with the interview.”

“I was offered the job the next morning while making cakes! I’m so grateful I’ve found something that I enjoy doing.”

Sahar credits her degree for helping her discover which elements of accounting and finance she wanted to work in, along with the roles she didn’t want to work in.

“My degree helped me to find my job - 100 percent! It actually helped me to know what I didn’t want to do as well as what I want to do! I realised financial accounting wasn’t for me, but I did enjoy tax and ethics modules on my course, so I focused on these things.”

Sahar praises Winchester for the support given to her by the lecturers on her course, adding that she appreciates the community of the University, where she ended up meeting her best friend.

“My lecturers still show me so much support. They know you by name and as a person rather than just a number. My lecturers even keep track of my cake business. I miss Winchester so much!”

“Winchester has a great community feel. I liked the smaller classes and it’s a beautiful place to live. A lot of graduates move permanently to Winchester with friends after university. The people are so friendly and supportive. I met my best friend at university, so the people there really shaped me and my experiences.”

“I’m classed as a minority but it’s nice to see people like me reflected in students and staff. The University is like a family as we all help each other. My friend’s sister started at Winchester last year and she also loves it, I made sure to give her some advice beforehand.”

Sahar didn’t take part in many societies but to wind down after her studies, she enjoyed playing badminton and attending Islamic Student Network meetings with friends. She says that societies help to socialise while studying but are not the only way to do so.

“I would play badminton in the evenings and go to the Islamic Student Network meet-ups with friends. It’s great to be social and meet new people although in final year you can feel bogged down with work. I wish I did do more but I found it a bit daunting. However, you don’t need to just join societies to meet people.“

Sahar has many wonderful memories at Winchester. However, her fondest moments were times spent with close friends. Her best memory is moving into a house with her friendship group in second year.

“My best memory is moving into my house in second year, I lived with three girls who I was friends with and I trusted including my best friend. It made university feel like a constant sleepover – going on library runs, setting up your room and making it your own. I also lived really close to the Business School, so it was perfect. “

Sahar is happy balancing working in taxes and her cake business. She wants to progress further and acquire more responsibilities in both fields.

“I want to progress in what I’m doing right now. I want to work my way up and get my knowledge up to date while taking on more responsibilities. I reckon this is possible as I work with lovely people and get lots of support.”

“In terms of my cake business, I already have wedding cakes booked in, so my next plan is to make even more wedding cakes and make more designs as I have a certain style I want to achieve. I have over 6,000 followers on Instagram. I received marketing support from the enterprise scheme at university, including attending a talk about how to build an organic following.“

“While studying for my degree I took a photography course to learn how to take pictures. I paid £150 as a broke student but it was worth it. I did this for a few weeks and now I know how to take pictures! Every week I’ll post more pictures. Taking part in collaborations with other companies helps. I make sure to put myself and my business out there. I’ve made a TikTok account to show behind the scenes videos of me making cakes.”

With just under two years of experience in the workplace and as a business owner, Sahar has some perceptive advice for students and recent graduates who are looking for their first job.  

“I’d put on a brave face when I’d get rejected from jobs but I realised rejection is redirection; this can apply to anything and everything. Ask for feedback when you don’t and do get a job – it’s good to remind yourself of your talents because it’s easy to think you’re not good enough. I still get imposter syndrome, so make sure to get feedback!”

“Take all the opportunities you can because when you’re young you can do it! Search for opportunities, contact people you want to be in the same industry with and approach them. Invest in yourself!”

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