CA Stories

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Young Chartered Accountants reveal why they chose to study with ICAS and what makes them proud to be CAs.

The ICAS CA qualifies you for an extraordinary career in business and beyond. As a result, our Chartered Accountants work for a diverse range of companies, large and small, in business and practice, all around the world.

We spoke to several young CAs about their journeys, toward qualification and on into their professional careers. Here they explain in their own words why they decided to become CAs, detail the exciting opportunities the qualification has led them to, and offer advice to anyone considering training with ICAS.

Donna Berrie CA, Skyscanner

Donna Berrie image

Introduce yourself

I’m Donna Berrie CA, Financial Planning & Analysis Manager at Skyscanner. I work with our Marketing and Growth teams, reviewing costs, forecasting results, understanding the trends and assessing how we’re performing against budget.

How was your CA training?

A big change. The learning style was quite different to how I previously liked to learn. There are always people you can connect with who have been through it too and have lots of tips and advice to share.

It was hard work, but it’s been worth it.

Any advice for those considering training to become a CA with ICAS?

I would say it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into, that studying and passing exams requires a lot of time and commitment, but it’s worth it to pass.

Why did you become a CA?

When I first started on my CA journey, I was unaware of the wide range of career opportunities that would be open to be me beyond audit, so it’s been exciting to learn about other opportunities. There are a wide range of roles available, you can work in almost any industry within a finance role.

The CA community is very active, so you can link up with fellow CAs who are out in industry or the profession and can give you guidance, advice and possible access to future roles and growth opportunities.

What’s the most interesting project you’ve been involved with?

I’ve been lucky to get to work with the Marketing and Growth teams. It’s been really interesting being involved with a discipline which was completely new to me, learning more about the marketing world and linking this into finance.

What makes you proud to be a CA?

I’m proud to be a CA because of the opportunities and experiences I’ve had, from working in New Zealand to getting to work for a company I really admire.

And, also, for my involvement with the ICAS Foundation. Being able to offer support to someone else who may potentially go through the process is very rewarding.

Donna Berrie CA, FP&A Manager, Growth, Skyscanner

Ed Fan CA, Enjoy Technology

Ed Fan CA

Introduce yourself

I’m Ed Fan CA, Finance Manager at Enjoy Technology, Inc. I trained in audit and moved to Advisory after becoming qualified.

I have recently moved to this role at Enjoy Technology to become their first finance manager in the UK, and to help them drive the business growth from a finance and commercial perspective.

How was your CA training?

Studying for the CA was hard but rewarding. It really helped reshape my ability to learn. I think the structured learning process and the broad content covered by the course can really help you to think critically and apply your learning practically.

The learning process gave me a well-rounded foundation, which is appealing to employers, and the well-connected network has also really helped my career.

Any advice for those considering training to become a CA with ICAS?

Link the examples you come across from work or life to the theory from the learning materials. It will help you to remember the context but also apply it at work.

Why did you become a CA?

I’ve always enjoyed numbers and problem solving, and accounting was a perfect fit that provides many options, an excellent network and prosperous career opportunities.

What’s the most interesting project you’ve been involved with?

I was on secondment to Morgan Stanley, London and worked closely with their New York team to review the execution of action points raised during various reviews.

What makes you proud to be a CA?

I am proud to belong to such a recognised and sought-after accounting body. Also, the English language is not an area of my expertise, so getting through the exams first attempt was an achievement for me!

Ed Fan CA, Finance Manager, Enjoy Technology, Inc

Katie Siddiq, Lloyds Banking Group

Katie Siddiq

Introduce yourself

I’m Katie Siddiq, a final year ICAS graduate trainee at Lloyds Banking Group. I work in the Strategy & Transaction Support team where I’m responsible for FTE planning and reporting.

How was your CA training?

It required a lot of time and commitment but was hugely rewarding. The ICAS tutors were very helpful and always had time to answer questions.

