Interviews and Profiles

Student Interviews

What do you think about Brexit? How do you think the pandemic will affect your career? What do you think is the future of the profession? In every issue of The Bottom Line, we will ask students their thoughts on a particular topic. Question of the month: Is Brexit an opportunity or challenge for Ireland? Alejandro Castro, Accountant at Quadient In my personal opinion Brexit represents an opportunity but also a challenge for Ireland. It is a challenge because the Irish economy is highly integrated with the UK. Currently, around 80% of the goods exported from Ireland are transported to or through the UK which means the Irish economy will suffer a material negative impact. However, Ireland will benefit from any future trade deals negotiated by the EU. Therefore, Irish businesses will have an opportunity to become amongst the most competitive in Europe. Technology, resilience and innovation are core traits that will enable Irish businesses to grow. Ruth Cummins, AWM Assurance Associate at PwC To answer that question, it is important to look at the direct economic impact it is having across sectors.  Brexit has opened up a wealth of new job opportunities in Dublin and other economic centres with the relocations of multinationals such as Barclays, JP Morgan and Bank of America, pushing Ireland higher up the ladder as a hub for multinational enterprises, boosting Ireland’s GDP. On the other hand, Brexit is introducing a massive challenge to more traditional sectors such as fishing and farming. They are currently dealing with a lot of uncertainty and question marks over exports and trade tariffs is adding to this strain.  Overall, I believe Brexit was a step in the wrong direction for the UK, but whether that will have a net negative impact on Ireland is yet to be determined. Ciara Woods, Audit Associate at KPMG Brexit is both an opportunity and a challenge for Ireland and the outcome is very much  dependent on how we react to it.  I think the opportunities such as opening up new markets and relationships are overlooked by many individuals, businesses and countries. Many believe Brexit to be a challenge due to the uncertainty and how it will change people’s and businesses’ way of life, commerce and traditional thinking. 

Jan 13, 2021
AI Extra

Just five years ago, Jason McIntosh was working in practice and didn’t know what the next five years would hold. Now a Finance Manager at Seagate Technology, he answers our six career questions. Five years ago, where did you think you would be now? Have you lived up to your own expectations? Five years ago, I had not long qualified as a Chartered Accountant and was still working in practice. (It doesn’t feel that long, so quantifying it is quite scary!) At that stage, I wasn’t sure where I would be in five years. I probably had this idea about what it would be like to be an accountant in industry, but I wasn’t sure it would be for me.  Having worked in industry for almost three years now, I’m delighted to have been wrong about that – I have a job that I really enjoy, working with great people and getting the opportunity to gain loads of experience in a global role within a global organisation.  Have I lived up to my own expectations? Probably yes – mostly because I didn’t know what to expect! I’m a big believer in constantly challenging yourself, so in that regard I think I’ve probably done that plenty over the last five years.  What do you wish you had known earlier in life? On a professional level: it’s never too early to build your network. I was given this advice on my first day working as an accountant, and probably didn’t take it seriously enough then. But it’s true. As you progress in your career, your network will invariably become something that you rely on from time to time. Looking after it is important, too; stay in touch with the people you meet.  Personally, probably the importance of spending time with your family. When you’re young, life seems so busy and we probably don’t take the time to spend with our parents and our grandparents while we can.  Where do you see yourself this time next year? Hopefully in the office at least a few days a week – without face masks! Like everyone, I’m missing the human interaction of an office. I’ve been working at home full-time for almost a year.  In my current role, I can still see huge opportunities to learn and so this time next year, I’ll hopefully still be doing just that.  Who inspires you personally and professionally?  It may be a little cliché, but my family inspires me. My son is turning three this year, and he approaches life with a curiosity and sense of humour that is infectious. And my wife, who is also a Chartered Accountant, inspires me in so many ways, as well.  Professionally, I try to take a little bit of inspiration from as many sources as possible. You can learn something from everyone, even if it’s what not to do!  If you weren’t a Chartered Accountant, what do you think you’d be doing? That’s a tough question! I studied law at university, and I would probably have pursued that further as I did really enjoy it. That or playing in midfield for Manchester United.   What advice do you have for those who will soon qualify as Chartered Accountants? Treat every day as an opportunity to learn and grow. Early in your career is the absolute best time to soak in every bit of experience you can. Make sure that your job allows you the opportunity to constantly challenge and develop yourself. In a similar vein, actively seek opportunities to learn something new and to learn from others. The best Chartered Accountants I know have breadth of experience as well as depth.  Don’t be afraid to take an opportunity when one arises. Great things never came from comfort zones. 

