Role: interim financial controller
Location: United Kingdom
Career highlights: rapid progression
Vicky Ridley was working as a purchase ledger clerk at Grorud Engineering in Country Durham UK when opportunity came knocking.
'The finance director went on holiday. Then her number two had an accident, and couldn't come into work. So I stepped up and ran the office until the FD got back.
'After that, the FD said: 'Maybe Vicky's in the wrong role. She's capable of more complex work than purchase ledger'.
'So she sat me down and asked me if I fancied a career in accounts. I had no idea what that meant. I didn't even have any A levels and had never seen double entry bookkeeping. But I said: "OK, I'll give it a go".'
A tricky time
'Because I needed a basic foundation, she suggested that I study first for the AAT qualification.
'Then I started to learn the management accounts, and be responsible for payroll, purchase ledger and general ledger.'
But it wasn't plain sailing for Vicky. 'It was quite a tricky time. Some of my colleagues weren't very pleased with my promotion, so they resigned. I wasn't sure what I was doing, and I had to recruit for roles that I didn't really understand. It was a baptism of fire, but a really good one.
'The FD was really supportive.'
Vicky did three scholastic years with the Association of Accounting Technicians, which she really enjoyed. Her AAT qualification exempted her from needing to take the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting, and so she went straight on to the CIMA Professional Qualification.
An AAT advantage
'CIMA classes were so fast moving - you have to already know all about credit and debit, balance sheets, profit and loss, and so on. Because of my AAT training, I could engage in those sorts of conversations and just concentrate on the technical bit.'
So did she find CIMA study a breeze? 'Oh no, I'm not saying that. I found all of CIMA incredibly challenging. It is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
'At first, I thought I wasn't good enough to be there. They would be answering questions and I'd be wondering how on earth they could as we'd only just got the text book!'
'I always felt as if I was at the bottom of the class. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of the finance director who'd originally had had such faith in me. I didn't ever want to have to ring her and tell her that I had quit. I was determined to find a way to do it.'
Balancing study and work
'I would compartmentalise my evenings and study between 7:30pm and 9:30pm. I would make sure I was finished and on the sofa with a meal and a glass of wine by that time. I'd look forward to things like television programmes or going round to a friend's house - anything so you don't feel that study is enveloping all your time. It worked for me.'
Importance of articles
The AAT diploma helped her with technical questions, but not so much with those that required written analysis. So she learned that she had to give as much revision attention to those questions as she did to the numbers based ones.
Financial Times listing
So with a glowing TOPCIMA under her belt, and a glittering career ahead of her at All Saints, how does she feel now?
'I went into this whole thing almost blind. I did very little research because I had absolute faith in my FD's decision. It was a whole foreign language to me. I believed in what she suggested.
'I still have to pinch myself, sometimes. I keep thinking that someone will say that I'm a fraud and not good enough to do all this.
'I always carry around my TOPCIMA exam results with me, in my work notebook. I got the Financial Times and my name was in there for passing, so I knew it was right. The Financial Times wouldn't lie, would it?'