One of the things I liked most was the support. It’s a very demanding qualification to gain, but with most of the learning being classroom based, I found it much easier to learn and ask for support.

Passing exams, the feeling of getting one step closer to becoming a CA, was so rewarding, making all the hard work and effort completely worth it.

Any advice for those considering training to become a CA with ICAS?

I would say go for it. If you are interested in a career in finance and want to secure a profession, then training to become a CA with ICAS will definitely help you with that.

Why did you become a CA?

I wanted to ensure I had lots of opportunity and choice in my career and knew that gaining my CA qualification would support this.

The variety of work you can be involved in as a CA is enormous and very interesting. The qualification is also transferable globally, something I may wish to explore in the future.

What’s the most interesting project you’ve been involved with?

In my previous role, I was involved in the transfer of our Product Control function from London to Edinburgh. This was a large project with a number of roles moving up, providing us with a number of challenges and obstacles. However, it was completed successfully, and I am proud to have been a part of it.

What makes you proud to be a CA?

The ICAS CA is seen as a prestigious and highly respected qualification, and I’m proud to say that I’ve put in the required time and effort to qualify and become a CA.

It’s certainly my biggest achievement to date and the one of which I’m most proud.

Katie Siddiq, Trainee Chartered Accountant, Lloyds Banking Group

Laura Dorward CA, EQ Accountants

Laura Dorward CA

Introduce yourself

I’m Laura Dorward CA, an Assistant Manager at EQ. I’m based in the Cupar office. It’s a small office and because the firm operates a non-departmentalised structure, I’m exposed to a wide range of assignments, including tax planning, assisting new-start businesses, advising and assisting with new software packages. I also spend a lot of time training the current trainees, which is great.

How was your CA training?

I’m not going to lie, it was really hard work. When you’ve been working all day, and often on things you have never seen before, it’s tiring to then go home and study. It wasn’t all the time though, and there were always people willing to help.

I had no prior accountancy experience and didn’t know my debits from my credits so felt out of my depth when I started, but after a year I could really feel the progression.

Any advice for those considering training to become a CA with ICAS?

Try to get some work experience, even if it’s only a few days. Try to work out which department you would like to be in, and if you’re not sure, go for somewhere you can experience more than one area, so either a smaller firm or one that offers you some rotation.

Why did you become a CA?

When I left university in 2013 the job market wasn’t great, and my mathematics degree didn’t give me a clear vocation. So, I did some research and accountancy really fitted me.

I knew I wanted to get a professional qualification and the CA was a clear choice. It’s internationally recognised and opens so many doors.

I was anxious about working with ‘stereotypical accountants’ as that isn’t me, but after attending some careers events to meet people and hear about the day-to-day work, I realised this wouldn’t be a problem. And EQ seemed like a fun place to work.

Being a CA sets you apart and makes clear that you’re a hard-working individual who doesn’t give up when times are tough. It also provides the opportunity to progress in any field you choose, all over the world.

What’s the most interesting project you’ve been involved with?

In my last year of training, I assisted a partner with the sale of a multi-million-pound business and the set up of a new one.

I was involved in lots of aspects, including reviewing the share purchase agreement, completing accounts, calculating the price projections for the new business and corresponding with all the various parties. It gave me a real insight into how the process works and got me thinking outside of normal compliance.

What makes you proud to be a CA?

I am proud to be a CA as it demonstrates the hard work I’ve put in to get where I am now. It also gives me the ability to advise and help others. That can be making a person starting a new business more confident, helping a large business obtain the funding to take them to the next level, or advising an elderly person on how their tax works. It’s all rewarding in its own way.

Laura Dorward CA, Assistant Manager, EQ Accountants

Nikola Doig CA, Deloitte

Nikola Doig CA

Introduce yourself

I’m Nikola Doig CA, a Senior Manager in Deloitte’s Public Audit office. I manage the audits and client relationship of a multinational organisation, and occasionally travel to some very exotic locations.

