Home 5 Career Spotlight 5 Ecovis Career Spotlight: Billy’s graduate apprenticeship journey

Ecovis Career Spotlight: Billy’s graduate apprenticeship journey

by Billy Iden

5 February 2024

We hear from Billy, our Senior Associate on his graduate apprenticeship journey to becoming a fully qualified Chartered Accountant.

“By completing a graduate apprenticeship, I gained work experience alongside completing the ACCA qualification, which meant in three years I became a Chartered Accountant… I may have missed a few nights out and a holiday or two, but to say now that I’m a Chartered Accountant is definitely my proudest achievement. It was all worth it.”

 

In this Ecovis Career Spotlight interview, we asked Billy Iden all about his graduate apprenticeship journey to becoming a fully qualified Chartered Accountant.

 

When did you decide you wanted to be an accountant and take the apprenticeship route?

It was during my time at Portsmouth University when I did an Economics degree. As part of my degree there were a few accounting units, which I quite enjoyed. I didn’t feel there was a job in the field of being an Economist. I chose the path of accountancy based on what I liked and career development opportunities.

In my second year at uni, the lecturers encouraged us to gain work experience and build on our CVs. One of my friends, who was an accountant at the time, introduced me to Ben Smith, a Partner at Ecovis, who hired me as an intern.

That summer, from June to September 2019, I worked at Ecovis full-time – this was when the office was downstairs on the second floor. So, I’ve been here a while now! After the summer, I went back to Uni for my final year. During that time, I continued to work part-time for Ecovis for fourteen or fifteen hours a week, which was a bit of pocket money for me!

This experience definitely helped me get used to the idea of working and studying at the same time – which is how an apprenticeship works. As it was my third year, I spent more time at uni than I was at work. Working from nine to five and then either revising in the evening for my final exams helped me learn the importance of finding a balance. Studying towards a degree and working at the same time takes a lot of hard work, and unless you have a healthy work-life balance in place you will burn out quickly.

I finished my degree, graduated and got my results back in July 2020 and then started working full-time again at Ecovis in September 2020. I began my apprenticeship straight away and sat my first exam in October. I have been an apprentice ever since until last month – when I completed my apprenticeship and qualified.

 

Tell us about your graduate apprenticeship and what it entailed.

I did an ACCA apprenticeship which involves taking and passing 13 exams to become a chartered qualified accountant. You must pass all those exams and few extra bits on the side for the apprenticeship.

From June to September 2022, I also had the opportunity to do a three month secondment with a company called JCDeaux in Brentford. You would have seen them on the advertisement boards at train stations, bus stops, airports – most of them are JCDeaux. That was a great experience. There are five or six divisions – I was the financial accountant for the rail division. Essentially, we had high volumes of information coming from different teams (sales, purchasing, marketing etc), I would collate everything and turn it into a huge import into their accounting system. The month-end was very busy! As they were a large firm in industry, it was not your typical set of management accounts, but a fantastic responsibility and experience which taught me a lot.

 

How long does it take to do the apprenticeship and become a Chartered Accountant?

The rough guideline is three years and that’s if you pass every exam the first time. You also need three years’ experience in the industry to become a Chartered Accountant. I think from when I first joined, I was here three years and two months until my final exam and obviously, with my work experience, probably four years and five months or so.

So, by completing an apprenticeship, I gained work experience alongside completing the ACCA qualification, which meant in three years I became a Chartered Accountant.

 

What did you enjoy about the apprenticeship?

It’s a great experience. It was a real insight to office life. Going from school to uni, I hadn’t had a summer or part-time job before. I had no idea what working in an office would be like, what the culture was or the environment, and what work was really. I was so used to studying, constantly learning – to have client responsibilities was really good experience.

I could also get support from others in the team who were doing their apprenticeship but had started their programmes a little earlier than me. There was always guidance and help from my colleagues.

 

What did you find challenging about the graduate apprenticeship?

The work-life balance is really hard especially around exam times. At Ecovis we get time off for college, which is great. But when it comes to revision – having to take days off or having to study for a few hours after work and on the weekends can be challenging. Some days, you don’t get out of the house because of work and study. It took a while for me to get into a routine that worked for me. Even taking a half hour break here and there just to walk to the shop and get out of the house was important. The most challenging part of the apprenticeship is finding this balance of work and revision during the week.

While completing the apprenticeship, I also trained as an Ecovis Mental Health First Aid Champion. This knowledge helped me appreciate the importance of a healthy work-life balance and being disciplined in taking time-out.

 

What top tip could you give an ACCA apprentice?

My top tip is you can never start too early. At the beginning of my programme, I would attend the tuition course and not revisit the course material as much as I should until the revision course a few weeks later.

However, for my last six or seven exams, I got into a good routine of sitting down for a few hours at a weekend and recapping what was done. There’s always a three or four-week gap between two courses, so it’s important not to waste that time as the exams come round fast. You can never get ahead of the game; you can only get behind. It takes discipline to say “no” to going out or meeting family and friends, or missing events and holidays around exam week every quarter. The main thing is that it pays off in the end. You find ways to work around it and you realise that once you’ve done it, missing all of those events are worth it. I may have missed a few nights out and a holiday or two, but to say now that I’m a Chartered Accountant is definitely my proudest achievement. It was all worth it.

 

I hope you celebrated!

Oh yes, definitely. It was good to celebrate with all of my colleagues after work and I had my family and some friends over at the weekend.

 

What’s next?

I don’t know yet! I got my results last Sunday / Monday morning (14 Jan 2024). I’ll be having a Partner catch-up where we’ll talk about my future career development in the next couple of weeks. I’m relieved the exams are over and excited about my future!

 

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