Jan 13, 2021
Student Interviews

Chartered Star Aisling McCaffrey wants to connect with other young leaders to find effective solutions to today’s global problems. Why did you want to be the 2020/21 Chartered Star? For me, being the 2020/21 Chartered Star would ultimately give me access to a global platform and a network of people to help create greater awareness for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and effect lasting change. This was my main motivation when applying. What do you hope to learn at the conference this year? What are you most looking forward to? By attending the One Young World summit, I am hoping to deepen my understanding of the issues currently facing our society and identify practical steps I can take to help address same. I am really looking forward to connecting with other young leaders who are passionate about making a social impact. I’m excited to share my ideas, learn from the experiences of others and collaborate to find effective solutions to global issues. What has been the most challenging part of your Chartered journey? Initially, finding the balance between work, study and life in general was tricky. I learned that creating routine and setting goals to encourage consistency worked well for me, as well as lots of lists!  As I have progressed through my career, I’ve found the challenge is more about finding confidence in my own knowledge and ability. I’ve been very lucky to be surrounded by colleagues, friends and family who regularly encourage me to be the best version of myself.  What do you hope to accomplish in your year as the 2020/21 joint Chartered Star? My hope is that alongside Caroline, we can facilitate the implementation of initiatives that relate to UN SDG 2030 targets. My Chartered Accountants Ireland qualification has provided me with technical knowledge and skills that I have been able to utilise in all aspects of my life, and to that end I also want to use the opportunity to promote the profession and encourage others to consider pursuing the qualification.  Who inspires you personally and professionally? My number one inspiration is my granny May – she has always encouraged me to think of others, be grateful for the opportunities I have and look for ways I can use my abilities to assist those less fortunate.  Second, I’ve had the pleasure of watching my good friend Linda Djougang rise through the ranks of Irish Rugby while also training to be a nurse. Her positivity coupled with relentless ambition and drive are a source of inspiration for me.  Lastly, I greatly admire the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her lifelong pursuit of women’s rights. Aisling McCaffrey, Associate Director, Financial Services Advisory, Grant Thornton. 

Jan 13, 2021
Student Profile

For Chartered Star Dr Caroline McGroary, being a Chartered Accountant isn’t just about the numbers – it’s about the impact you can make on society. Why did you want to be the 2020/21 Chartered Star? Over the past number of years, I have been following the work of the Chartered Stars and One Young World ambassadors and have been inspired by their work in promoting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Given the promotion of the SDGs is something that I am very passionate about, and have been actively working towards, I was motivated by the possibility of becoming a Young Chartered Star.   What do you hope to learn at the conference this year? What are you most looking forward to? The One Young World summit is a unique platform that brings young leaders together with the common goal of creating social impact. I am very excited about the opportunity to meet with some of these leaders and to learn about the impactful work they are engaged in. I am also looking forward to sharing my experiences and to collaborating with others both at the summit and beyond.  What has been the most challenging part of your Chartered journey? The most notable challenges of my Chartered journey have been balancing the demands of working full-time and studying part-time, both when preparing for the professional exams, and more recently, when completing my PhD.  In addition, adapting to the cultural and professional nuances of working in Saudi Arabia were challenging initially but ultimately extremely rewarding.  What do you hope to accomplish in your year as the 2020/21 joint Chartered Star? Over the coming year, my hope is that both Aisling and I can create meaningful impact through our attendance at the One Young World summit and our engagement with the FinBiz2030 taskforce. Both platforms will provide us with the opportunity to work with others and to contribute towards the UN SDGs agenda.  It is also my hope to educate future accountants about the UN SDGs, as well as promoting the value of the Chartered Accountancy qualification, through my role as a lecturer.  Who inspires you personally and professionally? From a young age, my parents and grand uncle, James Anthony, have been a great inspiration. Together they instilled in me the importance of education, the virtues of hard work and perseverance, and to always treat others with respect.  I have also been truly inspired by my friend Jenny Reynolds. She has had an incredibly successful career to date both with Honda Ireland, where she rose to Director level by the age of 30, while at the same time developing her own payments app, Topper. However, what inspires me most is her humility, kindness and ability to elevate all those around her – qualities which I believe are indicative of a true leader. Dr Caroline McGroary, Assistant Professor of Accounting, Dublin City University.

