As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to become an electronics engineer. In my teens, I would build electronic circuits (eg. amplifiers, radios, power supplies etc) using mainly the surplus components that my Dad brought back from work.
Where had that got to during your later studies (or not, as the case may be)?
I did Physics and Maths to A Level (and Economics) and I was working throughout my A Level studies part-time in an electronics factory. It brought me into contact with a wide variety of professions and professionals beyond electronic engineers. My undergraduate and post graduate studies, however, were in the Business/Management/Economics/ Accountancy fields. I also qualified as a CIMA accountant, and I have now reached the level of Professor at Lancaster University.
When did you move into accountancy; why, and how?
I was offered a (rare these days) sponsored undergraduate programme in the broad field of business and, almost by accident, I became attracted increasingly to the accountancy work as I followed the programme. Accountancy took me into many areas of the wider business, and I was encouraged to ‘get involved’.
It was hard work in those early days with only very limited mainframe IT, although I remember with amusement and fondness the arrival of the first IBM PC which was sited on its own ‘altar’ and I could use it only if I booked time on it.
As a graduate, I was awarded certain exemptions from CIMA and because I had amassed significant on the job experience and was fully committed to following an accountancy career, I studied for my CIMA examinations on a full-time basis at Sheffield Hallam University which was a fast track accelerated approach.
How important is accounting in your role – and how has being an accountant helped you develop in your career and as a person?
Truthfully, I broadened my career roles well beyond accountancy as soon as I could, and I found that my first (and subsequent) CFO roles drew more from my MBA than from my accountancy pedigree, but I would never have been appointed into those roles without having the accountancy qualification, experience and credibility.
As a person, I behave instinctively as an accountant. For example, I look for evidence, strong and meaningful analysis, logic, ethical standards etc. and this applies to many situations both professionally and personally.
My early efforts and commitment to become an accountant have rewarded me with great opportunities in the private sector, and I have contributed first-hand to the successes of a number of businesses. I moved eventually into a portfolio career which spanned public sector, health, education and charity organisations including non-executive roles. None of this would have been possible without my accountancy pedigree, of which I am very proud.
Catch the full article in the XU Magazine here