Martin West is a Partner at the Strategic Consulting firm, Drivers Jonas. Coming from a science background, Martin makes it clear that accountants don’t need a finance degree to succeed and that accountancy is a far cry from its boring image…
Where did you study?
I started at Lancaster University (BSc (Hons) in Environmental Sciences) and then moved to University College of North Wales, Bangor (MSc Marine Geotechnics) followed by the University of Birmingham (PhD School of Civil Engineering).
What made you choose your profession?
Consultancy always seemed to be the logical place to go. I have worked in several specialist areas of civil engineering and property, but the common theme has always been consultancy.
Did you join a formal graduate scheme when you finished university?
No. In my early career my training was very focused on becoming a Chartered Civil Engineer. This process was similar to that followed by management accountants but with a greater emphasis on learning as part of working on projects and fewer exams.
Where did you go after your first role?
I moved to a company and a role where the experience I was likely to acquire was more likely to allow me to gain Chartered status.
What does Drivers Jonas do and why is it a good place to work?
DJ is a property consultancy, advising investors, owners and occupiers of property in both the public and private sectors, on acquisition/disposal, strategy, occupational issues, planning and development, finance, procurement and project management.
What are you looking for when recruiting into this sector?
Analytical and numerical skills, client handling, investment appraisal and finance expertise.
What is a typical day like for you?
Thankfully, I rarely have two days that are the same. There is always a mixture of client facing work, tendering for new work, business development and some internal administration.
How many people are on your team and what are their roles?
There are 20 and all of us are consultants. We form project teams in response to client requirements. These form and are disbanded as necessary.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The variety of clients, projects and the mixture of skills in our team.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Juggling the needs of multiple clients and their potentially conflicting demands on my time.
Can you recall the most satisfying moment of your career so far?
There have been several very satisfying moments. I enjoy the feeling of winning a new project, I enjoyed passing my professional exams and I have enjoyed delivering something tangible as part of projects such as a new piece of infrastructure or a business plan.
How has CPD developed your skills on the job? Have you taken any professional qualifications?
I have a number of non-executive roles and it is in corporate governance that my recent CPD has focused. As mentioned previously, I am a Chartered Civil Engineer (CEng MICE) a Chartered Management Accountant (ACMA) and I have a Diploma in Engineering Management (DipEM).
How do you keep up to date on what is happening in the industry?
I frequently attend conferences and seminars, subscribe to several electronic newsletters and regularly read sector-specific publications in health, housing and civil engineering.
From a new graduate’s point of view, what are the benefits of working for an organisation like yours?
There is a vibrancy among our graduates with an active training, sport and social calendar. Life will certainly not be dull!
What can a new graduate expect to do in an entry-level management accountancy role?
In consulting, they will be collecting, collating and analysing data and assisting in the production of economic and financial models.
Looking back on your career path, is there anything you would do differently?
No. I do not believe in the sentiment of ‘what might have been’. I have thoroughly enjoyed my varied career so far and tried to make the most of each opportunity.
What else would you like to achieve in your current role?
To continue to grow the business and to increase the size of the team.
Do you have any advice for graduates trying to get into management accountancy?
Try to gain the widest experience possible. Roles that, over time, cover the whole CIMA syllabus will provide an excellent basis for a senior appointment in due course.
What qualities do you need to succeed?
Somebody hit the nail on the head when they said that to succeed one needed to either out-think the workers or to out-work the thinkers.
What’s the biggest myth about your industry?
That it is dull and populated by ‘grey’ people in grey suits!
How has the industry changed since you started your career?
Property is currently feeling the effects of the global squeeze on credit but consultancy (especially for the public sector) continues to benefit from policy-driven investment in assets and on change initiatives aimed at improving service delivery.
Where is your career heading?
Hopefully a continued variety of consultancy and non-executive roles. Ask me again in five years time!