Council member and university lecturer Ronnie Patton FCCA shares his career-defining moments, and describes how accountancy is a great career choice that opens up possibilities.
Why did you decide to become an accountant/auditor/finance professional?
I find it ironic that I actually became an accountant, because when I left school, I was sure that I didn't want to teach! After my A levels, I was all set to take a degree in English literature and philosophy, but I thought that the only career that degree could lead to was teaching. I did a bit of research and found that, with ACCA, I could begin work AND get a professional qualification.
14 years later, I got a chance to teach part-time and I just loved it, so I applied for and got a full-time post.
I suppose it goes to show that you never know what's around the corner.
What would you say to someone considering accountancy as a career?
It is a really good career choice. It opens up possibilities that, at the moment, you don't even realise exist.
But don't see it as an easy option. It takes dedication and hard work, but the whole reward package means that work will pay off.
Also, don't think that it's about numbers. In my view, it's about communication. The numbers are best seen as a means of communication.
What are the challenges you've experienced in your career to date?
Thinking about that right across my career, I'd say making sure that I can provide the motivation that's needed. Early on, it was about motivating myself to balance work and study.
Then, as I gained responsibility for work carried out by others, it was motivating them to make sure that we achieved the highest standards possible.
Now it's about motivating students, as many of them have to deal with a number of pressures. That's what makes accounting so interesting, as it's about communication - it's really about people, with all the attendant challenges and rewards!
What are the opportunities you've experienced in your career to date?
I often say that I used to have a real job. That's because I thoroughly enjoy almost everything about my job. Not many people can say that, so I know that I can't take it for granted.
What I enjoy most is that fact that I regularly get the opportunity to help people achieve success and to share their joy when that happens. Sometimes it's explaining to a prospective students about the opportunities that a career in accounting offers, and sometimes it's helping individual students or groups to understand something that they have been struggling with.
What does being a Council member mean to you?
For me, although it might be regarded as a cliché, it really is about giving something back. I have gained great fulfilment from being an ACCA member. As a member of Council, I want to make sure that as many people as possible can have the same opportunities that I had.
What does being a member of a professional body mean to you? Why does professionalism matter?
It means several things. First, it means that I have an obligation to strive to achieve the highest possible standard of performance in everything I do.
Secondly, it means I have a professional network which provides support, motivation and great friendships.
Third, it means that I have to keep learning, which is part of the enjoyment and fulfilment that I believe we all want. On top of all of that, it means that what I do, both in my 'day job' and my ACCA involvement, provides benefits to others.
What is the biggest issues facing the profession now, in five and in 10 years' time?
I think that maintaining professional standards is, and will continue to be, the biggest issue. In some ways, 'professionalism' can seem to be a little old fashioned, but in fact, it's more important than ever. There is something unattractive and, I believe, unfulfilling about only seeking personal benefit. However, the pressure to do just that seems to increase on a daily basis.
What does public value mean to you?
Public value is very closely linked to professionalism. It's about seeking to serve and protect the public first and foremost. That means that what we do isn't about ourselves. It's not even about ACCA. It's about how we, individually and corporately, adopt positions and take actions that mean society is better because of those positions and actions.
What's the biggest misconception about the work that you do?
That I only have to work a few hours each day, a few days each week and that I have around 20 weeks holiday a year! At least, that's the one that I'm probably most touchy about. Every year, around the end of April, when classes finish for exams, I can guarantee that at least three people will ask me, 'When do you go back to work?'
However, I think the biggest misconception is that my role is to get students through exams. My own view is that my role is to facilitate, encourage and motivate students so that they learn. Following on from that is the misconception that their learning should be about accounting. That's part of it, but a more important part is making sure that they learn how to learn.
Achieving those two things will mean that they will pass exams. But it will also mean that they are equipped to adapt to the changes that they will inevitably face throughout their careers. If they are able to do that, they will have rewarding careers, which in turn will mean a more fulfilled life.
Who has had the greatest impact on your career development and why?
My much-missed friend, mentor and inspiration, Liam Coughlan.
Why do you continue to be an ACCA member?
For three reasons. First, it's about professionalism. Being a member of a professional body provides both an assurance of my professionalism and opportunities through which I can ensure that I continue to meet the standards that are expected of a 'professional'.
Second, because it provides opportunities to assist others to achieve those standards, and third, because I have gained so much from my membership, it would be inconceivable - and selfish - not to continue as a member.
Tell us about a career-defining moment.
The day I presented his accounts to a client and he asked me, 'How did I do, son?' (It was a long time ago!) At that moment, I realised that accountancy was about more than the technical skills that I had worked so hard to build up. Those were and are important, but they mean nothing if accounting information isn't communicated, understood and useful. If we can achieve that, it actually does make a difference.
What's the most important part of your role on Council?
Being part of a very large team - fellow Council members, International Assembly delegates, members and staff - who work together to ensure that ACCA members continue to be professional and to serve the public interest. That also includes ensuring as many people as possible have the opportunity to build careers that allow them to do the same.