Success stories

Inspiring success: interview with Poppy Brimson ACCA

Poppy talks about how ACCA has helped her realise her career goals.

Name: Poppy Brimson ACCA
Job title: Accountant and auditor
Employer: Old Mill

Poppy Brimson originally meant to study economics at university, but as she’d always wanted to be an accountant, she also decided to apply for a trainee accountant position. She got the job and moved to Exeter from north Devon when she was 18 and spent the first couple of years completing AAT L3 and L4 before progressing to ACCA.

Now it would be tempting here to use the old phrase ‘and the rest, as they say, is history’, but that would do an injustice to Poppy’s story of ambition and hard work. She was determined to finish her ACCA exams before her 23rd birthday, so she sat two exams per quarter. ‘It was a challenge at the time, but I’m really glad I did it this way,’ she says.

‘I realised I wanted to be an accountant from quite an early age. I’m quite numerical and analytical and it was the career I’d always wanted. I completed a week’s work experience in London when I was 16 and initially thought I would move to London to be an accountant. However, I’m really glad I decided to stay in the south-west of England.’

We sat down with Poppy to talk about her story, her ambitions and to ask for her top tips.

Tell us about your current job

I work at a firm called Old Mill in Exeter. It’s a regional firm with four offices across the south-west. I work with a range of owner-managed businesses to help them achieve their compliance and advisory needs.

One of the main areas I am involved in is audit. I really enjoy auditing as it gives you the opportunity to really get into the detail of a company. It also means you are with a client for a week at a time, which gives you the opportunity to build good relationships. I am involved in the same audits every year, and you tend to be in contact with these clients all year round, which again gives you the opportunity to build good relationships.

When I’m in the office, I might be planning or completing an audit or working with non-audited businesses. I am also involved in training others, and it’s really rewarding to see them progress.

The best part about my job is the team I work with. Everyone is really supportive of one another and we all get on really well. The firm is very supportive in terms of training and progression, which makes my job more rewarding and enjoyable.

How has ACCA helped you achieve your ambitions and goals?

The flexibility with sitting exams each quarter helped me achieve my goal of finishing my exams before I was 23. ACCA has really useful resources online – past papers and examiner commentary, for example – all of which were invaluable in helping me to study and learn the content material.

ACCA works with learning providers such as First Intuition, who I studied with in Bristol, who deliver ACCA courses and revision weeks. I found the revision weeks particularly useful as we covered a lot of past paper questions and went over the more challenging areas. It was a great way to meet other accountants and discuss our experiences with each other.

What does a typical work week look like for you?

We have our team meetings on a Monday morning to discuss what we are working on and our team goals for the week. I’m lucky that I sit in a really friendly and supportive team; everyone is willing to help others out if needed to help us achieve our team goals.

About once a month I will be on an audit, which means I will be out of the office for around a week with a client. Before this, I will need to plan the audit and make sure we have the right amount of time and staff to complete the audit to a high standard.

When I’m working in the office and not carrying out audit work, I work with small companies from a compliance and advisory point of view. I also help train members of staff and get involved in internal projects.

I try to attend as many networking events as I can. They are a great way to meet like-minded professionals in the Exeter area. I have developed some really good relationships and friendships from attending these over the years.

Outside of work you might find me on a tennis or netball court. I play both in local leagues and try to play as much as possible. I think exercise is really important – it can make you feel a lot better after a stressful day.

How do you manage your work-life balance?

I have a planner which I use to note down everything I have on, including work, netball and tennis training and fixtures, and social events. By doing this while studying, I was then able to plan in time for study. It can be difficult leading up to exams as you feel like you should be studying all the time, but I still think it is important to take a break or do some exercise to keep you motivated to study.

I see my friends as often as I can in the evenings or at weekends. My close friends were supportive all throughout my studies. I have a few close friends who are also accountants and we studied at the same time, which meant we could spend time together even if it was just revising together.

I am quite busy outside of work, therefore it was important for me to make time for studying. It was often useful to come to work an hour early or stay an hour later and use this time to study, even if it was just doing a past paper question.

What are your current and future ambitions and motivations?

I’m very lucky because Old Mill allows me to be flexible with my work. If needed, I can work from home or do flexitime, which is something I really appreciate. I would like to continue working at Old Mill now and in the future; it is a forward-thinking firm that is very supportive in helping me to achieve my goals.

I am also currently renovating my house, so a personal ambition is to finish this over the next couple of years.

Where do you want to be in five years?

In five years I would like to be thinking about applying for responsible individual (RI) status in auditing. My career goal at the moment is to become an RI before I’m 30.

What does being an ACCA member mean to you?

I have always wanted to be an accountant, so it was quite an emotional moment when I found out I’d passed my last exam. Having the certificate on my wall is a reminder of all my hard work over the last few years.

It has also helped me to use my skills outside of work. I volunteer as the treasurer for the Exeter Netball League and am a trustee of a charity called Inspired by Keira. The skills ACCA has taught me have enabled me to volunteer and put my skills to good use.

Your top three for aspiring ACCA students?

  1. Utilise your colleagues who have sat exams or your fellow classmates to help you study. My manager was always happy to talk through areas I found difficult. It is helpful to talk difficult areas through with others.

  2. Do as many past paper questions as you can. I found this by far the most useful way to revise and learn how to approach questions.

  3. If you put your mind to something and put in the work and effort, you will be able to achieve your goals. 

Since this interview, Poppy has become FD of Smallridge Bros. Hear more about her story.

Poppy Brimson

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