Frances Holloway, senior management accountant at Network Rail Telecom (NRT), never thought she would end up working in finance but, after a short stint in the hotel industry mingling with footballers and celebrities, the accountancy sector beckoned.
She also worked at Grant Thornton as an accounts assistant at the same time, but when the hotel manager offered her a full-time job running the conference and events team, she jumped at the chance.
Starting off with AAT
Frances really enjoyed the buzz of the hospitality industry, but decided to go along to an open morning at a nearby college to learn a bit more about accountancy. She began doing an AAT course and has, as they say, never looked back.
“I was never a fan of writing long essays at school but was good with numbers. A colleague introduced me to AAT and, after having a break from studying when I left school, I wanted to learn something new that could open up some career opportunities. Little did I know that there is a lot of report writing that goes with the job, but I actually find that presenting and business partnering are the most enjoyable elements of my role now.”
Half way through her course, she moved jobs and joined the Northamptonshire County Council’s Treasury Management department and started her CIMA qualification. “All my colleagues were working towards CIMA or ACCA. At the end of the technician stage, I wanted to continue my studies and CIMA was the obvious choice!”
She then joined the head office of Avon Cosmetics in Northampton, who sponsored her CIMA studies. “I supported their IT, marketing, distribution, reporting, revenue and returns and investment optimisation departments in various roles. This aligned really well with my practical experience for CIMA and I was able to use the transferrable skills I learned to work in these areas.”
Frances got to meet a few famous faces at the iconic make-up brand too. “Tess Daly, Alesha Dixon and Jamie Redknapp were our brand ambassadors.”
Frances stayed at Avon for several years after completing her CIMA qualification, but then started getting a little restless. “After spending a few years post qualification at Avon, it was time to spread my wings again and I felt very lucky to have a few job offers on the table,” she says.
Experience the variety that accountancy has to offer
She began working in the Home Retail Group financial services team as a senior planning analyst, which gave her a taste of the retail and financial services sector. She then joined Network Rail as a senior management accountant in the telecom’s department, part of the group’s digital railway team.
“Working at Network Rail is really varied and interesting because it’s such a big organisation which has gone through lots of changes,” says Frances.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Frances says it hasn’t always been easy, especially combining her studying with a full-time job. “At the time it was hard work, studying for exams and working full time in a demanding role at the same time, but it felt like a great achievement once I got my exam results,” she says.
Deciding on the next steps
Frances focused on passing her exams first time around and studied in three-month bursts. She is now investing her time in doing more fun things. “I’m a trustee for The Northampton Theatres Trust (NTT) and am now learning to tap dance having finished my CIMA studies,’ she says.
Going forward, Frances would like to broaden her skills and look for opportunities within commercial contracts and procurement. “I’d like to utilise the transferable skills I’ve learned, as well as gaining new skills in similar areas that are focused on achieving good commercial outcomes for the business.”
CIMA is the world's largest professional body of management accountants.