There are so many different routes into accountancy now, it still baffles me at times! When I started, there weren't so many, and so it’s good to see so many options available now.
Each director within our firm has picked a different route to the ACA qualification – keeping the “Chartered” status of our firm was something we all felt strongly about, as we had worked so hard to get there. We have an AAT trainee who studied ACCA and then converted to ACA, we have a school leaver who decided that university wasn't right for him, so decided to do the Fast Track ACA qualification instead……..and then there's me!
I was fortunate enough to have an accountancy firm in the town that I grew up in, and so when it came to work experience in 6th form, I jumped right in.
Although it probably didn’t actually involve that much accountancy work now I think about it!
I still wanted to go to university, and so I kept working there during my summer holidays, which was great, as it gave me vital practical experience which not many of my university friends had.
I realized the potential available to me, and wanted to carry on working at the same firm that I had done my work experience for, but I think my boss was a bit worried that I wouldn’t gain enough experience in a small firm.
She forced/encouraged me to go for interviews at bigger firms after university, which was a bit odd to be honest. I didn’t have many questions to ask, and it was hard to feign interest in working paper schedules when I had already been dealing with them for 4 years! Also, not a good interview technique to say that you wanted to be running your own practice in 5 years time!
Up until this point I had only been doing parts of jobs, like cashbook summaries (which I still have a soft spot for!). There was a lot of admin work, and lots of listing things on spreadsheets etc. I had never worked on a full job, which was understandable - I was only ever there for a few weeks/months at a time.
Most of my first few months full time were then spent setting up our new database, as we made the move to an integrated software package - a pretty boring task! But at the time it was something I enjoyed as it was all new to me.
Working for a small firm meant undertaking a lot of varied tasks, including payroll and VAT returns – you don’t always get to do these things in a larger firm. We still insist on any new staff members taking on roles such as post and scanning, as some day you might have to do these things, even as director.
Once the new software was up and running then my role changed. I was given full jobs to prepare, from start to finish. It was mainly sole traders and partnerships to start with, moving onto tax returns and Ltd companies as my knowledge increased.
I was very lucky as the firm supported me throughout all my studies - they paid for all college courses, exams, and allowed me time off for my studies. I did have to take a year off college before my final ACA exams though, as we purchased our second office. I transferred down there for a full year as office manager, to ensure that the transition was smooth and that all the staff were up to speed with the new systems.
Before I was even qualified I was managing the office, and that was my first January tax return season of making sure that everything got done on time. I loved my first January rush and hope that feeling never leaves.
Around this time we took on the first of our other homegrown directors. I'm proud to say that I was involved in his training, although slightly annoyed to say that he passed his final exams with higher marks than I did!
I didn’t have much involvement with our other director as she started as an AAT trainee in our other office, but was involved in the later years, in particular her conversion from ACCA to ACA.
As time went on, I started studying for my CTA exams, wanting to develop my tax knowledge. As a second qualification my employers still funded all my courses/exams etc and allowed me time off, but this time I had to pay the fees back via salary sacrifice.
By this time I thought – “no more exams” but felt more than ready to step up and start managing the practice!