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  • Name: Catherine Alton
  • Job Title: Audit Senior
  • University: Nottingham
  • Degree: Civil Engineering
  • Areas of Specialism: Audit and Assurance

Catherine finished school with four A levels and went on to study Civil Engineering at the University of Nottingham. After some work experience she couldn’t see herself continuing down that career path and so began investigating professions that would suit her skills, becoming an ICAEW Chartered Accountant seemed like a good fit.

Once I set my sights on becoming an ICAEW Chartered Accountant I secured a training agreement with Smith & Williamson, an accountancy and investment management group.
From almost day one I was dealing with clients and over my three year training agreement I gradually developed my experience by taking new areas of the clients’ accounts to audit.

What is your typical day as an Audit Senior like?

Now that I am a fully qualified senior accountant, day to day, I plan the audits, lead the fieldwork stage of the audit and ensure that the reports needed at the end are complete. I am the primary link between my firm and our client, so I am responsible for leading the audit team which can consist of up to eight people.
However, I’m not just out on audits. Over the past four years I have: travelled the UK reviewing the stage of completion of construction projects; counted cars in hail storms; been taught how to brew the perfect cup of tea; counted more ‘Girls Aloud’ eyelashes than you can imagine; spent time researching people and companies and I have even met the first man to ever sail round the world single handed non-stop, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston!

Have there been any standout moments in your career?

The highlight of my career has been getting the chance to go on secondment to Dublin. I lived there for three months and it gave me exposure to new industry sectors, Irish accounting standards and of course, the experience of living in a new country. On a social side, I was there for the Six Nations and St Patrick’s Day which were unforgettable experiences.
I’ve had challenging moments in my career too. During my busy season I was the senior in charge of the firm’s largest audit. The client had a new finance team and the time schedule was very tight. I was the main link between the firm and the client which meant I had numerous conference calls, emails and late nights. I had to ensure that both my team and the client were happy.

What do you enjoy most about working in the accountancy sector?

People are what make my job so enjoyable. Our clients are really good fun and the audit teams and managers have a good sense of humour, which results in a good atmosphere, both out at the clients’ premises and in the office.
I have been well equipped for dealing with the challenges I face, as the ACA qualification has given me knowledge of aspects of management accounting, the UK legal system, tax, both personal and corporate, as well as pure accounting knowledge. Through the ICAEW, I have access to a vast range of resources, from excel training to business speaking workshops, to name just a few.
For anyone who is considering a career in chartered accountancy I have this to say; don’t believe the stereotype. I initially discounted accountancy because I thought that it would be full of old men sat in a room in silence all day. However, I have since found out that this is not even close to the truth. So go to careers fairs, talk to as many people as you can and see for yourself how varied the profession is. 

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