60 Second Interview: Financial accountant

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60 Second Interview: Financial accountant

Peta overcame lots of challenges in her study to become a financial accountant. Here she explains how she did it.

Name: Peta Hodgson

Company:  MVF

Industry: Acountancy

What is your job? Financial accountant

How long have you been doing this job? 11 months

Education

Degree subject:

Accounting and Finance with Industrial Experience, University of Exeter

A-levels: Maths, IT and photography (AS physics)

1. What was your very first job?

I’d played tennis since the age of eight and I became a tennis coach when I was 15.

2. What did you want to do when you were at school?

When I was younger I wanted to become a vet as I loved animals. However once I was at secondary school I concluded that biology probably wasn't one of my best subjects. 

3. How did you find out about the industry?

When I was at college I was studying mechanical maths and physics so I thought I’d follow in my father's footsteps and become an engineer. However after a year of physics AS I decided that this was not the right career for me.

I attended a meeting with the careers team at my college and they suggested a career in finance as I was studying maths and IT. A family friend was the finance director of an energy firm, so I spoke to him about his career path and the industry.

4. How did you get there?

After completing my A-levels I went on to do an accounting and finance degree at Exeter. I chose a course which allowed me to complete ‘a year in industry’ during my third year. The application processes vary massively but the ‘Big 4’ accounting firms generally require you to fill in an application form, complete online tests (maths, verbal reasoning and diagrammatical), have a phone interview, attend an assessment day and then have a final interview.

Juggling both applying for internships and completing my degree was a massive challenge as the application processes were long but it’s important to do your research thoroughly. After months of applications, interviews and assessment days I was finally offered an internship at the Walt Disney company as a ‘royalty accountant and contract analyst’ for 12 months in London. I really enjoyed my year at Disney; it helped increase my confidence, motivation and gave me a good grounding when applying for graduate roles.

Once I’d finished my degree I started the graduate programme at EY as an auditor. I knew my final year of university was really important so I’d taken the decision to only apply for four or five companies. Applications generally open from September to start in the following September.

Whilst at EY I completed my ACA Chartered Accountant qualification with the ICAEW over a three-year period. The qualification required me to take 15 exams; we completed the first six multiple choice exams within three months and then went on to finish the rest along with 450 days’ practical experience. The exams were very challenging especially as we had to do two or three exams at a time. 

Once I completed my qualification I decided to make the move into the technology industry and that’s when I joined the finance team at MVF.  

5. What is a typical day like?

I am responsible for delivering high quality financial reports for the management team and shareholder board each month. I am also the primary contact point for statutory reporting and the yearly audit. I support the treasury team by approving all payments made out of the business, calculating VAT and monthly bank reporting. 

6. What’s the best thing about your job?

I really enjoy working with numbers and helping the business reach its goals.

7. What is the most challenging thing about your job?

As an accountant you spend most of your time using spreadsheets, however one small error or incorrect formula can cause the whole calculation to not work correctly. My biggest challenge is trying to find those errors and ensure everything is accurate within large volumes of data.

8. What advice do you have for people who want to do what you do?

You need a solid understanding of spreadsheets as well as a numerical mind set. Working in finance is all about being a team player and an effective communicator in order to help the company succeed.

Some companies offer a school leaver programme for the ACA qualification however I believe that going to university gives you a better base to build your career upon rather than solely focusing on accounting; plus a five year contract is a big commitment when you’re 18 years old.

9. What things do you wish you’d known before starting your career?

Nobody expects you to do things perfectly first time round. A career is all about learning, developing and challenging yourself. It’s important to learn from your own (and others) mistakes.

One of the biggest lessons for me came when I was applying for dozens of internships but I kept failing the online tests. I couldn’t understand why as I was at a good university and I had a maths A-level. I discussed this with the careers team at the university and they suggested I have a dyslexia assessment. I found out that I had dyslexia which was a massive surprise to me as I’d been coping well until that point in my education. Understanding what the issue was made a big difference - I was given 20% extra time and I never failed a test again.

If I hadn’t have been committed to learning from my mistakes, and finding out how I could overcome the challenge I was facing with those tests, I might have ended up in a very different position and not even know about my dyslexia.

10. Where would you like to be in 5 years?

My ultimate career goal is to become a finance director, so over the next five years I will be looking to gain as much experience as possible by working on a number of different projects and possibly working abroad. ACA is a global qualification so your options are endless.

Main image via Pexels

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