Working in Iraq was never on Jay Balachandran’s career agenda. While his early childhood was marked by major moves (South India to Tanzania to Botswana) and his career in taxation included stints in India, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE while employed at Ernst & Young, PwC and Deloitte, his latest move came about quite by accident.
“I became aware of the opening [at Tiller and Co] and sent my CV through,” explains Balachandran. “I love to travel and the opportunity to work in a different country, be involved with two tax regimes [federal Iraq and Kurdistan] and to head the whole tax service line,” proved irresistible.
“The idea of working in Iraq, with its unfortunate history and the [threat of] attacks did get me thinking,” he says. “That said, I have been pleasantly surprised by the region I reside in and the warmth of the people here.”
Balachandran is head of tax services for Tiller and Co, a private consultancy that specialises in advisory and compliance services for taxation, social security and immigration issues facing companies that operate – or plan to operate – in federal Iraq or the Kurdistan Region. The firm also advises on market entry and operational issues.
A typical work day for Balachandran, who has more than 13 years of experience in taxation, sees him liaise with teams that service clients in both federal Iraq and Kurdistan. His work days end with an enviably short commute: “I live in a residential compound with the office in the same compound,” he explains. “It’s a mix of residences and offices, a common feature of many such community spaces in Erbil. It’s a good, easy-going place to live.”
itbdigital.com recently caught up with Balachandran by email. We asked him 7 questions about his life on the move.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A pilot. That dream was crushed at seven years of age when I was taken into the cockpit of a jumbo jet by the air hostess. Speaking with the pilots, I looked out through the window and realised I was scared of heights! A short-lived ambition, to say the least.
What do you like the most about your new country?
The friendliness and openness of the people. The care-free attitude can become contagious at times, but this feeds into the daily routine and the result is a calm atmosphere to work in.
You’ve got visitors in town. What are the top three must-sees?
The Citadel at the centre of the city of Erbil is regarded as the “oldest continuously inhabited urban settlement in the world”; the Shanidar Caves; and my personal preference: to drive out of Erbil and go up into the mountainside. There are breathtaking views of the countryside, mountains, rock formations – a true treat for the eyes and well worth the few hours of travel time.
Where would you take a client for lunch?
Depending on tastes, there is a fairly good mix of international and local cuisine with the choice bound to grow in the coming years.
Where do you go for a run or swim?
There is a good gym and pool area inside Abdul-Rahman Park, just opposite where I stay. The park has a huge acreage and is a popular place for individuals interested in a good jog.
How do you stay connected?
I prefer to stay connected via phone. Given the region I am in, Skype is the most convenient mode.
Describe your ideal retirement.
A house by the waterfront. Heaven on earth.
Going Global looks at the challenges and rewards of moving for work in today’s global economy. Do you know someone working away from home? Email aeve.baldwin at cpaaustralia.com.