Tips on careers and progression from ICAEW

Jag Dhaliwal is an External Audit Manager at Deloitte, who holds the ACA qualification from ICAEW. We asked her for her top career, training and qualifying tips.

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Why did you choose to start your audit career at Deloitte?

It’s a Big 4 firm with a fantastic reputation. I could see a lot of opportunity and clear potential for progression, and I knew I’d be working with very knowledgeable colleagues from diverse backgrounds, from whom I could learn a great deal. Deloitte is a recognised employer for many awards and their core values aligned with mine.

I’d completed a BSc in Economic and Mathematics (Industrial) from the University of Leeds and had taught for a year as a secondary school Maths teacher. I was keen to obtain a professional qualification as I was at a stage in my life where I wanted to keep learning.

My interview experience at Deloitte definitely influenced my decision; it was extremely pleasant (for an interview!) and relaxed, which meant I was able to build rapport with my interviewer. I got a really good vibe from the partner interview and could see myself fitting in well.

Why did you choose to qualify with ICAEW?

I was offered the ICAEW ACA qualification as part of the graduate scheme in audit, which was perfect as I wanted to become a chartered accountant. I knew ICAEW would provide top development opportunities as it’s extremely reputable, with great training; it covers a variety of topics and is also globally recognised. ICAEW offers a lot of resources too, and shares relevant news articles and events that may be of interest. CABA (a charity providing support to the chartered accountant community) is also available; I have not used it yet, but it seems great.

Jag with her ACA qualification certificate

What tips would you give students about combining working and studying?

I would really advise making use of your annual leave. It helps me to plan ahead, so I can make time to relax and achieve a good balance between working and studying. With college and annual leave, I was often able to distinguish between working and studying. This really allowed me to focus on exams when I needed to (especially when sitting three Professional Level exams at a time).

Planning your time means you do not need to give up your commitments, miss out on socials, etc. I was still able to get to the gym five times a week during working and studying.

Many have the view that you will have no social life for two or three years, but this really is not the case - planning ahead is key and so is balance!

What was the most challenging ACA exam for you?

Advanced Level Corporate Reporting (CR). Leading up to it I thought it would be okay, but I found the exam challenging. It’s the only exam where I messed up my timings, which played a part.

There is so much content that can come up in this exam so you do really need to have a good understanding of all of it. Group reporting did not get examined, which was quite unexpected as it usually comes up, and the audit area was on a standard not tested often.

It was a challenge but I learnt from the experience and offer tips for acing the ACA exams on my blog, Jag’s Journey (and much more, including coping with busy season, and balancing work and study); my tips on passing CR include having a great open book file that is easy to navigate, having a good understanding of all content, keeping the list of standards to hand and nailing your timing!

Can you describe a typical day in your job?

My role has evolved massively since I started out as an Audit Associate. As an Audit Manager,

my key tasks involve managing the audit from start to finish. You need to liaise with the client throughout the year, own the project plan, be responsible for resourcing on the job, review the quality of the audit work, coach junior members of the team and be the glue that holds the audit together.

A typical day is likely to involve juggling jobs, many meetings and touching on some of the above depending on which stage of the audits you are in.

You recently had a double promotion – congratulations! What does this mean?

The typical route to Audit Manager as a graduate is a five-year process. A double promotion is where I was able to essentially skip an extra year of being an Assistant Audit Manager and made manager within three years and nine months of joining as a graduate.

So far, what aspects of your job have you enjoyed the most and what have been the most challenging?

I have really enjoyed learning. The learning curve is steep, especially at the start, but it is also extremely rewarding. Comparing myself to where I was even a year ago in the job, the growth has been huge.

The teamwork aspect of the job and the client interaction definitely make the job more exciting for me as I consider myself to be a people person.

The most challenging aspect has to be the audits where there have been tight deadlines, so a short space of time to deliver, maintaining the high audit quality. There is a lot to get through in a short space of time.

Is audit’s busy season a concern?

Audit does have a busy season but – with organisation and planning – it is nothing to worry about and is a part of the job. It can be a challenge but it is rewarding as it’s the time you will learn the most on the job and work the closest with your team; it can be fun to experience it in the team environment.

What qualities/skills do you think have most contributed to your career progression?

  • Really owning my career from the very start. This involved proactively finding audit jobs I wanted to be on, managing my audit portfolio and staying on top of my audit bookings.
  • Networking and really making myself known within my office and across the firm. This involved taking on wider roles outside of audit jobs, doing well at these and building my reputation.
  • Working very hard, being willing to put in the time to ensure I deliver high quality work and not shying away from challenging areas.
  • Organisation and really demonstrating I am able to juggle jobs and tasks and stay on top of deadlines.
  • Leadership and the ability to coach and work in a team effectively, keeping team morale high. Being a strong team member is essential to do well in audit.

Top tip for students thinking of qualifying with ICAEW?

Do it! It is one of the best decisions I have ever made. There will be times you really do feel the pressure, but it’s worth it.

The opportunities really are endless and you will get out of it what you put in.

Inspired? Find out more about becoming a fully qualified Chartered Accountant with ICAEW and learn more about Jag's ACA experience .

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