How was your CA training?

Really enjoyable. The workload is quite demanding, but I felt completely supported by ICAS and my colleagues – everyone will do everything they can to ensure you really understand the content and have first-time passes.

I actually found it really enjoyable and almost like an extension of university. I was incredibly fortunate to work for a firm where I was block released, meaning I never had to worry about my day job whilst I was studying.

The most rewarding part was the people I met, we had such a strong camaraderie that really made going to ICAS every day even more enjoyable.

Any advice for those considering training to become a CA with ICAS?

Do it! I think that there’s no better platform for starting your career as you leave university. If you want to move into business or finance, having the qualification will set you in good stead for the future, opening doors to lots of opportunities, all around the world.

Why did you become a CA?

I always enjoyed maths at school, as well has having a keen interest in understanding businesses. At university, I studied law and French, but as much as I enjoyed it, I struggled with a lot of law being based on interpretation – I like accountancy because, more often than not, there is a right answer.

The CA qualification is so universally recognised around the world. I love that it’s a great platform for many careers, not necessarily just in finance.

What’s the most interesting project you’ve been involved with?

One of my clients was based in the Falkland Islands and I was lucky enough to travel there, experience local life, and meet the penguins. One of the highlights was climbing aboard a fishing vessel to physically verify it as it sailed around the South Atlantic with its Peruvian crew. When I started my career as a Chartered Accountant, I never would have believed I’d get an opportunity to do something like that.

What makes you proud to be a CA?

The CA qualification gives you access to so many opportunities. It’s highly regarded in the business world and I feel very lucky that CAs always seem to be in high demand. It gave me the platform to be given lots of responsibility at a relatively young age – without it, I don’t think I would have had the same career progression.

Nikola Doig CA, Senior Manager, Public Audit, Deloitte

Philip Pagan CA, Chiene + Tait

Philip Pagan CA

Introduce yourself

I’m Philip Pagan CA, a supervisor in the Corporate Tax Team for Chiene + Tait LLP where I’m involved in both compliance and advisory work. On the compliance side, we prepare corporation tax returns for our clients, who represent a wide range of sectors and therefore a wide range of tax issues. The advisory work involves providing technical and commercial tax advice for clients for whatever situations or transactions they are going through.

How was your CA training?

Difficult, but that’s what makes it respected. You do have to sacrifice time to study, but the classroom tuition blocks are a good reminder that there are others in the same boat and that it is achievable.

Getting the final exam results through was amazing, knowing that the hard work and endless evenings studying had been worth it. Plus, while you’re studying, you’re getting paid and building experiences, which means that once you qualify, you’re very well set for the next steps in your career.

Any advice for those considering training to become a CA with ICAS?

It’s well worth the time and effort you will have to put in – but put in the time and effort from the start, earn your qualification and then enjoy the benefits.

Why did you become a CA?

The qualification is so widely recognised, and not just for the technical skills, but also the softer skills that it teaches you. Employers immediately know that you have a developed and well-rounded skill set that makes you stand out.

Being a CA provides an understanding of business that opens a lot of doors and presents all sorts of career opportunities.

What’s the most interesting project you’ve been involved with?

Advising a client through a multi-million-pound property portfolio sale and group restructure. That was a project where I regularly came across tasks and technical aspects I hadn’t seen before. But that’s part of life as an accountant, and the challenge of it. Testing myself made it both an interesting and a rewarding piece of work.

What makes you proud to be a CA?

I am proud to be a CA because of being part of a profession that has such a long history and is so well recognised worldwide.

Philip Pagan CA, Tax Senior, Chiene + Tait

Stephen Robertson CA, Baillie Gifford

Stephen Robertson CA

Introduce yourself

I’m Stephen Robertson CA, an accountant in the Finance Department at Baillie Gifford & Co. My role is varied, everything from group treasury management, supporting quarterly and annual reporting and forecasting requirements, through to preparing partners’ tax returns.

