From apprentice to finance manager – meet Anja!

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Tell us a bit about yourself

My name’s Anja and I’m 21. Outside of work, you’ll find me either socialising with friends, in the gym or jetting out of the country – I’m a sucker for a city break!

Why did you choose an apprenticeship?

In all honesty, I had never considered an apprenticeship before my final year of college. I’d achieved good grades throughout high school and was studying maths, physics and psychology at college.

Everyone was expecting me to go to university and I was offered a place to study mechanical engineering at Loughborough University. It was only when I got through to the final of a National School Leaver’s competition, held at the BT Tower in London, that I began to have my eyes opened to the world of apprenticeships.

At the final, there were representatives from 10 blue-chip companies including BT, the Bank of England and Campeggio just to name a few. They were all talking about degree apprenticeships and I became really intrigued to learn more about them. Essentially, I had 10 major businesses advising me to go for it, so it seemed like a good idea!

It was after this final that I began to have serious doubts about whether university was for me or if there would be a better route to kickstart my career.

I deferred my place at Loughborough and took a year out. It was during this time that I realised a higher apprenticeship was right for me. At the end of my course, I’ll be coming away with 3-4 years of experience and have a Level 7 Apprenticeship, which is the equivalent of a Master’s degree. It was a no brainer! Plus, I’m earning while I’m learning and will have no debt at the end of it.

What’s a typical day like for you?

One word – busy! My daily tasks vary from week to week during the month so it could be that I’m busy doing the bill run and making sure we’re invoicing all our customers correctly, finalising the month’s management accounts and preparing my presentation for the board, or I could simply be busy with gathering any ad-hoc financial analysis that is needed by anyone in the company. During quieter periods, I’ll take myself away and study for my next CIMA exam.

How much support do you get from Concert?

I honestly couldn’t have a more supportive employer – I’m so lucky. I sit an exam every 2-3 months and sometimes, it can be quite hard to balance a busy work life with studying for a challenging course. There’s no need to worry though, as my management team encourages me to spend days studying at home and allows me to come into the office at weekends so that I can study in a peaceful environment allowing me to focus. When I have an upcoming exam, I often tend to take over one of the meeting rooms for a few days so that I have a quiet place to revise. When I receive my results, my colleagues are always sure that this gets recognised and shared with the whole team.

Do you enjoy being an apprentice?

I enjoy being an apprentice at Concert, that’s for sure. I believe that I’m in a privileged position as I have a lot of responsibility, which I think is unusual for an apprentice. Concert has put a lot of trust and faith in me with the tasks that I’ve been given, and it’s made my work extremely rewarding. I know that after 4 years at Concert I’ll be in a much better position that after 4 years of university!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I’d like to hope I’d have completed my apprenticeship course with a distinction grade and passed all my CIMA exams, so hopefully I’ll be a chartered accountant!

What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking of doing an apprenticeship?

I’d say go for it! Choosing an apprenticeship over university was the best decision I’ve made. Although, one piece of advice I would give is that you’ll get back what you put into it – as cheesy as that sounds! I’ve only been given the opportunities I have because I worked hard in the beginning and continue to do so. I also wouldn’t make the mistake in thinking that an apprenticeship is the ‘easier’ option when it comes to further education. You’ll be working full time throughout your studies and if you don’t manage your time carefully, it can become quite overwhelming. However, you’ll reap the rewards if you manage to find that balance.

What tasks were you given when you started at Concert?

Billing was my main responsibility when I first started working at Concert. For the first few months, I was trained on the billing platform, the customers and all our products and services. I spent my time exploring our billing platform and shadowing both the financial director and financial controller when the bill run came around. During my third month, I was thrown into the deep end as I had to carry out the bill run on my own as the rest of the team were away on annual leave. It was a pretty nerve-wracking week for me, but it definitely gave me a chance to prove myself. Thankfully, everything went smoothly, and I was then rewarded with the responsibility of managing the whole billing platform.

What responsibilities do you have at Concert now?

18 months on and fortunately Concert think I’ve been doing a good job and have promoted me to become their finance manager. It’s such a big opportunity for me and I’m incredibly grateful to be given the chance. With the promotion, my role and responsibility has somewhat changed. I still manage the billing platform and carry out the monthly bill run, but I now also perform all bank reconciliations, manage the sales and purchase ledgers alongside our financial controller, carry out any ad-hoc financial analysis that is needed. Most excitingly though, I’m responsible for putting together and finalising the month-end accounts and I present these to the board at the monthly board meeting. Between all this, I also find time to continue my CIMA studies so that I can keep passing those exams!