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My ACA experience: Jag

Jag's story...

Tell us about your career journey and what you do day-to-day in your role.

After my placement year did not evolve into a graduate role in software sales after a somewhat surprising rejection, I decided to pursue my passion for teaching Maths. However, all this teaching taught me that I was still keen to learn and that’s where I came across the ACA qualification and a role in external audit. 

Day-to-day really does vary in external audit depending on the stage of the audit. As I have progressed to an assistant manager, my role is mixed between managing jobs, reviewing work, still performing audit testing, supporting/coaching junior members of staff, managing the client and much more. No day is the same as there can be a lot of juggling involved. 

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Why did you choose the ACA over other accounting qualifications?

For me it was really a no-brainer on this one. After teaching, I knew I wanted to be a Chartered Accountant and the ACA qualification seemed to be the best choice. The ACA was offered as part of all the Big Four graduate roles in audit that I was applying for and I really did not think of any others. 

The ACA qualification is honestly brilliant. The exams cover such a diverse range of topics, from the more obvious such as accounting and tax to law and financial management. However, the ACA qualification is not solely based on exams and through my role in audit it actually does amaze me how much I have learnt in the past 3.5 years. 

Who or what inspired you to become a chartered accountant?

It’s actually quite funny because when I was a teenager, I mentioned to my dad that I wanted to become an accountant. This seemed to make sense given that I love Maths and numbers; although on a side note, I have realised accounting really does not require a brilliant Maths background. Back to this conversation then, I was told my personality “wasn’t typical of an accountant”. Now working in audit, I have realised there is a lot of teamwork and client interaction involved, which my younger self was unaware of and would have been interested in. However, I therefore then quickly dropped this teenage idea of becoming an accountant. 

I feel like there were still signs pointing me to accounting but I took the longer route. My first choice for university was Nottingham but I missed the entry requirements, even though I achieved AAA. Instead of joint honours BSc Maths and Economics, I was offered a course in Finance, Accounting and Management. However, my interest at this point had gone and I stuck to my passion for Maths and went to the University of Leeds. 

Fast forward to my teaching year, my dad then brought up the idea of accounting and the ACA qualification. This idea sparked right back up and the rest was history! 

Our accountants are more than you’d imagine. They challenge the traditional accountancy routes and career paths. They have an innovative approach and skill to their work. How does your career path, attitude and skillset support this?

To do well in accounting, specifically external audit, I think you really need a skillset that is strong in communication, team working, organisation and leadership as you progress, coach junior members of staff and begin to manage audits. You need to be hardworking too and not to blow my own trumpet, but I do think I am pretty great at all of the above. 

Applying professional scepticism and challenging others where things seem incorrect, using analytical and problem-solving skills really does help and go a long way. 

Do you think there is such a thing as a stereotypical accountant? If so, how do you challenge this stereotype?

There most definitely is a thing as a stereotypical accountant and that stereotype is unfortunately the numbers focused and “boring” type. I may love numbers, but I really would not consider myself to be boring. Perhaps that’s something a boring person would say? 

I recently saw on social media a popular liked comment stating auditors are “odd people who don’t do alot” and that could not be further from the truth. The memes on the internet, although funny, do not help to challenge the stereotype either. 

That really is something I would love to change and all I can do is continue to help and show others that accountants can be fun and have good social lives too. 

Why did you decide to go down the route you did?

I will keep this answer quite short as I am pretty sure I have touched on it above. I wanted to keep learning and to challenge myself and this route really allows me to do that daily. 

What do you love the most about what you do? 

What I do actually love about external audit is that when you start to feel comfortable in your role, it evolves and changes. There is constant progression, and you keep growing and growing. The learning does not seem to stop, and it really does open up so many doors and creates different opportunities.

At ICAEW, we encourage applicants from all backgrounds. What skills do you bring to your career due to your degree in economics and why did chartered accountancy appeal to you?

Before answering this, I do want to emphasise the fact that ICAEW really do encourage applicants from all backgrounds. My graduate cohort included those with degrees in Chemistry, languages and much more. 

My Maths and Economics background really does bring out my analytical, problem solving side. I bring this into my role daily as in audit, the answers are not always straightforward, and it does require problem solving at times. 

Chartered accountancy appealed to me as actually going with the stereotype this time, I did think it fit nicely with my strong Maths background. Sadly, there is not any algebra in accountancy, but it still stimulates my brain in various ways and keeps it ticking. 

Vlog 1 - Jag's day-to-day life...

In her first vlog Jag speaks about her journey and what her day-to-day life as an ICAEW Chartered Accountant at Deloitte.