Finding your passion in the most surprising of places

Mar 02, 2020
John Summers started out his career at the K Club, swerved into O’Brien’s and has now ended up in corporate finance, proving that any path you start taking can lead you to become a Chartered Accountant.

The feeling I experienced the day I received my FAE results was one of the greatest feelings to date. A wave of relief was quickly followed by excitement and this immense sense of personal accomplishment. The culmination of four years of hard work creates much anticipation for the start of a promising career as a Chartered Accountant. 

Unconventional start

My road to becoming a Chartered Accountant is far from the ordinary. Having studied Applied Golf Management Studies at the University of Birmingham, I achieved a Bachelor of Science degree. As an avid golf player and fan, the course seemed like a natural fit for me and its varied subject matter from sports psychology to metallurgy and materials science, in particular, appealed to me. 

When you’re unsure of what you want from your career, it can be difficult to choose a specific path. Much of the course involved coaching and finance while also touching on the commercial side of running a golf club. With an enjoyable and character-building experience under my belt, I graduated as a professional golfer and followed my cohort into the world of teaching, starting at The K Club in Kildare. 

As I had completed the first three Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) qualifications and had a growing interest in wine and spirits, I began working for O’Brien’s Wines, using this time to focus on what I wanted. As my parents run their own successful businesses, I started to come around to the idea of entering a graduate program with a finance firm. I decided to join Beechwood Partners as a Tax Trainee. 

Passion for numbers 

During my time at Beechwood, I fully immersed myself in the world of finance. Specialising in the personal tax affairs of high-net-worth individuals, I learned to value the importance of positive client relations and how to communicate effectively and efficiently. The opportunities I was given in financial analysis and reviews were invaluable. I started to enjoy this side of the business and realised where my passion lies. 

Pursuing my goal in investments and corporate finance, I took a leap and joined Baker Tilly and EIIS Management, as a corporate finance trainee and analyst for the Goodbody EIIS Funds, respectively. 

A world of opportunity 

Almost four years on and I’ve never looked back. I am enjoying the role now more than ever and much of this is attributed to the opportunities afforded to me by Stephen McGivern, Partner of Corporate Finance and the corporate finance team. From the outset, I have gained first-hand experience in many exciting and often demanding corporate finance transactions. From restructuring and refinancing a whiskey company to the financial analysis and sale of a food manufacturing company, I have really enjoyed financial modelling assignments and valuation projects.

Balancing work, study and life 

In addition to being surrounded by helpful, trusting and experienced colleagues at Baker Tilly, it’s especially refreshing working with market leaders in the EIIS sector from whom I have gained a wealth of invaluable knowledge. 

The supportive nature of the firm around exams and exam leave really helped remove some of the pressures associated with the syllabus. Being the only person in the firm doing FAEs that year brought its own challenges. However, under the guidance of other newly qualified staff members – who provided plenty of useful tips – I kept my head in the game. 

Leading up to the exams, studying filled the gap in my days. It can be difficult trying to achieve the elusive work-life balance. When you factor in exams, there are days it feels tough. For me, developing a detailed study plan and a consistent routine worked wonders. While many students prefer to study early in the morning, my preference was to study in the evening, often staying in the office after hours to learn theory and go over case studies. 

Future success

After celebrating my exam results, my future quickly shifted into focus. What was the next step for me?  

I’m really appreciative of how my firm handled my qualification. Shortly after my results, I discussed my professional development with Stephen McGivern and signed a new contract as a Manager in Corporate Finance. This nod from management drives me to continue developing my skills. 

My advice to trainee Chartered Accountants? Find what study routine works best for you as an individual and stick to it. There’s no magic secret to success; just hard work, discipline and self-belief. Believe that, irrespective of the path you take, you will get there. Also, always ask questions! The lecturers, other students and qualified members are all there to help you succeed.

If you are currently pursuing your qualification with Chartered Accountants or are considering it for the future, recognise that the hard work will ultimately reap plenty of rewards as you set out on a career. It is all worth it.