Career profile: Assistant accountant

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Assistant accountants get unique access to the businesses they work for.

The position on the finance team enables them to view in close detail how the business operates and functions. Now completing her last AAT unit, Charlotte Lander speaks about being the go-to person for her seniors, demystifying the financial jargon and staying afloat at SeaRoc Group, a marine management services firm.

What led you to a career as an assistant accountant?

At school I was always really good at maths, so when I had a careers advice session in my final year of school the advisor recommended a career in accounting. I really liked the idea of that and I decided to do an A level at college.

At university, I originally thought of doing an accounting degree at Chichester University, but when I sat down with one of the tutors they mentioned business studies. It shared a lot of the same modules as the accounts degree, but also offered modules on other areas of business. I’m actually really glad I did it because it has modules in law, marketing and operations management. It really helped me in terms of working in a business.

At university, I had been working part time at a supermarket, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do so I applied for a position in Chichester as an admin assistant with SeaRoc Group. Even though I didn’t really have any experience other than my education I was lucky enough to get the job. After just over a year I was promoted to assistant accountant in the team.

What does an average workday look like for you?

SeaRoc Group has clients in a lot of different sectors, so things can be quite varied. We provide management software to companies like E.ON, Siemens and DONG, the Danish energy firm. The software enables these companies to track offshore vessels and wind turbines, so it’s really quite interesting.

The other side of the business is consulting. We have various project managers who are contracted to advise firms on how to manage their marine operations. It’s really great to be part of renewable energy because it’s so important for the future. My job is to keep everything ticking over.

Every morning when I get in, I always post the previous day’s bank transaction. But other than that, a typical day could include anything from credit control calls, fee payments, raising sales invoices, journal entries and colleague queries. I get involved with everything that’s going on, one way or another!

What are the challenges involved in the role? And what’s most rewarding about it?

In my role you tend to have involvement in pretty much everything going on in the department, whether that’s a lot of involvement or a little bit of involvement, you need to be aware of everything. I can be the go to person for my manager, but also for the customers, suppliers and my colleagues. There are times it can feel like you need to know absolutely everything.

At the same time, this is probably what makes it so rewarding, because you are such an important part of the team. You get the opportunity to be involved in lots of different projects. It’s a challenge but also a reward all at the same time.

What traits do you need to be a good assistant accountant?

Definitely organisational skills, and self-motivation. It really is a role where you have to stay on top of your tasks. I write a lot of post-it notes, I put a lot of post-it notes on everything so I know what date I looked at it last, what date I need to look at it again. I have to be on top of everything.

Good communication skills are also a must. When a colleague asks me a question, I give them an answer that won’t be complete gibberish to them. I wouldn’t use abbreviations that would make sense to me, but that they wouldn’t understand. If I speak to my manager, I know that I can use those abbreviations. Sometimes I’ll even speak to the CEO, which is quite daunting, you do talk to pretty much all levels or the company.

What surprised you about the role?

I think students should be aware of how relied upon you can be but also how great that is, that you can be such an important employee.

For me, AAT has helped with my job, but my job has actually helped me with AAT too. I could go through all the scenarios in the course and relate that to my job. AAT has given me the core knowledge that I can now take with me into the future. It’s given me confidence that I have a professional qualification – well, I very nearly have it.

Ebony-Storm Halladay is editorial operations assistant at Flibl. She researches and writes about finance, business, sustainability and technology.

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