Why did you choose accountancy as a career?
My parents always thought I would be an accountant after I charged my brother interest when he borrowed my pocket money at payday loan rates! I left college and got a job as a conference organiser. I soon realised the people who worked in finance were on more money than me so I decided accountancy was for me so I started by taking AAT qualifications.
What’s your specialism? Please give a brief overview of your role
I am currently working for the London Borough of Barnet in the commissioning directorate. This is really interesting as the transactional service for Barnet finance has been out-sourced, so my role is the client manager for the finance service. My team also manages the financial planning and strategy for the council as a whole.
Can you briefly explain your career journey to-date?
As I say, I’ve had various finance jobs: AP clerk, payroll officer and then I became a management accountant and joined the NHS. After a couple of years there I was studying with lots of trainees in councils and decided I wanted to get a role in a council. I went over to Southwark Council and worked for a year in environment, I then to Westminster Council and worked in housing and then adults. I then got offered an opportunity to cover someone’s year sabbatical as a finance manager for adults in Ealing, so I took a leap and became a contractor. This then lead to the opportunity to fulfil a year as head of finance for adults and community services in Barking and Dagenham.
I then moved to the London Borough of Hackney and was there for 18 months as head of finance for children’s and regulatory services and then from there got the opportunity to move to the London Borough of Barnet as head of finance in the commissioning directorate.
I have never had a major career master plan, but I was very determined to not end up with a one specialism and so I have had a couple of side steps at the same level but in new areas, this has always kept my interest fresh and has given me lots of experience of how councils work differently.
Do you believe that your qualification created opportunities for you that would have otherwise been unavailable?
The CIPFA professional accounting qualification is, from my experience, very well-regarded. I am sure that it has opened doors to organisations that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to interview for if I wasn’t CIPFA-qualified.
How does the CIPFA qualification help you in your day-to-day tasks, and long term?
As CIPFA is such a comprehensive qualification, you have a comfort in knowing that you have had some training or preparation for most situations. Also because your fellow CIPFA trainees are working in the public sector (even if in not exactly the same area) this provide a good support network, offering advice and experience about certain situations or processes.
What do you like most about your CIPFA membership?
I find the training sessions and network events really useful. CIPFA members are really supportive. I have over time had lots of support from more senior staff who I am sure are very busy doing their day jobs, but took the time to advise – and that has been a real help.
What advice would you give current students who are looking to pursue a career in public finance?
I would say enjoy your time studying and focus on getting the basics right. This will help you understand how to be an accountant and manager, and will hold you in good stead as you progress. Also, don’t try and plan your career too much just enjoy the opportunities. And remember to take time to laugh with your colleagues.