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What is life really like as an accountant at Azets?

21 Jun 2023, 15:42

Get to know accounting careers without the myths and stereotypes, with a little help from three trainee accountants at Azets.

Four Azets accountants working together

When you think of a career in accounting, what comes to mind? Chances are, what you are picturing is not the reality, thanks to a few outdated stereotypes that seem to have stuck.

For one, you don’t need to have studied accounting or maths at university to become an accountant. At Azets, any 2.1 degree is all you’ll need. You should also put to one side what you might have heard about long hours, no social life and being glued to Excel. And, yes, it is a secure and well paid job that your parents can be proud of, but that doesn’t translate to being the ‘safe’ and ‘dull’ choice that accountancy jokes often make it out to be.

We thought it was high time to do some more myth busting with the help of three trainees at Azets – James Green, Lauryn Mayson and Zoe Ralston. We caught up with them on what life is really like at an accountancy firm.

There’s more to accountancy than Excel

Accounting is a big field and it encompasses a lot of different job roles for you to choose between. Lauryn sits in the corporate finance team, Zoe works in audit and James in accounts and business services. ‘I didn’t realise how diverse accounting is,’ says Lauryn. ‘There are so many different facets of it. I didn’t even know corporate finance existed and now it’s my job. What I’m doing is completely different to, say, what my colleagues in forensic accounting are doing.’

Their jobs might be pretty different but they have one thing in common: none of them are glued to spreadsheets day in, day out. ‘A lot of my work is on the fieldwork side of an audit, so I go out to visit clients regularly,’ explains Zoe. ‘I’m based in Perth and I mostly travel to clients in the local area, but I sometimes travel further afield to help other Azets offices. Recently, I’ve been to Edinburgh, Sheffield and Aberdeen.’

James, meanwhile, finds it hard to describe a ‘typical’ day for him in the accounts and business advisory team as the workload is so varied. ‘One day I could be looking at a VAT return for a company; the next I could be doing some bookkeeping or preparing an annual statutory account for a different company,’ he says.

Accountants are not boring and/or unsociable

‘There’s a bit of a running joke that accountants are boring, have no social life and like to sit and do maths all day, but that’s not true,’ says Lauryn. ‘The people I work with have really vibrant personalities and it’s not work, work, work all the time.’

Azets also organises regular socials to give you opportunities to meet new people. ‘I’m based in the Birmingham office and we have monthly socials, alongside bigger socials with the whole region. My team also organises its own socials, whether that’s darts at Flight Club or the batting cages at Floodgate,’ adds Lauryn.

Socialising isn’t just for out of hours, either. For an accountant, it can be an important part of the job. Lauryn, for example, often attends networking events with people in the corporate deals sphere: ‘I get to go to some really cool events. I went to a networking breakfast a few months ago and the head of Klarna was there. Last summer, I was given four tickets to the Commonwealth Games, so I could take three contacts along and network but also watch the sport.’

Accountants are not all old, either

One of the things that made Azets stand out to Zoe was how young and fresh it felt. ‘It was clear that a lot of new and exciting things were going on,’ she says.

James also liked how young the firm felt. ‘I was really impressed with how many trainees and young people work at Azets,’ he says. ‘At some firms, it can be quite senior heavy but there are a lot of 20 to 25 year olds here, which I love. They feel a lot more relatable to me and, because they were in my position not long ago, they’re super helpful to turn to when I have questions.

Accountancy doesn’t equal no work/life balance

You may well have heard horror stories about the working hours at big accounting firms. However, you shouldn’t expect to be working all hours under the sun – at least not at Azets.

‘I have a really good work/life balance. Azets has a flexible working policy so I work 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, but if I want to head off early one day, for example, I’ll work 8.30 am to 4.30 pm,’ says Lauryn. ‘We also have a hybrid working policy. It’s recommended that you go to the office two days a week, but it’s often down to your team’s preferences. My team will discuss it together but we tend to all go in on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. It’s nice to be with my team and it’s certainly a lot easier to ask silly questions, but I like having the balance of also working from home. Azets is really laidback and values work/life balance.’

You don’t need to be a maths genius to be an accountant

‘One of the biggest myths about accountancy is that you need to be good at maths,’ says James. ‘Actually, I don’t think that’s true at all. Everything is driven by accounting principles, so you just need to learn them while on the job. Plus, when it is time to do any maths, you have a calculator to hand anyway.’

In fact, accountants come from all sorts of degree backgrounds

James, Lauryn and Zoe all didn’t study maths, accounting or even a closely related subject at university. James and Lauryn are both geography graduates, while Zoe has a degree in prosthetics and orthotics. Definitely not the degree background you might typically associate with an accountant.

You will meet people with all sorts of degrees at Azets, because there are no set requirements on this front. So, if you were ruling accountancy out because you haven’t studied maths at university or sixth form/college – don’t.

‘I’d already had a few jobs before changing career paths and joining Azets,’ explains Zoe. ‘I got a little bit of exposure to aspects of finance in my previous job and it piqued my interest. I started looking into accountancy and I wondered if I’d have to go back to university to retrain, so it was a relief that I didn’t have to. After speaking to the recruitment team at Azets, it was clear that my degree wasn’t an issue. They were really open to people from different backgrounds and people with a bit of life experience.’

… and you won’t be at a disadvantage without a mathematical degree

Your peers who come from a mathematical background might be exempt from a few of the accounting exams you’ll need to sit, but that’s where the head start ends.

‘I don’t feel disadvantaged,’ says James. ‘It’s been a steep learning curve for all of us trainees, regardless of degree background, because of the amount of things there are to know. I don’t think you can ever know everything and I really like that about accounting. Even the partners at our firm say they are still learning – for example, when new legislation comes out.’

In fact, you could argue that coming from a different background has its benefits.

‘Sometimes I wonder if I’m at an advantage because I don’t have any preconceptions,’ says Zoe. ‘Not only that, but my previous experiences have given me transferable skills. There’s a lot of competing deadlines in my work so it helps that I have experience of managing a workload and prioritising the most important tasks. I also don’t think people realise how much communication is involved in accounting. You need to be comfortable speaking to new people, asking questions and not being worried about asking silly ones. My previous experience has given me this confidence.’

Lauryn has also found that the skills and knowledge she picked up on her geography degree have helped her: ‘My degree provided me with a range of analytical skills, such as data analysis and mapping, and all the practice I had writing essays comes in handy when writing emails and client documents. Your degree can also help in ways you might not expect. One of my previous clients was an environmental business and, coming from a geography background, I actually understood what they did.’

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