FD in Five Minutes: Sanja Kalik

Third Sector speaks to the head of finance at the homelessness charity Emmaus UK

Sanja Kalik
Sanja Kalik

Why did you choose finance as a career? It is quite surprising for everyone around me that I ended up in finance. At school I was quite good at science and maths, but my aim was to change the world. After leaving school I worked as a journalist in my home country of Serbia, until I found love, got married and moved to Birmingham with my husband. 

It was quite difficult to adapt to life in England and I decided it was as good a time as any to change career, so I enrolled for an Association of Accounting Technicians course. It was quite funny because, although I understand maths and book-keeping, my English was basic. At college, I remember a session about depreciation where I was accurate and quick with the calculations, but I had no clue what the word "depreciation" meant. After passing my exams I started working for an accountancy firm, where I was assigned the Birmingham Women’s Aid account. I realised that I could fulfil a childhood dream of making the world a better place through this new career path. I haven’t looked back.

What made you work in the charity sector? I have always had an interest in poverty, women’s movements, the protection of children and care for the elderly. I had a Che Guevara poster on my bedroom wall growing up and I was included in any "advocacy and mediation" issues with teachers. At the age of 12 I volunteered at a Red Cross young people’s development summer camp and that experience confirmed that helping people was my calling. I’ve been in the charity sector for more than 10 years now and I have no regrets.

What is the proudest moment of your career so far? I was once stopped on the street by a gentleman I didn’t recognise at first. It turned out to be someone on whom I had taken a chance a few years before, giving him an opportunity to volunteer on my team. He told me that the opportunity changed his life.

What do you do outside work? Travel as much as I can. Our planet is huge and I’m an inquisitive person. The more I travel, the more I feel I learn.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career/life so far? My life has very much been split between growing up in Serbia but spending most of my adult life living in England. I have two people who have had a permanently positive effect on my life: my philosophy lecturer, who embedded the need in me to fight for justice and truth, and Maureen Connolly, former chief executive of the homelessness charity St Basils, who taught me a lot about business and working for the charity sector.

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