Jan 13, 2021
Student Profile

Daniel Turley ACA, finance at BioMarin Pharmaceuticals and Chair of the Young Professionals Committee, has seen his life change – for better and worse – since the beginning of the pandemic. Like many of us, my daily routine was uprooted when lockdown hit back in March. Previously, my day would have included a daily commute, tea break catch-ups with colleagues, and dinner and drinks with friends as the weekend got closer. Pretty quickly, this has been replaced with bad lockdown habits – sleeping in later than I should, binge-watching Netflix and online shopping for clothes that won’t fit me for very long. My workday has changed completely. I’m a demon before my morning coffee (that hasn’t changed), but I find that my days have more structure – blocked times for Zoom meetings and presentations, blocked time for focus/concentration hours, and even blocked times for informal colleague catch-ups and tea breaks.  We have had new colleagues onboard since lockdown came into effect and blocking this “informal” time has been vital to help them settle into the work environment and getting to know each other. Outside of work, I have found other ways to acclimatize to the “new normal”. I’ve made efforts to find creative ways to break up what could be a monotonous day. For one, my house has never been cleaner. A couple of 10-minute cleaning blitzes through the workday have the place gleaming and keep me from staring at my laptop for too long.  I moved in with my partner so we didn’t have to spend the lockdown apart. We have become very domesticated – cutting out takeaways and improving our cooking skills. Making macarons and homemade pizza were highlights. Took a while to track down the ingredients (who wasn’t a part of the baking craze?), but was worth the effort! With the stint of good weather in the summer, I got back into jogging and used it as a way to explore areas of Dublin that I hadn’t been to before, like Foxrock and Monkstown. I’ve already mentally moved myself into these areas, although lockdown hasn’t helped me save that much money – yet. I think, more than anything, I try to make a conscientious effort each day to see the positives in my new setup. I am in a very privileged position. I still have my job and am lucky enough to have the ability to work from home. I can still afford to pay my rent, and I have food.  I work with the Young Professionals network. For 2020–21, more so than any other year, our network wants to provide an outlet/safe space for those who haven’t been as fortunate during these times.  We are currently in full swing with event planning for 2020–21 and can’t wait to engage with you all. For us, it has never been more important to connect with our peers, even when socially distanced.

Nov 02, 2020
Student Interviews

Caroline Kealey, Tax Associate in PwC, has received first place in her FAE exams and awarded the Ulster Society Diamond Jubilee Award and Gold Medal, something only given to 25 people over the last 131 years. Caroline explains the key to her success. Why have you decided to become a Chartered Accountant? I always liked accounting in school, so I decided to study Accounting and Finance in DCU, which I really enjoyed. As part of my course, I had the opportunity to do an internship in PwC, and this gave me a good insight into the business world. I realised how many opportunities I would have with a qualification from Chartered Accountants. From there, it made sense to continue with a career in accounting. I completed a Master’s in accounting at DCU before starting my training contract with PwC. What has changed in your career because of the pandemic? If I’m honest, a lot! We are all working from home, which took a bit of getting used to. That said, PwC has put a big focus on technology over the past number of years, so we were all well equipped to work from home, keep in touch and collaborate.  The most significant change is in the way we interact with clients and each other, but virtual meetings have quickly become the norm. What has been the most challenging part of the quarantine/pandemic for you? What has been the best? I miss the social aspect of going into the office, which is a huge part of working in PwC. Even though we can maintain contact virtually, I do miss the face-to-face interaction and random conversations and craic that we would have on the floor. Saying that, there are plenty of benefits to working from home. It was a good chance to move home to Offaly and spend time with my family. It has allowed me to slow down. And skipping the daily commute has meant I have a lot more free time in the evenings. How was your exams experience in August compared to the past? What new challenges did you face? Naturally, there are pros and cons to both. Doing the exam online meant there was much less pressure on the day, I didn’t have to worry about dragging a suitcase of books to the exam hall, and I could have my desk set up in advance.  Typing the exam was also useful as the overall layout of the exam was much better and I didn’t have to worry about my awful handwriting! Having to do the exams online rather than in an exam hall was far better than I had expected. On the other hand, there was always the concern around having Wi-Fi or technology issues on the day. Thankfully, I was pretty lucky in this regard, but it was still a big worry. What do you think contributed the most to your exam success? I didn’t stress over the exams, and I think that helped me on the day. However, I worked consistently during study leave and got into a routine early, which meant I didn’t have to cram towards the end.  It’s also helpful to have other people studying for exams alongside you. My housemates were studying for FAEs at the time too, so it was much easier to stick to a routine when we were all in it together.  PwC also offered excellent support throughout the year, so we were all well prepared to deal with the change to online exams. The exam support team organised virtual lectures, provided laptops to ensure we were equipped to sit the exams remotely and were always on hand to answer any questions we had. What advice about studying and the exams would you give to future students? Don’t stress! Facing years of professional exams might be daunting, but it flies by. The qualification will be worth it in the end, so continue to study and make sure to find time to enjoy yourself in between.  When choosing a training contract, make sure to look into any exam support that could be offered by your firm as this makes a huge difference when it comes to exam time. Where do you see yourself in five years?  Honestly, who knows? One thing the pandemic has taught us all is that we never know what’s around the corner, so we’ll see what opportunities arise in the future.  I do see myself continuing to progress my career in PwC, and I think qualifying as a Chartered Accountant will open plenty of different opportunities in the future. What advice would you give to your past self?  The exams will fly by so continue to enjoy all the experiences and take every opportunity that comes your way – you’ll get there in the end!

Nov 02, 2020