Case study

Accounting team manager — Sophie Tyler

Sophie gained customer service experience working in a bank before landing a job at Contractor Umbrella. She's since achieved qualifications with the AAT and is now accounting team manager

How did you get your job as a contractor accountant?

I began working for Contractor Umbrella (Dolan Contractor Group) in an entry-level accounts support role, which typically doesn't require previous accounting experience - as long as you're keen to study and come across as professional.

What qualifications did you study for the role?

I qualified as a member with the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) and am currently studying for the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) qualification to become a chartered certified accountant. AAT courses are a good stepping stone to working in accountancy and I'd highly recommend looking into this if you're thinking of starting a career in this field.

What's a typical working day like?

Assisting my own client base via email and telephone is a large part of my day. I also spend time reviewing the work of other accountants on my team, supporting those currently in training as they develop their own knowledge.

I prepare year-end accounts, VAT returns, and personal tax returns for my clients. There can be a good bit of juggling with the work I do, as some deadlines are more urgent than others.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I really enjoy the technical aspect of the job, such as working on a difficult set of year-end accounts, and developing my own knowledge. I also enjoy helping trainee accountants with their own career progression. It's great to see people you work with being promoted and passing exams.

What are the challenges?

There are plenty of deadlines to meet with HMRC and it can be quite busy at certain times of the year.

In terms of managing a big team, there's always something more to learn about dealing with people, as everyone has different personalities and they carry out their work in their own way.

How has your role developed and what are your ambitions?

I've come so far in my career already, starting off in the administration role and building up to an accountant with my own client base - and now managing my own team. It's taken a good few years, however, I've learned so much about contractor accounting, while supporting others in their own careers.

For now, I'm focusing on achieving my ACCA qualification and helping the business to grow. There are always more qualifications to undertake too - so in the future I'd like to look at management courses and the Chartered Tax Advisor (CTA) qualification with the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT). Being a person my team can look up to and to be able to help with all technical knowledge is my overall goal, which I'm working towards every day.

What advice would you give to those considering a career in this field?

  • Consider the area you'd like to work in - for instance, industry or practice accounting. Have a good look at student forums as you'll see plenty of discussions on this topic. With industry, this involves working directly for a business and managing their finances. Practice accounting is where you work for a firm of accountants offering professional services such as tax advice, year-end accounts preparation, auditing, and corporate finance.
  • Explore whether you can get an apprenticeship or find an employer that offers study support, as accounting exams can be costly. Be sure to consider small businesses as well as the large accounting firms, as you can often receive the right support with both.
  • Finally, you should enjoy numbers and be prepared for hard work. Accountancy is a great career and with the right work ethic you'll reap the rewards and gain recognition.

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