While growing up, my dream was to be either a famous lawyer or a TV reporter. I cannot remember why I wanted to be famous, but there was a sense of (problem) solving and ‘digging under the surface’ traits that I still have today. I did well at college and always performed well in my exams. But when it came to focusing on what I wanted to do with my future, I lost track and my marks slipped. I come from an under-privileged family and faced many challenges while growing up. Also, I had to financially support myself through college.
When it came to A-levels, I had basically burned out and didn’t know what to do. I enrolled on to a media studies course at the top university in Prague, Czech Republic, and, before the course began, I decided to go to London for a holiday to earn some money and to improve my English. To cut a long story short, while in London I decided to take the big step of enrolling on a university course there, rather than pursuing the media studies course back in Prague. It was fate – at last, in accountancy I had found something I could be passionate about. I went on to achieve a First Class honours degree.
I guess that is my motivation – the gratitude for being able to build a new life from scratch in a foreign country and become the best I can be. While I don't yet feel completely certain about which career pathway to follow, what I do know is that ACCA will give me all the tools I need to excel. It has now been more than eight years since I came to the UK as a nervous 19-year-old, and now I am working at the head office of one of the world’s largest banks for EMEA operations. My team report on the bank’s performance and is responsible for all the regulatory work.
I work with some of the smartest finance people in the country and I embrace the fact that I can work with them and learn from them. And it is very tough to keep up – deadlines are very tight and the staff in overseas offices can seem quite ruthless at times. But, on the other hand, I find these dynamics thrilling and I know it helps me to develop skills in many areas. That is one of the reasons I study ACCA: it is not just the pay rise and/or promotion I’m hoping for – it is the ability to contribute and to devise solutions that will improve our performance and be implemented across the board.
As mentioned above, I believe that ACCA is crucial for people wanting to progress in finance. I was able to earn money as a bookkeeper after the first year of my degree in accounting and finance. I felt then that I knew all that was required to perform well in a job. But after graduating I thought about applying for roles in larger firms. I was very sceptical about the chances of ever being selected – the financial crisis was not a distant memory, I am not British and the university I went to was not a ‘red brick’. Therefore, I was looking for ways to improve my outlook. A professional qualification seemed to be a no-brainer. In most of the job adverts, it was a requirement to be studying towards ACCA and I discussed this with the (then) ACCA campus manager Abdul Goffar. I must admit that, as I have progressed with ACCA journey, my career has accelerated too.
As I am working through my exams, I am seeking practical examples of what I’m learning on the job. It is much easier then to grasp the theoretical content. For example, while studying P2, Corporate Reporting, I had massive issues with the pensions topic. I just could not understand how it worked and I dreaded it coming up in the exam. So I spoke to my manager who sat with me while we worked on the quarterly consolidation package, and this was all explained to me on the job, with the reports from actuaries and the spreadsheets. I also assisted with parts of the consolidated financial statements and, after that, I thought ‘this is an easy exam!’ (Indeed, it was most certainly not easy, but it was helpful to have such a positive mindset). I also think that the Professional level exams give me an insight into the decisions that are made by management and they enable me to perform effectively in my role that will be appreciated and acknowledged by my superiors.
Neil Johnson, writer