What does working as a Finance Business Partner look like on a day-to-day basis? What made you choose your current role?
On a daily basis, I interact with number of key stakeholders. My role is client facing and I work for a Facilities Management company on one of our strategic client contracts. We provide a range of services for our clients to take care of their buildings. As an FBP, I have responsibility for the financial control of the contract and my role is a varied one, differing on a daily basis.
One day, I might be presenting Finance trends and opportunities for growth or savings to the client and on another day, I’ll be in budget meetings with key budget holders for specific properties that we take care of and on the next day, I might be working on creating process enhancements to existing financial processes to make them even more robust, for example. One constant in my role is overseeing the monthly financial close which includes preparation of the accounts and reporting results into my Finance Director, bringing awareness of any key risks or opportunities ahead. Mentoring my Assistant Accountant is also an important part of my daily role.
After qualifying as an Accountant in the public sector and holding various public sector roles post qualification, I decided I wanted to gain skills working with a client in a profit-driven setting to build negotiation, communication and commercial analysis skillsets. My accounting qualification CIMA which is geared towards the private sector, enabled me to transition into this role.
Can you tell me about a key turning point in your career?
A key turning point in my career occurred when I took on a new role and was faced for the first time, with preparing a set of accounts from scratch for the Auditors! I had absolutely no clue where to start but put in a lot of effort and extra time to understand the process, look at how things had been done the previous year and began to piece things together. On top of this, having a new, particularly challenging Manager, made things even more strenuous!
The experience pushed me to work hard, learn from and appreciate the adversity that came my way and ultimately made me more resilient. Learning how to handle challenging situations and personalities equipped me with the necessary interpersonal skills required in my role as an FBP where the client and other key stakeholder relationships are key to the long term success of the contract.
How did your time studying Economics and Politics at Queen Mary equip you for life after university?
The combination of curriculum, professors, extra-curricular activities including clubs and societies all played a pivotal part in preparing me for life after University.
Studying economics gave me the ability to analyse the working world I’d be stepping into. Back in 2009 when I graduated, it was the time of the global economic crises and it served me well to have a good understanding of micro and macro issues which I was now seeing in reality. The political element of my degree enabled me to understand how Governments were trying to mitigate global risks and to forecast reactions to the crisis.
Understanding the key concepts and principles of economics and politics enabled me to think and analyse the best way forward upon graduating and seek out opportunities which I thought would serve me well in the future. Having a good grasp of these disciplines, also enabled me to make big life decisions such as being able to analyse the housing market and buying my first property.
Why did you choose your degree subject? Why did you choose Queen Mary?
I chose Economics and Politics because I wanted to understand what driving forces had led to the economic and political state of the world as it was then, what could be changed in the future and how I could make a significant impact in driving this positive change. I knew that an understanding of these fundamental principles would be key to enabling me to learn about and analyse specific countries so I could start to define the type of impact I wanted to achieve and whereabouts this might be in the world.
I chose Queen Mary as I wanted to be in London, whilst experiencing the student life through being part of close knit community. Queen Mary was the only University in London which offered a campus based University experience. In addition, Queen Mary was investing a lot into research and I knew that inevitably, it would provide a vibrant hub with great research resources, combined with a good student life.
What’s a piece of advice which changed your perspective?
One of the best pieces of advice came from my very first Manager. She noticed how my eyes lit up when I was talking about the voluntary work I had just undertaken that summer, facilitating a Camp for teenagers to build interpersonal and leadership skills. She told me that following my passion was so important and it was her words that created the realisation in me to ensure that I always gave time to causes that were important to me.
Even if I wasn’t yet in my dream job, making time for the things I enjoyed, gave me a sense of purpose and satisfaction. The more you explore what’s out there and give yourself the time to experience the things you enjoy, the more likely you are to find your ultimate driving force and passion. This can then end up turning into your career!
For me, this advice made me realise that I wanted to pursue a career dedicated to helping others, especially those less fortunate than myself and it contributed to my decision to pursue an MBA to equip myself with the business skills required to create a social impact for underprivileged populations in the future.
What advice would you give a current student or recent graduate considering their career options?
Now is the time to start looking at careers which will be at the forefront as we exit this global pandemic. The world as we knew it before COVID, is unlikely to be the same as we move to the future. Technological advances may be driven to move more rapidly than they would have done previously and start to be implemented within industries more prominently. It would be great to do some research on emerging careers while you have the time – this may even change the types of roles you would have been inclined to look at prior to this pandemic.
Don’t think that your career will be a simple, one industry, one function path. You may change functions or industries several times throughout your career. It’s important to be able to adapt, to try things and determine whether they give you satisfaction. If they don’t, don’t be afraid to move on and try something new which gives you purpose. I remember it being challenging choosing which banking jobs I wanted to apply to after graduating, before I realised it was hard enough to land a job in the first place! Your first job may not be in the function of your dreams, especially at the current time but it will be easier to navigate to positions which bring you joy and satisfaction once you’re in the working world.
My advice is to continue learning throughout your career – never be complacent as the world is a constantly moving vehicle. Going into Accounting straight after University wasn’t my initial plan (I had always said I wouldn’t be an Accountant!) but only once I qualified 3 years later did I realise what an advantage I had in terms of knowledge and in competing for new roles.
What was the most memorable thing about your time at Queen Mary?
One of my best memories was being part of the dance club! It was the first time I’d experience hip hop dance before and I absolutely loved it. Being part of a class twice a week where we learnt and performed choreographed dance routines, allowed me to blow off steam and emerge mentally refreshed, as well as meet lots of new people.
I was only in the UK for 2 of the 3 years of my degree as I spent my second year abroad in California – this was one of the most amazing off campus experiences I had and I couldn’t recommend enough a year abroad to anyone who has the opportunity!
Do you have any role models that you look up to, in or out of your field?
The Obamas and The Gates are individuals I follow and whose career paths and clear intention to help others around the world, I admire. They are a constant reminder of how important some of the issues I hold close to me are and the steps I can take to ensure that the lives of others are uplifted. Seeing their impact and commitment is a motivating factor in my drive to ensure that my career to date and the skills I have acquired through various roles, can be translated into global impact in the years ahead.