James Askew

Giuseppe Scozzaro, Head of trainee recruitment speaks with James Askew about working and training at Goodman Jones. 

Here's the transcript from the conversation:

[JA]: I'm James. I'm a second-year trainee here, so I've been here for about a year and a half. I joined in September 2018.

[GS]: And where did you join from?

[JA]: I joined straight from university. I was at Exeter University, where I did a degree in politics, philosophy, and economics.

[GS]: Okay. So in terms of following your degree, what made you decide to go into accountancy?

[JA]: It was a long process, I'd reached the final year of my degree not really knowing where I wanted to go. And so I started sort of researching everything, everything that was even vaguely interesting. I was Googling and looking at, and then I stumbled across something to do with the ACA. I can't even remember what it was, and I just sort of looked at it and it got more interesting as I went through it.

[GS]: As part of your studies or your research, I should say, did you look into the other professional qualifications?

[JA]: Not as much because I think I realised quite early on that I think the ACA has maybe the greatest depth and it definitely got, I mean, the ACCA is quite similar in what it teaches, but I know I felt like the ACA was more right for me, from what I saw, I think I researched that one more as well.

[GS]: And in terms of your training, you say you’re a year and a half in now?

[JA]: A year and a half, just give or take.

[GS]: Give or take. How are you finding your training?

[JA]: It's good. Yes. It's nice and varied. I think that's a good thing. I think that's the thing that probably everyone would say if you met them from here, but you see a lot and you do a lot and you work with everyone, so you end up, you're not stuck in one specialism or one thing you get to see everything that we have to offer.

[GS]: So is it fair to say that once you’re here, you'd work in sort of the variety of different sectors that we offer?

[JA]: Yes, I think I've worked in most, if not all at this point. I'm trying to think if there's an industry, definitely all specialisms I think I've seen all of them. In terms of industries, there might be some clients I don't even know about that are in something a bit different. But yes, you see everything and you tend to work across and they'll say it's a bit freer in what you're doing.

[GS]: With your experiences in working in a variety of different sectors, what would you say is your favourite sector to work in and why?

[JA]: That's a tricky question. I don't know whether I've got a favourite. I quite like being part of the charity team because it feels like I'm doing something a bit more fulfilling as well at times. And also from a purely technical standpoint, it's a different way of accounting. So you learn more and you do a bit more.

[GS]: What can you tell prospective candidates what it's like being part of the charity team and is it something that all trainees are part of?

[JA]: All trainees are a part of that I think at the moment, I think it's half of each year group is part of the charity team, and so we have a large and growing charity specialism.

So that ranges from student unions to charitable companies, to out and out charities. We have some religious charities as well as churches through to theatre companies and so it's about half a year group and sort of, it dominates your time at times. But then other times not, it doesn't limit you from being on other jobs, but it also gives you that extra variety, I think.

[GS]: So being in the charity team wouldn't stop you from working in sort of some of our large clients in other sectors?

[JA]: No, not at all like I'm part of the charity team, but I've also worked on one of our biggest construction groups. So you get that balance between the two of them.

[GS]: And in terms of balancing your studies and work, how are you finding that?

[JA]: It can be tricky at times. You get the stressful moments when you've got big exams coming up. But then once that eases. You've got time to learn at work again. So you're sort of always learning. And I think you start off quite nicely with having some exams quite early on because you pick up some of the technical knowledge just in college, in your tuition, and then you can start to apply that.

I think it can go a bit hectic and a bit stressful around the exams, but even in the buildup, until about two or three weeks before the actual exams, you can balance it quite nicely. It's only right before them that it can be a bit.

[GS]: And what support do you get from Goodman Jones to help you through those challenging and stressful periods?

[JA]: So you get all this study leave for the actual tuition, for all the exams. So in terms of their support, I guess you can sort of manage your time quite nicely with the managers in particular. So if you do have a big exam coming up and you know that the job can be a bit flexible in terms of the timing, you could have that discussion if you needed to.

[GS]: And in terms of your sort of peer group and your intake, is that quite a good support group? To help you through the exams. Does it help to be in sort of a small tight-knit group of?

[JA]: Yes. It really helps to get through them. We split when we do the exams, so half the year we'll do them before the other half, so that can help.

I'm in the second half, so it helps to know, having people who've done them before that I can ask, do you know just about them. But yes, it definitely helps to be in a group because it gives you people just to chat through things with. Your stresses for the exams, they’re going through it too, so it's all the same.

[GS]: So it's quite nice in terms of you've built quite a good relationship with the people in your year. Is that fair to say?

[JA]: Yes, exactly. Yes, definitely.

[GS]: And you've kind of all going through the same thing at the same time that.

[JA]: Yes, pretty much as you know, you're doing the same thing. So the shared experiences are.

[GS]: Okay. Moving over to sort of your day job, what would you say has been the most challenging thing that you've done since joining Goodman Jones?

[JA]: I think maybe working on some of the larger audits I've done because they can be very technical and they can have a lot of unique things going on, particularly when it comes to stuff between each of the group companies. So it can be quite technically challenging and normally you're in a bigger team, and so everything's a bit on a larger scale.

[GS]: And what kind of support are you given as part of that process?

