Tutor Profile: Ally Millar

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By Ally Millar, Tutor

29 April 2016

We continue our tutor profile series with ICAS lecturer, Ally Millar, and take a look at the highlights of being a chartered accountant.

Find out how accounting knowledge has helped his life and his advice to students.

Accounting from an early age

I studied at the University of Glasgow and achieved first class honours as a Bachelor in Accounting with Finance. I chose to study accounting mainly because I was good at it! I was lucky enough to have the (Scottish education system) options of Standard Grade, Higher and Advanced Higher accounting at my school, which I took advantage of: I really enjoyed the subject and, weirdly, enjoyed the uniform nature of debits and credits.

I knew that I wanted to study accounting at university when I was 16 or 17 years old and studying for my Highers. Once at university, I realised that there was a very direct path of school to university to graduate jobs and, I guess, I didn’t give it too much thought!

I was definitely interested in some of the more ethical and sustainability in accounting when I was at university, but unfortunately there are very few job opportunities in this niche area.

Coming to ICAS

I joined PwC in September 2007 on their graduate programme, as an auditor. I worked on a variety of clients throughout my four years in audit – from large public companies and cooperatives to small entrepreneur-led private companies. I chose to do something different in 2011 and successfully applied for a secondment to the PwC Learning and Education team in London, travelling back and forth for seven months.

While I was on secondment, one of my colleagues made me aware of the job at ICAS and encouraged me to apply (we were pretty competitive and so I am fairly sure she had other motives!). I finished my planned secondment, staying on for an extra month, before joining ICAS in April 2012.

Without the qualification I believe that it would have been harder to get a foot in the door.

Benefits of qualifying with ICAS

My CA qualification and accounting knowledge has helped outside work, including performing treasurer duties at my hockey club and acting as an independent examiner for a close friend’s charity. The CA qualification was also obviously very useful when I chose to become a lecturer, as I had a detailed understanding of the structure of the qualification and knew what students go through, having only been admitted to membership myself in 2011.

For me, personally, there is a definite sense of pride around having worked so hard to earn such a prestigious education. I framed my scroll from ICAS and put it up on my wall at home. And this sounds silly, but I think about the CA qualification every time I see the pen we were gifted at our admission ceremony – a simple reminder of the work put in!

For many of my friends and colleagues from PwC, their qualification has opened doors for them. Friends of mine have moved out into industry here in Scotland, in England and over to Australia, and have been hired by members of this Institute. They work for and alongside fellow CA in their roles on a daily basis. Without the qualification I believe that it would have been harder to get a foot in the door.

In a parallel universe….

I knew that I wanted to be involved in education and so I imagine if I wasn’t working with ICAS then I would have continued to work within PwC Learning and Education. I loved my time there, but the commute to London every week was a challenge.

Maybe I would have ended up moving to London permanently, but personal ties kept me here in Glasgow!

Advice to students

Work hard. Your exam studies are such a small amount of time in your overall career. Concentrate on studying and be antisocial at times if you have to! It’s definitely worth it in the long run.

Work-life balance and secret talents

I’m a keen hockey player and have just finished the season with our team, Rottenrow, winning the top of the West District leagues. I’m a big fan of rugby and try to get along to Glasgow Warriors games as much as possible, as well as the odd trip to Murrayfield.

And then, as a contrast to the sport, there is craft beer and whisky – definitely two of my passions in life! Oh yeah, and cats.

A team of us from ICAS recently completed the 54-mile Caledonian Challenge in 20 hours. My ability to survive that ordeal without damaging myself (as in a previous attempt), anyone else (emotionally or physically) or the surrounding landscape, was pretty impressive! One of the day’s lowlights though was being overtaken by a group of very enthusiastic ICAS students!


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