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This is an excellent question! If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve also read my previous blogs and the trials and tribulations I went through to achieve my accountancy qualifications. You might now be thinking, why switch over to teaching? Therefore, I now present to you my story of why I moved into teaching accountancy.
With the number of family members I have as teachers (5 cousins, 2 aunts and, most recently, my brother!) you could say it was inevitable that I would end up going down the teaching route too. It’s easy to say this now, of course, but there was a time when I would have said, no way, never!
I was way too shy to stand up in front of a (small) group of people and talk to them. I was, and still am, very much an introvert! That said, I do believe we make some of the best teachers as we know when to stop talking and start listening.
In the beginning.
It all started around sixteen years ago, while working in Local Government, and we were starting to look at replacing our in-house financial systems with something more robust. The first system we replaced was our Debtors system. I asked if I could help with some of the testing of the new system. I organised the training sessions (carried out by the software company) but I also dipped in and did a bit of training myself. It was a combination of me having enjoyed getting involved in something new, and no-one else wanting to do the training!
A couple of years later, we started to look at replacing the in-house Banking system. This was the system that recorded all financial transactions that came into the Council, both front of house and through the bank. More training would need to be done and more interfaces would be required; I would be working closely with our external consultants and internal IT department.
This round of training was a bit more challenging, not least because it involved staff who were very comfortable with the way things were and didn’t like the change. I was now on the other side of the fence and having to deal with unhappy staff who ‘hadn’t been told anything’ and couldn’t understand the need for the changes.
Why was I doing this?! These staff were few and far between of course and, these isolated incidents aside, I was starting to enjoy it. The vast majority of users were happy for the updates and pleased to receive their training and that’s why I was doing this. To be able to help an individual learn something new, no matter how large or small, is its own reward.
Entering the big leagues
We have now reached July 2007 and I have been offered an amazing opportunity – to be promoted to Systems Accountant and seconded onto the project team that will work on implementing a new General Ledger / Purchase Ledger finance system that will go-live on 1st April 2008. I’m so excited!
There’s so much work to do, where do I begin?!
There was, of course, a project plan and Gantt chart to guide us through. I was to attend all the training sessions for the different modules and areas of the system and be very ‘hands on’ with building the system up and designing it to meet our needs.
I would be working with the Accountants and finance staff, as well as all the other users (around 80) who were non-finance staff across all levels of the hierarchy. One of the many conflicts the project team had was tailoring the system to meet the needs of the Accountants as well as everyone else! But that’s a story for another day…
Back to the training. Having spent September to December on a cycle of learning, building, testing, repeat, I knew that in the new year I was going to have to put together a selection of User Guides and a training session timetable. I had three months to complete this rollout, alongside the large volume of testing that was still to be carried out. Luckily, I had a great team to support me and share the workload.
The time had come
There was a wide range of users to be trained on various areas of the system, such as admin officers on how to raise orders, budget holders for budget monitoring, budget holders for authorising orders and invoices, the Accounts Payable team for processing invoices for payment and the Accountants for budget monitoring and budget setting and use of the system overall.
The next few months were to become the most stressful, exhausting, but bizarrely enjoyable months of my career so far! I relished the challenge that lay ahead of me and the autonomy my manager gave me to put everything together and just get on with it.
Putting all the manuals together served a double purpose as I could continue testing areas of the system at the same time. This was because I would be working through a process to write it out in full for the manuals and, at the same time therefore checking if that particular process worked, or not. The format of my user guides would be to include screenshots and a bullet point list of instructions that would be suitable for everyone.
We know that we all have different ways of learning (and for some users that meant not using my guides at all 😊) but that was okay; I would have face to face sessions with them and talk them through the guides at the same time.
There were a few sections of the Purchase Ledger user guides that I could delegate to my team but I would oversee the finished version. I produced around half a dozen user guides in time for our training programme rollout at the beginning of March.
What a month that was! Over 80 finance admin users to be trained, and their managers, with just myself and two colleagues to share that with. Each session was also around the 3-hour mark (there was a lot to learn) meaning we could only run 2 sessions a day. We were also sharing our temporary training room with the software consultants so it wasn’t available to us all the time. We were under pressure, that’s for sure.
Loving every minute!
