From the continent to the UK
Before starting my career in the UK five years ago, I studied Business Science in France and Denmark. Over there it is highly recommended to obtain a graduate degree, so five years of university are the norm. Upon graduation I got in touch with GE Capital where I had undertaken a work placement during my gap year, and decided to join the Financial Management Programme. This is GE’s graduate programme combining four rotational assignments as well as comprehensive financial training on advanced accounting, risk management, financial strategy and various leadership and communication workshops.
After completing the scheme, I wanted to join an operational finance team and was keen to discover the ‘industrial’ side of GE, so I took a job at Universal Pictures International Entertainment, the UK home entertainment distribution company of NBC Universal (GE’s media division).
Life in the media industry
Even though my move to a major entertainment company like NBCU was a sort of happy accident, I have quickly settled in this industry: I must admit that it is easier to relate to films and TV shows than to corporate loans and other financial instruments, and the new product presentations (ie pre-screenings) are never dull! I also enjoy the diversity of background of my co-workers and the passion that we share for movies. But the media industry is a very challenging environment where constant innovation is key, which means that finance professionals often have to think outside the box to support talents while ensuring the right level of compliance.
Being part of an operating company’s finance team means that each day is like no other. Of course there is no escaping financial close at month, quarter and year-end, however I can start the day re-forecasting the cash disbursement for artists’ advances, then prepare evidence for a royalty audit and finally review licence agreements that will become the basis for Universal’s film asset capitalisation.
Becoming a mature student
Late last year, I figured that a professional accreditation would allow me to solidify all my existing experiences and internal qualifications; this is when I decided to embark on the ACA course as a mature student.
Luckily the ICAEW has an agreement with GE, which allowed me to get a number of exemptions and become part-qualified fairly quickly! I am starting evening classes in March and will take my first paper-based exams in June. The pace of my studies will of course depend on my workload, but I expect to qualify towards the end of 2011. Though it was not easy to go back into academic books, I feel that my past experiences give me a fresh and insightful perspective on the content of the ACA study material.
There are many ways to become part of the media and entertainment industry: start straight after university with a training contract, join after a few years spent in practice or choose a cross-functional path and start the ACA qualification later. One thing I have learned in my short career is that there is no right or wrong when it comes to professional choices. Hard work, patience and a bit of luck are key ingredients in getting the ‘cool job’ that most of us are looking for!