Keep on keepin’ on...

Sep 01, 2017
EY’s Lynn Abbott discusses her FAE journey in which she overcame bereavement and academic failure to qualify as a Chartered Accountant.

What has been your biggest challenge to date?

I repeated my Leaving Certificate twice and took two attempts at CAP 2 but the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced is repeating my FAEs. The first time I sat them, I had a tough year both personally and professionally. In October 2011, we lost my uncle to suicide and very soon after, I spent four months in the UK for work which meant I didn’t get to spend the time I needed with my family to heal. Subconsciously, I gave up on the exams about half-way through that year and spent the summer trying to make up the impossible amount of ground I had lost. Repeating both Core and Elective in the following year took a lot of mental strength. I had to put behind me the feelings of low self-worth people have after failing at anything. I was harder on myself too as a result of my previous track record. You also have to push past the negativity of others (“If she had failed one, fine, but she’ll never get both”). Facing into that summer with the memory of what the previous study leave had felt like was terrifying. I had to get into the zone in a way I had never done before.

Did you ever feel like you weren’t going to achieve your goals?

You don’t fail as many times as I have and just assume your goals are still achievable. I’ve had so many hurdles to jump over the years and it’s easy to blame others when you fall down. Initially, I blamed the world for my shortcomings and got angry with those things in life I had no control over. I was embarrassed that things weren’t going to plan and didn’t want to look at what had gone wrong in any great detail. When I took ownership for my failings and realised where I was going wrong, I finally had something to work on and that put me on the right road.

What advice would you give to students facing their own battles?

It’s important to keep pushing on. Recognise that everyone fails at some point in their life and those setbacks make your victories even sweeter. The best leaders come through adversity. Ask for help and don’t be ashamed of what you’re going through – someone has been there before.

What, in your view, is the most important skill to develop?

I think there are two important skills that young Chartered Accountants could benefit from. One is perspective; a lot of us work in high pressure environments with tight deadlines and it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important. There’s nothing more important in life than your physical and mental health and well-being, so keep perspective and make sure you take care of yourself and those most important to you. Second, sheer grit and determination. To get where you want to go in life, you have to be willing to put in the hard yards. Keep the head down and you’ll get there.

And finally, what’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Surround yourself with good people and good things will happen. Surround yourself with people who understand that you have a busy professional life, who will support you in your darkest hour and who will drop everything to help you with even the most mundane chore. They will keep you going when the road gets tough.