How was your CA training?

It was a steep learning curve. The qualification is great for developing real technical knowledge across a broad syllabus. It provided me with the confidence to provide clients and colleagues with valuable well-rounded advice. The self-belief and confidence that the whole process gave me has helped no end, in and out of work. It’s well worth the hard work.

Any advice for those considering training to become a CA with ICAS?

Try to find time to do things you enjoy and invest in yourself whilst studying. The experience and technical expertise you gain throughout your three-year training is highly sought after, and is transferable across any industry you wish to further your career in.

Why did you become a CA?

Chartered Accountants are trusted business partners that play pivotal roles in organisations all over the world. I wanted to develop in a way that would enable me to help support businesses grow good ideas and prosper for future generations, whilst at the same time gaining a globally recognised professional qualification.

Being a qualified accountant is a prerequisite for many jobs. Employers value the experience and expertise that CA-qualified candidates bring. Being able to take that deep technical knowledge base and apply it to the complex reality of many businesses is what employers are looking for.

I feel being a CA has improved and widened my job prospects considerably.

What’s the most interesting project you’ve been involved with?

Since joining Baillie Gifford as a newly qualified CA, I’ve been involved in many projects with different scopes, from key finance-system upgrades through to providing financial insight in relation to setting up new overseas subsidiaries. They’ve all been interesting and have applied many of the practical skills acquired through my CA training.

What makes you proud to be a CA?

I am proud to be part of a trusted global network of CAs and grateful for the experiences and expertise I have built to date. Becoming a CA truly prepares you for the challenges you will face throughout your career.

Stephen Robertson CA, Finance Accountant, Baillie Gifford

Steve Mahon CA, Grant Thornton Australia

Steve Mahon CA

Introduce yourself

I’m Steve Mahon CA, an Audit Senior in the Melbourne office of Grant Thornton Australia. I work on the financial audits of a wide variety of businesses in industries such as manufacturing, oil and gas exploration, aged care, public schools and automotive.

My role is to be the day-to-day point of contact for clients in my portfolio and essentially be the project manager of each audit engagement. Many of our clients are listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, which brings added complexity to satisfying audit requirements.

How was your CA training?

I started from scratch without exemptions after graduating from University College, Cork and initially found the study quite difficult. But this stood me in good stead as I was afforded the opportunity to quickly acquire the knowledge required to progress. My training employer allowed me sufficient time to study but also to put into practice what I had learned in the classroom.

Any advice for those considering training to become a CA with ICAS?

Don’t drop your hobbies just because you have a full-time job and CA training to complete simultaneously. For me it was football, and I attended training and played games each week for the three years of my training contract, working my study schedule around it. It’s important to keep doing the things you love as they provide the outlet to keep you going.

Why did you become a CA?

The role of Chartered Accountant really became attractive early on when I learned that being a CA is not just being an accountant. Given the breadth and quality of training you’re exposed to, it’s more about becoming a business advisor. It provides a certain level of professional development, integrity and competence at a standard not easily replicated anywhere else.

And such is the reputation of the qualification around the world there’s no limit to the roles and industries available to CAs. I’ve experienced that first-hand coming to Australia and obtaining an employer-sponsored visa on the back of the CA qualification.

What’s the most interesting project you’ve been involved with?

I’m currently working with a large renewable-energy client with a European-listed parent that has expanded into Australasia. The operation is rapidly expanding before our eyes, and with it being in such a topical industry it’s exciting to be part of the process, learning about it and watching it develop.

What makes you proud to be a CA?

I am proud to be a CA as it signifies a level of hard work and determination that precedes you and has prepared you to back that up when the need arises. In addition, I’m proud to be a member of ICAS, the oldest professional accounting body in the world, to share the same affiliation as the wonderful minds that came before me.

Steve Mahon CA, Audit Senior, Grant Thornton Australia

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