Planning Your Career Journey with Rutherford Cross – June 2016

Rutherford Cross’ Grant Atkinson shares his thoughts following our third event of the ‘Planning Your Career Journey’ series in 2016 aimed at newly and recently qualified accountancy and finance professionals.

On June 9th we had the pleasure of hosting speakers from Peter Vardy, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Johnston Carmichael Chartered Accountants. All of the speakers had differing career paths but echoed the importance of weighing up opportunities when at an early career crossroad.

At 32 years old, Claire Maith is one of the youngest Group Finance Directors in Scotland and has been awarded several awards and nominations for her achievements in recent years. Claire of Peter Vardy demonstrated that it isn’t always necessary to follow the typical accountancy career path. At the age of 16, she opted to leave school, skip university and move straight into the world of work to start earning a living. Having completed ACCA training by the age of twenty, she joined EY in Newcastle to gain larger company experience and during this time worked with the Vardy Family in Durham, as a client. She was invited to join the Vardy Group as an employee and at the age of 27 years, she joined Peter Vardy Limited as their Finance Director. At the time Peter Vardy was an ambitious high growth automotive business based in Scotland and Claire made the bold decision to move to the area to advance her career. Although this move may have been a gamble Claire explained that it has allowed her to lead on acquisitions, implement an innovative share scheme for employees at Peter Vardy and mould the finance function around her vision. In order to achieve this Claire shared with the audience that she has to often work long hours and make tough decisions but that every day is different and having a great team around her makes PVL a great place to work.

Mark White progressed his career within practice with Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP where he rose to the rank of Director in the Scottish Risk Assurance Practice. During his time at PwC , he spent 15 years providing audit and advisory services to a wide range of Public Sector bodies. Over this time he worked with almost every Health Board in Scotland, overseeing some significant projects to improve performance reporting, cost reduction and financial governance and controls. Mark was actually approached twice about his current role before carefully weighing up the opportunity. He noted the risks of stepping out of the profession into in a high profile position at NHS Great Glasgow & Clyde as it was regarded by many as one of the largest leadership roles in the public sector. However, his extensive experience in audit had allowed him to oversee how other client processes worked and how he could apply efficient controls that would benefit the NHS.

Alison Waddell, Deputy Head of Audit & Assurance at Johnston Carmichael has had an equally interesting career embracing out of leftfield roles and taking risks either by relocating or joining organisations that have been undergoing growth to advance her career and continue to learn in new environments. Alison noted that opportunities aren’t always on your doorstep, as demonstrated by her moves to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, London, and Birmingham. Similar to Claire, Alison also took a different approach than the usual CA training path. Having decided to leave university, she worked at a high profile golf course learning general accounting whilst attending night school and finishing her qualifications. Subsequently, Alison became a qualified CA and Prince2 Practitioner with experience of working at the highest level within firms of Accountants and Business Advisers across the UK in client advisory roles. On the evening, Alison strongly advocated that accountants of the future should be digitally and technologically aware as the world of professional services is changing rapidly. She also talked about the importance of actively networking and being “memorable” as she talked the audience through the situation where she was headhunted into her current role by the CEO of Johnston Carmichael having met him many years earlier.

We are aware that in today’s world people are constantly inundated with emails and LinkedIn messages about opportunities and it is understandable as to why the career path ahead can look uncertain. To help, Rutherford Cross have compiled the key takeaway points from Claire Maith, Group Finance Director at Peter Vardy, Alison Waddell, Deputy Head of Audit & Assurance at Johnston Carmichael and Mark White, Director of Finance of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde presentations.

  • At times it helps to do the unexpected such as relocating or taking a pay cut to further your career
  • Opportunities don’t just fall on your lap so you must learn to create them through determination and hard graft
  • Networking is important with peers and business leaders as it can offer insight into the market and can lead to relationships that will be complimentary and beneficial to your career
  • Mentoring is key to both professional and personal develop and this can be through internal managers, external professionals or through organisation like the ICAS mentoring scheme
  • Consider various sectors in order to improve the likelihood of securing your perfect job as they can come left-of-field
  • If you are considering a move start the search early and partner with an organisation or consultant you trust. Recruitment processes for brands or high profile roles can go on for two months so you must be patient
  • Before considering making a move speak to your manager to see whether this is any internal opportunities to get involved with ad hoc projects that will further enhance your CV
  • If you are ambitious sacrifice may be required – this might require working beyond 9-5 to complete an acquisition, project or reports. However, this experience is crucial as not only does it establish a credible name for yourself but when it comes to making a move you have knowledge that can value add to a future employer

Planning your career is essential and is best done in the early stages of qualifying. This will allow you to optimise your experience and development and focus it towards achieving your potential; this may be a specialist technical role or becoming a Partner/Finance Director. By attending events such as ‘Planning your Career Journey’, you will have a rare opportunity to hear from experienced leaders and have an opportunity to question them on a one-to-one basis.

The next Planning Your Career Journey is taking place at 200 St Vincent Street in September.  If you’re interesting in building your network or attending our events, please contact [email protected]

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