But as I previously mentioned, I was enjoying every minute. No two days were the same, and each day brought a new challenge; I was loving learning. Those of you who’ve seen my earlier blogs will appreciate that this hadn’t always been the case for me.
The training sessions themselves were understandably nerve-racking at first – this was new to all of us after all and I also knew that I was going to get a fair bit of resistance to this huge change I was presenting to everybody. Whilst I had the knowledge to deliver the training sessions, I was now learning how to become a good trainer.
My team and I had some train the trainer sessions from our software consultants, which were invaluable, but until we were training users that didn’t know anything, again, it was hard to know how we would fare. I ran the first session and my two colleagues sat in to observe so we could maintain some consistency across the sessions.
Again, this was invaluable to all of us. One of my first lessons learnt was to walk around the room to see what the learners were doing! The layout of our training room meant that computer monitors faced the front, and us trainers could only see the back of them. Need I say any more here…?!
As the sessions went on, they became easier, less nerve-wracking. We were able to answer more queries within the sessions and also take back more questions to our consultants. Whilst all the time becoming more and more familiar with the system itself and, for me, becoming a more confident trainer.
I still remember, a few days after go-live, I was carrying out some catch up training with a couple of users and they asked me if I had enjoyed working on the implementation. The looks on their faces when I said yes; they couldn’t believe my answer and I couldn’t believe they were surprised at my answer.
I had found my calling.
The years that followed…
Following this project and system implementation and everything that it entailed, I will admit that I had little desire to go back to quarterly budget monitoring. I did still have these management accounting responsibilities of course but they never quite held the same level of interest for me again. I was also coming towards the end of my CIPFA studies and finally qualified in 2012 – you can read all about that in my previous blog.
I continued to build my training role over the years, across all three systems that were now in place. New modules were implemented and upgrades issued, all of which would require training and testing. I created further user guides and drop in workshops for those users who perhaps needed a quick refresher on something.
At the beginning of 2013 I started researching teaching courses to improve on my skills and in March of that year, I attended my local college to study the PTLLS course (Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector). This course is aimed specifically at those who wish to teach post 16 students.
As the course went on, I was really pleased to discover that I was already using some of the techniques suggested but was also learning so much more. I wanted to put this into practice for real; I wanted to teach full-time.
This wasn’t an option in my current role and ended up in the very fortunate position to be able to take voluntary redundancy at the end of 2013 and pursue this new change of career.
Not all plain sailing
Some rocky times followed as I started, and then withdrew from, a full time PGCE course for Primary school age. I had thoroughly enjoyed my first term at Exeter University learning about all the theory and research behind teaching primary age children. The lecturers there were amazing, full of inspirational ideas to take into schools but, when I got into school, it wasn’t anything like that.
It did teach me one thing though, I wanted to teach adults.
Fast Forward to January 2018
I have spent the last two years teaching AAT for a distance learning provider; both on the old AQ13 syllabus and then seeing in the new AQ16 syllabus. Part of this role involved updating the learning materials in line with the syllabus change.
By the time I left, I had tutored around 250 students and seen them through nearly 450 exams. 96% of my students passed first time, of which I’m incredibly proud; it was all their hard work however, that got them through the exams. I merely provided the additional help and support required.
I’m especially proud to be one of two tutors who tutored the AAT’s 2017 Distance Learner of the Year. However, he deserves all the credit after all his hard work. You may well have read his story on the AAT Comment pages.
Despite all of the above, I had been feeling restless and wanting more from my role for a long time. (I know, some people are never satisfied). I wanted to take back control of my destiny and create my own AAT teaching career and so, in January 2018, I made the big decision to go it alone! On 7th April 2018, I launched Learn to Finance Ltd.
What does the future hold…?
First and foremost, if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this blog, thank you! I now start another chapter in my life and am excited for what lies ahead. I have so many ideas and avenues I wish to explore but one thing at a time, right?!
I have spent the last couple of months creating the revision packs that you may have seen on our website and this is an area of teaching that I really enjoy – the preparation. This will be ongoing for quite some time as I continue to build our Learn to Finance library.
I am also very pleased to say that since May 2018, I have been tutoring for Osborne Training on a freelance basis.
In the meantime, I look forward to meeting you and helping you pass your next exam.