What’s the first thing you do each workday?
Normally when I finish for the day, I tend to think about what I’d like to achieve the next day. When it then comes to logging on in the morning, I will try to spend an hour or two working towards those goals so that I can get in some high focus time before checking my emails. This helps me towards progressing the tasks I’d set myself first before fully jumping into the working day and the various emails and communication that come with it.
What’s the most challenging part of your working day?
Juggling work and prioritising. The nature of managing a client portfolio is that you often have a number of tasks on the go at any one time, often all high priority! It’s not uncommon to spend the whole day replying to and resolving incoming emails and so it can be hard to progress other tasks. Therefore, it’s important to acknowledge what is feasible, what is a reasonable timeframe, and what needs to come first.
What’s changed about your typical day in the last 5 years?
A lot has changed for me in 5 years as that covers the bulk of my career at Mercer & Hole from joining audit as a trainee 6 years ago to being an audit manager now. The biggest change is responsibility and focus as I have moved away from being allocated to work on a particular engagement one week at a time, to managing a client portfolio. That involves planning, organisational skills, and time management with a focus on high level areas and decision-making, as opposed to a narrower focus on detail at a trainee level.
What is the most satisfying part of what you do?
Sometimes audit can come across as pretty unglamorous as it’s fundamentally routed in compliance which can often be uninteresting to clients. However, we can often help identify flaws in processes or provide confidence in them which does generate real value for clients. It’s not uncommon to identify areas for improvement through the audit process that provide tangible value for clients beyond a simple statement of compliance and that is often satisfying.
Why did you decide to choose this career?
I finished university relatively unsure about what I wanted to do but I was always competent at mathematics and felt I had a general interest in finance-based careers, without much of an idea on anything specific. Audit and the ACA provided a route to developing myself by working towards a qualification that could be directly applied to a profession, and therefore felt more valuable than my existing learning to date. The ACA is also a well-recognised qualification that opens up opportunities to branch out into a number of career paths, so I saw it as a good route to develop without embarking down a career path that felt relatively closed off.
What advice would you give your younger self/someone just starting out?
If possible, try and talk to as many people as you can about your intentions, where you might like to go in your career, and the paths to get there. When I was looking at where I wanted to go to university and what to study, I was under the impression if you wanted to end up in finance you’d need to go to university and study a mathematics-based degree, but this isn’t the case. Most accounting (and other finance) firms consider hiring people from a range of backgrounds and experiences so there is a lot of flexibility in the routes you can take to get to where you’d like to go. For example, I had no idea you could enrol onto the AAT as a school leaver route into accountancy and in a world of high tuition fees this might be something that appeals to people starting out if they’re aware of the options available to them.
How do you break up your day – breaks, lunch, a walk?
I’m fairly flexible in terms of taking breaks as I tend to find working from home to be more intense as there are naturally less distractions compared to working in an office environment. Therefore, I tend to go through longer periods of high focus that I balance by taking sporadic short breaks to counteract that. Particularly during the winter months, I would often take advantage of the flexibility of home working by taking a longer lunch to walk during the daylight and catch up later in the day.
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