Helen Corvan, Trainee Accountant, JPA Brenson Lawlor
Degree subject BSc Hons Accounting, University of Ulster (2013
Job title Trainee Accountant
Employer JPA Brenson Lawlor
Why did you decide a career in finance was right for you?
Having worked in fund accounting in the financial district of Downtown Toronto for a year following university, I became absorbed by the ‘blue suits and big bucks’ mentality that oozed from the footpaths, that filtered through the tall towers of investment banks.
Let’s start with the blue suits.
Basically the finance sector offers a pick and mix of opportunities and environment – allowing young professionals to explore. With this diversity, it accommodates different skill sets and enables development of new skills. I wanted a career that was meaningful, whether it be helping clients plan for retirement from their businesses, selling their businesses, dealing with inheritance and investing activities. It’s a very dynamic, well rewarded environment.
How did your degree assist in you getting a place on the programme?
My degree was Accounting BSc Hons, which I completed in University of Ulster in Jordanstown Belfast. Having completed my degree the next step was to gain a training contract.
While most of my peers applied to the big commercial firms in Dublin and Belfast, I did exactly the opposite. I actually wanted to be an accountant and secure a training contract in a firm that offered across the board training. This firm has offered me this and more.
What does your daily role involve, and what’s been one of the biggest challenges so far?
Whether it be out on site at a client’s business premises completing an audit, or in the office working on an accounts preparation job, both jobs involve interaction with a wide range of stakeholders, so it's very dynamic.
One of the biggest challenges so far has been time management – prioritising what should be done first, second or indeed, not at all! Initially I wasted time trying to multitask where it was not needed and was focusing too much on minute details.
What’s exciting about your job?
As a trainee accountant, there is certainly no chance that I’ll ever become pigeonholed. The sheer variety of work I do, and industries that I deal with, on a day to day basis keeps me motivated and enthusiastic.
What advice would you have for students and graduates?
There are a few tips that I would give to students and graduates wishing to do the same.
- Have a genuine interest and be prepared to make a commitment to you future career. Becoming a chartered accountant is a long road. The exams are not easy and will require a lot of determination, time, effort and commitment to pass.
- Getting involved socially in the firm allows you to not only relax but to build relationships on a social level outside of work.
- The size of the company matters. Larger firms do offer some great opportunities such as foreign secondment, and more flexibility in terms of career breaks and more study leave. Smaller firms often offer a more relaxed environment and a broader range of experience across the board. Consider your own circumstances carefully before deciding what firms to apply for.
How do you hope to see your career developing over the next few years?
My goal right now is to pass all of my professional exams during my training contract within JPA Brenson Lawlor. Ultimately, I’d like to work as a forensic accountant. It is a role which is increasingly in high demand and is likely to continue to develop in the coming years.