How AAT helped me to become Chief Operating Officer

Karl Eastwood, 33, is COO of Global Lingo, a leading translation and language company. In our interview, he talks about how completing an AAT qualification has enabled him to excel in a variety of finance roles.

Plus he discusses his five-year strategy for the company and describes his role as COO of the company where he started 11 years ago as a bookkeeper.

What is your role?

My role is Chief Operating Officer at Global Lingo. I was promoted into that role in 2019, having previously held the position of Group Finance and Operations Director at Global Lingo. I oversee the strategic direction and operational activities of the company. I am based in Chicago although I previously lived and worked in Romania for five years.

Learn the essentials

To find out more about booking a place on an open course or arranging training for groups of staff

Register your interest

Why did you decide to follow this career route?

I started out as a bookkeeper at Global Lingo 11 years ago, and I have progressed through the company.

I left school at 18 and started my AAT training with Kaplan. My first role was with an accountancy practice in Bradford, and then I got a new job closer to my home in Leeds. Once I had qualified at Level 4 with AAT, I decided that I would go travelling for a while before I started another job.

Why did you choose to study with AAT?

I went to school in Woodkirk High in Leeds. I stayed on at sixth form to study A levels in Statistics, Business Studies and English Language. I took my A levels and achieved grades B, B, C and researched how to find an apprenticeship.

The part of Business Studies that I excelled at and that I was most interested in was accounting. I enjoyed working and earning money but I still wanted a career so I felt that the AAT qualification would be extremely useful.

I had a passion for accountancy and tax but I knew that I didn’t want to go to university.

What was your first accountancy role?

I worked at Auker Rhodes accountancy practice for the first year where I did AAT Level 2. I actually had an offer from PriceWaterhouseCoopers but I wanted the experience of working in a smaller practice and learning about all the different finance functions.

Then I moved to Frank W. Dobby & Co Accountancy Practice in Morley in Leeds, partly because the job in Bradford involved an hour’s commute each way. I had a big step up in salary and a saw the benefits of an AAT qualification. I spent three years there, where I gained AAT Level 4.

I didn’t have the experience of going to university so once I had successfully passed AAT Level 4 I went travelling in Southeast Asia and Australia. It was great to have the freedom to travel and experience new places and meet lots of new people.

After I got back from travelling I got a job at Capita in fund accounting, and I know that having my AAT qualification helped me get the job.

After a while I realised that I didn’t want to stay in this corporate world of fund accounting, and that I was more interested in business. I was 23 at the time and the opportunity at Global Lingo came up. I’ve now been at Global Lingo for 11 years.

I actually started as the organization’s a bookkeeper. While I was there I qualified with ACCA and went to work in Romania. I was there for five years and grew the organisation from that base.

My AAT knowledge was so fundamental in helping me to do that role, as well as all the other roles I have been involved in since then. I learned so much from my AAT training. It has helped me establish the finance department at Global Lingo.

How did you get your job at Global Lingo?

When I was travelling I used that time to build the “soft skills” of communication that are now so important in the world of accountancy.

I worked with camels on a farm and did tours for tourists and that meant meeting a lot of different people and talking to them.

The need to excel in soft skills such as networking and communication is one thing that people stepping into the finance industry really need to get their head around quickly. With the changing scope of technology, and different expectations of clients, accountants can no longer be just number bashers.  

When I came back to the UK I got a job at Capita Financial for a year. Then I saw a job offer for a bookkeeper for Global Lingo, a language services organisation that offers translation solutions, transcription and interpreting.

What appealed to me was the global nature of the business. I saw that there was the potential for a long-term career for me and that there could be opportunities to travel and work around the world.

What is the most interesting part of your job?

I moved to Chicago in 2018 from Romania because we were looking to grow the company in the US. Now I am setting up an office in Guatemala in Central America so I have the excitement of building up a business there.

My typical week would be communicating with my team members at different times of the day, depending on where they’re located. I have regular meetings with the global sales team, global project management team, and the senior leadership team.

I’ve established a five-year vision for Global Lingo so I have a weekly strategy review to see that we are on track. I’m also responsible for information security, and customer complaints, so I will review those and compile a response.

How has your AAT training helped you?

AAT has given me a deep and fundamental understanding of finance and business. It has enabled me to take what I have learned and apply it to technology, information security and any other problem or challenge. It teaches you to think logically and solve problems.

AAT is globally recognised as a qualification and that has been important to me.

What are your tips for students and graduates?

A tip would be to aim high, because with your AAT qualifications nothing can hold you back in terms of achieving the career you wish for. Don’t be afraid to apply for jobs which specify that you need a degree, because your knowledge will show through in the interview.

Be aware than an AAT qualification can be translated to any career field. I’ve managed technology teams, project management teams and now I am managing sales teams. It’s not about the world of finance – AAT gives you a good grounding in general business skills which are transferable to other roles and careers.

What are your interests outside work?

I am a music fan so I go to as many concerts as much as I can, and I have a passion for American football and English football. I also love to travel and experience new cultures.

Learn the essentials

To find out more about booking a place on an open course or arranging training for groups of staff

Register your interest

Further reading:

Marianne Curphey is an award-winning financial writer and columnist, and author of the book How Money Works. She worked as City Editor at The Guardian, deputy editor of Guardian online, and has worked for The Times, Telegraph and BBC.

Related articles