Taking the path less traveled in an industry that’s anything but lifeless

June 18, 2024
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While jobs in traditional industries are in no short supply, there are plenty of opportunities in less well-known fields you might not yet have explored. These opportunities can offer unique career progression, great workplace cultures, and even act as interesting conversation-starters. 

To learn more about one such industry, we caught up with Faiza Kanwal, Finance Business Partner for the Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (SMCT):

“People are often surprised when I tell them I work in the cemetery industry. In South Asia, the cemetery landscape is very different from the more structured setups in the Western world. When I meet people from South Asian communities and others outside the industry, they get quite curious about what I do.” 

Faiza shares that there are many misconceptions about the deathcare industry, but the reality is that many organizations like SMCT operate with business structures similar to those in any other industry. 

“We manage day-to-day tasks, handle financial responsibilities, and provide various services. It’s not just about the solemn aspects of burials, cremations, or interments. We have so many other activities beyond these.” To learn more about her work and her personal goals and values, Faiza shares four ways her career with SMCT has helped her find the right path.

1. A path to finding her passion

Faiza developed her skills in budgeting, sales trends, analytics, and performance evaluations in various cross-functional teams before joining SMCT. Her career journey has taken her around the world, from working at a non-government organization in Pakistan to e-commerce in Saudi Arabia to inventory management in one of Australia’s largest retailers, all while being drawn to the analytical aspects of finance. 

When parenthood gave her the chance to pause and reflect on her next steps, she saw an opportunity and took it:

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“Life took a pause when I learned I was expecting my second child. When she turned eight months old, I was ready to re-enter the workforce and seized the opportunity to join SMCT. This was my opportunity to return to a finance role and reacquaint myself with financial responsibilities after a break.” 

Faiza advises she’s discovered a remarkable range of opportunities and benefits. One of which is the backdrop of nature and a chance to escape busy city life thanks to the emphasis SMCT puts into looking after the natural environment through initiatives like Project Cultivate:

“It’s a unique industry, for sure, that sparks unexpected conversations and challenges common perceptions about career paths in finance. But I have a better understanding of the sector now, and there’s just so much opportunity to grow professionally. An added bonus I also like to share is that the grounds I’m surrounded by and work in are beautiful!” 


2. A path to flexibility and work-life balance

Faiza reflects that her path in other workplaces hasn’t always been smooth. She’s experienced her share of setbacks, from personal biases to a lack of respect for her personal beliefs and religion and the absence of flexible work arrangements. 

When SMCT advertised a full-time opportunity, Faiza enquired about the potential for part-time work during her interview to support her daughter’s transition to daycare. The Chief Financial Officer’s willingness to accommodate this request was a critical moment for her.

“I was very grateful, and it gave me the confidence to join the organization. Here, I’ve found more than just a workplace—it’s a nurturing environment. There’s no micromanagement, just a genuine appreciation for good work. My manager’s empathy and trust have created a space for me to thrive and made me more committed to my work. For me, it’s not just a job. It’s a supportive community where everyone, particularly women, can flourish. SMCT genuinely cares for its people.”

This has fuelled her motivation to contribute towards inclusive workplaces that recognize and respect the diversity of people and their unique circumstances:

SMCT has played an important role in addressing the challenges I’ve faced in the past. It’s just one example of how our workplace genuinely values and accommodates the diverse needs of our team members. It’s great, and it fosters a healthy work-life balance.”

In addition to working part-time, her manager granted her flexible hours to manage her children’s pick-up and drop-off routines. 

As one of our Australian employers with great leadership diversity, is SMCT a workplace that could work for you?

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3. A path for progression and recognition

Her initial role as a Growth, Insights, and Strategy Analyst enabled her to leverage her research and analytical background, contribute to strategic initiatives, and develop her interest in the analytical aspects of finance. Now a Finance Business Partner, Faiza collaborates closely with various business units to provide financial insights and support decision-making processes. This goes beyond the traditional scope of finance, as it requires a comprehensive understanding of financial principles and the intricate details of the organization’s operations. 

“I conduct financial analysis for insights around business performance, collaborate with business leaders to achieve strategic goals, and develop budgets and forecasts – among many other things. Essentially, I act as a trusted advisor to various business units, offering financial guidance and support.”

Faiza also appreciates that SMCT rewards team members with recognition and progression opportunities and understands there are many women in leadership positions with different goals in and outside of work: 

“My contributions to the finance department were acknowledged and appreciated. Not only did it provide a great confidence boost, but it allowed me to progress in my career – from a finance analyst to a finance business partner.” 


4. A path to equilibrium

Like many, Faiza is motivated to achieve a balanced, fulfilling life by making meaningful contributions, finding joy in her passions, and positively impacting her personal and professional endeavors. 

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“I take great pride in having a balance between my work and family life. Support and understanding from my family, coupled with a workplace that values my contributions – plus my own organizational skills has helped me find equilibrium.”  

Faiza acknowledges that finding balance isn’t easy, but great things can happen when you work with the right employer who recognizes that supporting what balance and success look like for you in the right ways. For anyone struggling with this question in their life, Faiza shares:

“Juggling work, family, and personal pursuits requires intentional effort—but it’s critical to your overall well-being. Ultimately, ‘success’ looks different to everyone. But typically, it includes finding a sense of purpose, genuine happiness, and continuing to grow, personally and professionally.”  

5. Looking ahead to an interesting future

So what’s the future holding for Faiza? She advises that she looks forward to continuing her journey of self-improvement, cultivating meaningful relationships, and contributing to SMCT’s strategic initiatives, particularly those surrounding social impact, community development, and building a healthy, inclusive workplace culture. 

As far as following the pathway into a less obvious industry, Faiza shares this is what life is all about:

Faiza Kanwal

“Life rarely follows a linear path, so stay open to change and be adaptable! If ever your path seems uncertain, following your passions and having a positive mindset will put you in good stead. Embrace diverse experiences and keep learning for your personal and professional growth.” 

Learn more about the benefits of a career at Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust.

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About the Author

With a professional background in careers education, employability, and psychology, Elaine Chennatt has worked with many individuals from all walks of life to find their path. Following a career pivot, she now utilizes her passion for words to help inspire, motivate, and guide audiences as they pursue career growth and purpose. As the Global Content Writer & Editor for WORK180, Elaine is passionate about uncovering the stories that matter to help our community find where they can thrive.

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