GleeTalks: Top Tips on Becoming a Finance Manager with James Pugh
How did you get into the role?
Usually, most people will go to university and have an idea that they want to work in finance or at least business. They will then finish university and continue their studies with an accountancy qualification (usually ACCA or CIMA). Either after this, but more commonly whilst studying, most people will then enter the finance industry at either a sales ledger or purchase ledger entry. I did not follow the traditional route to becoming a Finance Manager.
When I finished my A levels, I wasn’t sure which direction I wanted my life to go, so I ran off to work in Entertainment at Butlins. After 1 season, I returned to my hometown of Chesterfield and worked as a dancer/barman/waiter. Working late nights soon ate into my social life and I decided it was time to get a daytime job working in the admin section of a purchase ledger department. It soon became apparent that I understood finance and was promoted a few times. I have since studied CIMA. If you are willing to put the hard work and effort into studying, it’s never too late. And although I started off in purchase ledger, I am now the Finance Manager of all aspects of finance. It’s essential to get a foot in the door at any level.
What are the key skills required?
You need to have good oral and written communication skills, self-motivation, commercial awareness, initiative and the ability to work as part of a team. Excellent problem-solving, analytical, technical, IT and numerical abilities are crucial.
What do you enjoy about this role?
Every day is different. I enjoy the changes and challenges each day as not only do I have to oversee the team, but I also need to stay up to speed on the global markets and read industry research. As different legislations change, I also need to evolve, keeping my role fresh.
What are the most challenging aspects of the role?
Keeping up to date with the constant change in legislation is challenging but rewarding. Also, as with any managerial role, meeting the expectations of both your team and higher management can be conflicted, so keeping colleagues on either side happy can be a challenge.
What have you learnt that you wished you knew when you started out?
I have learnt that different levels of finance are extremely different. At the start of my career, once I had learnt all aspects at that level, I felt that it would be easy to progress to the next level. It isn’t. Each level in finance jumps quite significantly. Be prepared to go from knowing everything to knowing very little as you move up the career ladder.
What advice would you give to people considering this role?
Working in Finance, there is a great expectation to get everything right and perfect first time. I would say that there are very few, if any, who have not made a huge mistake at some point in their career. You need to be prepared not to beat yourself up about the mistakes and learn from them. Be prepared for change. This is an ever-evolving industry.
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