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My ACA experience: Drew

Drew joined EY as an ACA trainee on a school-leaver programme after being inspired to pursue a career in finance during work experience at an investment bank. He says the best thing about his job is the variety of work and getting to learn about different businesses.

Drew Williams, ACA Trainee, EY

Drew Williams ACA Trainee, EY

ICAEW route: School-leaver programme

Industry: Various, Audit and assurance

Location: UK, London

Drew Williams

I was fortunate enough to have a month’s work experience at an investment bank when I was in Year 11. This sparked my interest in financial services and made me want to pursue a career in this field. 

During my time at the bank I spoke to a number of people about career paths and it became very apparent how well-respected and useful the ACA qualification is. I would also like to work overseas in the future and the fact that the ACA is internationally-recognised means that this will be an option once I qualify. 

The main way I developed the skills required by EY was through extracurricular activities, particularly sport. Communication and teamwork are important skills in most careers and sport is a great way to develop them, particularly if it is something you enjoy. 

Other ways which you can develop skills such as organisation is through becoming a school prefect. 

My working days can vary a lot and that is one of the aspects I enjoy the most about my job. I typically spend the majority of my time working from the client’s offices and will have meetings and phone calls with the client throughout the day. 

Since audit involves working as part of a team, I also interact with other members of the team on a daily basis. 

Being an ACA student can be challenging at times, particularly in the run-up to exams when you need to balance work and studying. However, on the whole I feel I’m able to get a good work-life balance and I enjoy the way that passing my ACA exams not only helps me with my day-to-day job but also allows me to progress within EY. 

The aspect that I enjoy most about my job is the variety. Each year, I will typically work on three of four client engagements, which gives me an insight into different businesses and also allows me to work with different colleagues. 

This variety keeps the work interesting and also helps to develop my knowledge and skills because each client engagement presents unique challenges.

I chose not to go to university because I felt that getting relevant work experience while studying towards the ACA qualification would stand me in better stead for a career in financial services.

This route would also allow me to qualify as an accountant a year quicker than someone who went to university for three years and then completed the ACA qualification. 

 

Of course, there are times when university seems more appealing – particularly the long summer holidays! But if I had the choice again, I would make the same decision.

Before starting the ACA qualification, I had the perception that all accountants worked on recording transactions and producing financial statements. 

Since starting my ACA training and working at EY I’ve become more aware of the various different industries/roles that the qualification can be used in and the different career paths that it opens-up.

Two of the skills that I’ve developed the most since starting the ACA are time-management and organisation, both of which are crucial when sitting ACA exams. 

Time management is important in the run-up to exams to make sure you get a balance between work and studying. It’s also important when studying to make sure you cover all of the topics in sufficient detail, particularly as you usually sit two or three exams per sitting.

Within the next five years, I hope to complete the ACA qualification and become an ICAEW Chartered Accountant. One of my career ambitions is to work overseas and I hope to have an opportunity to do so within the next five years.

One of the biggest challenges that I’ve faced so far is developing my knowledge about a client’s business, particularly when working on that client for the first time.

A crucial part of working in audit is to have a good understanding about how the client’s business operates and it is often challenging, particularly one some of the larger and more complex clients.

One of the partners in my department gave a speech about his career and what he has achieved. He spoke about how he has worked in five different countries around the world, had various secondments to clients in different industries and has also been able to progress through the ranks at EY.

This really inspired me because it opened my eyes to some of the opportunities which are come with the ACA qualification and I hope to be able to explore some of these opportunities once I become qualified.

For anyone considering their career options, I would say that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ career path; just because somebody has been successful following a certain career path, does not necessarily mean that it is the best route to take. I would also encourage people to think about what they enjoy and are interested in, and pursue opportunities in that area.

 

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There are a number of different routes to becoming an ICAEW Chartered Accountant. You can start your journey straight from school, while you're at university or after you have graduated. Find out which route is right for you.

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