By Erika Daggett Inspiring stories Winning an award has kickstarted my career 2 Sep 2014 I never would have thought that living in a Guinness Home would help fund me through Level 3 of the AAT qualification, but it did. I was lucky enough to win a Guinness Partnership Aspire Award last month. I obtained access to funding and have been able to carry on studying; it was a huge relief as I didn’t have enough money to fund the qualification myself. I’ve always had a head for numbers, getting an A in my A-Level maths and being accepted to study a maths degree at Royal Holloway University. However, uni life wasn’t for me and even thought I still obtained my diploma in maths, I’m happy I decided to leave. I also needed to be at home with my mum who is disabled and requires full-time care. I was aware that without a degree under my belt I would need to invest time and effort to find another way into a professional career. I wanted a job which would allow me to use my maths skills but would also allow me some flexibility to care for my mum. I’d always had an interest in accountancy so I looked to invest my small pot of savings into a qualification which could help me get my foot in the door. Discovering AAT It was a eureka moment when I came across the AAT and realised that I could study and work at the same time. As I was limited by the amount of savings I had, I enrolled and registered with Bucks Adult Learning, which is run by Bucks County Council. I found the fees for Level 2 to be very reasonable compared to other training providers in the area. Having previously obtained some part-time work at a local disabled charity who were in need of an Office Administrator for several months one summer, I then moved on to my current part-time role working as a secretary for an expert witness in the medico-legal industry. Utilising my finance skills in my secretarial role I expressed my interest in finance from day one and now am entrusted with all their bookkeeping. I love keeping a record of all the financial transactions and making sure everything adds up. I’ve taken on more responsibility and my employers trust me with more of the finance-related tasks. While it’s not a job in a financial department, I’m applying my knowledge in my job on a daily basis and building up relevant experience. As I came close to completing Level 2, I obviously became very worried about how I was going to fund the next level of the qualification. I really didn’t want to have to give it up. Discovering the awards through reading a webpage My mum stumbled across the Aspire Awards as she was browsing the Guinness website and after reading the criteria and realising I was eligible to apply, I jumped at the chance to enter the awards. The Aspire Awards are dedicated to helping those that live in a Guinness home to get back into work, to move up the career ladder or to gain new skills. I was of course over the moon when I won. My Christmas came early. I’m now applying for account assistant and finance officer roles. I plan to continue doing the books for my current employers as they are really flexible and have been incredibly supportive while I’ve been studying the AAT. Also, it doesn’t feel like work as I really enjoy doing them! What’s next? Well I start studying Level 3 in a couple of weeks with Haydon Training Business College in Aylesbury and when I’ve completed the AAT Accounting Qualification I would like to gain my chartered status with one of the other accounting bodies. Currently I’m really interested in forensic accounting but at this point in my career I’m open to trying everything. While my path hasn’t been easy I’m finally feeling that I’m moving in the right direction to get my career on track. Erika Daggett is a Trainee Accountant at Clark Howes.