Digital Services Manager

Sarah Smith

After leaving Bedford High School in 1998, I joined JS on a work placement scheme organised through Wigan & Leigh College.  This was my first job since leaving school.  In fact, it has been my only job since school.

My desire to gain work experience, and earn money, led me down the work placement route and my first role within the firm was part of the administration team.  During this time I gained an insight into office life and passed the NVQ Level 2 Administration Qualification, which I completed as part of a day release programme. 

I also took an interest in the firm’s business activity, being that of Chartered Accountants.  Needless to say, when an opportunity for a Trainee Accountant came up I jumped at the chance, and 10 months after starting with the firm, I began a new path that would ultimately lead me to where I am today.

At the time of starting as a Trainee Accountant, I had no higher education qualifications, and it was thought best to continue with the work placement scheme in order to take my AAT Qualification.  I continued to study at Wigan & Leigh College, swapping from day release to evening classes.  The qualification is the equivalent of NVQ Level 2 to 4 Accountancy. Three years later I passed my final AAT exams and obtained the full qualification which gave me the taste for taking my studies further.

At this point I considered the professional exam options available to me, being ACA (Association of Chartered Accountants) and ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants).  I chose the ACCA route.  The firm’s preferred study method was and still is, to study for all qualifications using a specialist college.  In my case, this was Kaplan in Manchester.  At the time I recall feeling quite daunted at the prospect of this; however, I needn’t have worried.  The college provided hands-on tutoring on a block release basis whereby the firm allowed me block days to attend college as part of a Study Package. Three years later I passed my final ACCA exams and became the firm’s youngest ACCA qualified accountant. 

While studying for my professional exams, I was also working through the ranks within the firm and at the time I qualified I was an Accounts Senior directly assisting an Accounts Manager.

After twelve months, an opportunity for me to take responsibility for my own portfolio of clients arose and I was promoted to Assistant Manager.   I enjoyed the added responsibility that this brought and I was delighted, at the age of 25, to be quickly promoted to Accounts Manager as we now call it.

After 10 years as an Accounts Manager, I was offered the opportunity to lead our Digital Strategy and develop our Digital Services.  This was a very exciting opportunity that required me to be heavily involved in developing new skills and delivering training to the whole firm and I feel my experience puts me in a great position to help and support them.  I thoroughly enjoy being part of my team’s individual success stories, like my predecessors before me. 

I feel that I have been incredibly lucky in the career path that I have chosen which stems from the decisions I made early in my career, and of course the hard work which I have put in.

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