[JA]: When you're on-site, you have your senior who's leading the job on the onsite work and then however many other members of the team are there too. And the senior who’s usually in constant contact with the manager as well. So the support is there for anything technical or challenging. Normally they'll be someone who's done it before there with you. So they might have seen it and the manager would have seen it before, even if not with that client, with someone else. So there's a support network all the way up that you can chat through it with.

[GS]: So when you talk about going out on the client’s site, where could that be? And where have you been?

[JA]: It can be kind of all over. I think the furthest I've been is up to rural Leicestershire. That was quite a long one for one day.

Up in Welwyn Garden City we have one, we have a few up in Hertfordshire. There’s a few in London in zones one and two. But there are some a lot further out. Some down towards Dartford, some up towards Leicester so you can be spread out a little bit.

[GS]: It's quite a variety.

[JA]: Yes, it can be all over.

[GS]: So you haven't been on the job that goes to France for a day?

[JA]: No, I haven't.

[GS]: And Germany for a day?

[JA]: Or Dublin for a day?

[GS]: Good one.

[JA]: That one is rough.

[GS]: Is it fair to say that there isn't a typical day at Goodman Jones?

[JA]: Yes. I would agree with that for the most part. Well, you do the same stuff on every job. You do the same core thing, but each job is unique. Each job has its own quirks. I mean that it's different every time you do it, and even if you did a job one year to the next, something would have changed in that time. So everything's always changing.

[GS]: Going back to your training, briefly tell us what stage you're at and how many exams you've got left?

[JA]: So I'm coming up on a year and a half in, and I think I've taken seven of the 15 exams, but I have two coming up very shortly. So that will put me down to nine out of the 15.

[GS]: If we go back to your search for a training position, what were you looking for when you were looking at joining an accountancy firm?

[JA]: For the accountancy firm specifically, I think I was just looking for a place where I felt like I could, enjoy working. So when I was researching them, a lot of the firms I felt didn't quite fit me. As to where I'd want to be. And honestly, I don't think I can put a finger on what that even means or what specific things were or weren't right.
I think I was really quite open as it just wanted to feel like a place that I felt like I could work out and be proud to work at.

[GS]: And what can you tell us about the people at Goodman Jones and what it is like to be working in a partner group that manages?

[JA]: I can't speak highly enough of the people. I think overall that's a common thing you hear from most people who come in is that the people here are, I think what makes us a bit different. I think everyone's approachable. Everyone's friendly. Everyone knows what they're talking about. So if you've got a query or you just need to find something out, then you can find out who to go to quite quickly. You wouldn't be afraid of approaching them if you needed to.

[GS]: What would you say is the most enjoyable thing or the most enjoyable part of your job?

[JA]: I think it can feel quite rewarding when you do something that can be quite technical and challenging and you solve it as it were, it can feel quite rewarding. And I think as well, for me being on the charity team it’s quite nice. It makes me feel like I'm giving something back in away.

[GS]: Coming out of university. Tell me about how easy it was coming from that study background straight into the workplace. How did you cope with that transition?

[JA]: It can be a bit of a shock, but I think the transition is eased a little bit because when I joined, we had a couple of days of introduction, but then we went straight into college to do some of them to like learn some of the accounting basics. So it kind of feels like you're in a class with your year group. Your whole year goes in, you're in a class with just your year group, so you're sort of back in a learning environment for a bit.

So that sort of ease the transition in, because you kind of come in and out, you're in the workplace, you're in the office for a week, and then you're back in college for a week and then so you kind of gently ease into it rather than being thrown in the deep end. You’re sort of guide it in. And that also helps with bonding with your year group as well. Because you spend five days, however many days it is initially together.

[GS]: It’s a good experience to bond.

[JA]: In a more casual environment.

[GA]: What can you tell us about the college and generally what it's like studying at the college?

[JA]: So it's an accounting specific college that runs courses in all the various accounting qualifications just around the corner from the office, which is really handy if you've got an urgent question or you need to chat with them about something.

But yes, no, the college it's kind of like a university building. It's got classrooms in it. It's a relaxed dress code. So whatever you want to wear is fair game. They've got lovely, lovely coffee machines which are always helpful.

[GS]: It's always helpful.

[JA]: And yes, but they're very good at what they do. So the tutors all know what they're doing. They've all pretty much all the tutors have worked in practice before or have worked in a similar role if not in practice, they'd all be qualified. They'll all be finance professionals in the path, and they're all very approachable. So if you have any questions about teaching, they're very easy to go up and just have a quick chat.

[GS]: What tips would you give someone looking for an ACA position now?

[JA]: I would say keep an open mind. Don't let yourself get too prejudiced by very specific details. At least give yourself the freedom to look around a bit. Just make sure that it is definitely what you want to do. Because studying can be quite intense at times. There are 15 exams in just over two years is what it ends up turning out to be.
So that's quite a lot to take on only if you're not fully prepared for us. So maybe my biggest tip would be if you want to do it, great. Just make sure you're ready to do the work.

Thank you very much for taking the time to listen to our podcast. I hope you found this useful and it gave you an insight into working and training at Goodman Jones.

If you'd like any further information, please visit the careers section. Alternatively, you can email recruitment@goodmanjones.com 

We look forward to hearing from you.

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