Tutor Profile: Joanne Miller
In our latest tutor profile, we hear from ICAS lecturer Joanne Miller about her career journey. She also offers useful advice for budding CAs about how to maximise their career potential.
Where it all started
My relationship with accountancy began at school. In my fifth year I had to fill a gap in my timetable. I was persuaded that accounts would be a good option as it was lots of numbers (which I liked) and was apparently ‘easy’!
This proved true on both counts, so I decided to take ‘crash higher’ accounting in my sixth year, passing with flying colours. My early career ambition was to become a primary teacher, so when applying for university that was my first choice. However, my love of numbers also led me to apply for a BA (Hons) course in Accounting.
I was accepted onto both courses, so had a decision to make about which route to follow. After talking to various careers advisors, and taking advice from my mum (who better to give advice) I chose accounting. I then spent four years at university writing essays – so much for accounting being full of numbers!
When I graduated, I decided to follow the ICAS CA training route. From an early stage I knew I didn’t want to train with one of the ‘big five’ (as they were known then) so I applied to a variety of smaller CA firms. I was attracted by the opportunity to gain the breadth of experience which the smaller firms offered, rather than specialise in one area so early in my career.
I trained with Campbell Dallas, a mid-tier firm, in their Bearsden office, and gained a variety of experience throughout the firm. I started with accounts preparation, where I learned about the ‘carrier bag’ method of filing paperwork. For anyone unfamiliar with this phrase it is the method of filing adopted by many small business – put all receipts, bank statements and invoices into a carrier bag, leave them there all year, and drop them off with the accountants to be magically turned into a set of accounts at the year-end!
In addition to the carrier bag technique, I also gained experience of audit, personal and corporate tax, and insolvency. This varied role really helped me as I worked through my TPS and TPE exams.
I then had a break in my training contract, as I had my daughter just 8 weeks after sitting my TPE exam.
On the move
Once I qualified, I moved on to Mazars, who are one of the top 10 accounting firms in the UK, and one of Europe's largest accounting firms. Here I was part of the audit department and worked my way up to audit manager. I was working on much larger audits. My earlier training and experience of accounts preparation proved invaluable, as I was able to draw on my understanding of accounts preparation, when auditing the various areas of the financial statements.
I became involved with Mazars internal training programme, training both CA students and qualified audit staff. I really enjoyed this, and it made me think about my earlier career aspirations to become a teacher.
An invaluable secondment
I was given the opportunity to go on a secondment to a client, which was a part of Glasgow City Council. There had been some restructuring, and my role was to help the accounts department in setting up month end and year end procedures. This allowed me to draw on the solid accounting skills I had developed, whilst also picking up some new skills. I also faced the auditors from the other side of the desk!
A new challenge
After my secondment I left Mazars and moved to a project role at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. The accounts department was being restructured, and a new accounting system was also being implemented. I was responsible for overseeing the implementation of the new system, and the training of staff. This was a challenging role, but an enjoyable one. A lot of the work I did is covered in the first part of the ABS course – which means I can give a real life perspective to the technical material covered in class
Coming to ICAS
As I was reaching the end of my role at the Concert Hall, I discovered that ICAS were recruiting for a lecturer. With the experience of training staff at Mazars, and my early interest in teaching, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. I was offered the role as an audit tutor, teaching PAR at TC, and ABS at TPS.
That was over 6 years ago. While I still teach both PAR and ABS, I also now teach TPE. I am also subject controller for PAR, and deputy level controller for TPE. For all levels of the qualification, I am involved in creating and updating the course material as well as teaching. It’s such a varied role – no 2 days are ever the same!
The varied experience I had throughout my training, and in my previous roles, really helps me in my teaching. I can bring the course material to life with lots of real-life examples, and demonstrate to the students that what they are learning in class really does transfer to the workplace.
I would recommend that students try to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible in their early careers. You never know when the door will open that will lead to your dream career – so just try all of them!