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Be Inspired Series

Laura Jackson

Audit Director
BDO

Laura trains over 40 trainee accountants as well as providing client support from BDO’s Belfast office

What does your job entail?

As audit director I have two main responsibilities – I provide financial reporting and business advice to a range of firms which include some of Northern Ireland’s Top 100 companies along with small to medium sized businesses (SMEs). In addition I manage the education and training of some 43 trainee accountants based in our office in Belfast.

For many companies, audit is a statutory obligation so our role is to understand what each business does, test systems and audit, and express an opinion on the financial statements.

Many SMEs prepare management accounts on a quarterly basis; they often don’t have an accountant so our role can sometimes be to provide up-to-date financial information on the company’s performance. 

With regard to training, we work with accountancy graduates to provide a training and development programme which provides each with a range of skills allowing them to become comprehensive business advisors (and fully qualified chartered accountants). A key part of the learning process for each trainee is on-the-job training and a lot of what I have learnt came from my early experience here at BDO. 

Is the job 9-5?

The job is definitely not 9-5. In order to meet deadlines I regularly work long hours including weekends. This is necessary where there are statutory reporting deadlines and important client reporting deadlines  

How did you get into this line of work?

I’ve always been interested in numbers and in business, so being a chartered accountant means I have the opportunity to pursue both interests in my job. 

Outline your career to date?

Whilst at school I did work experience at an accountancy firm which sparked my interest in accountancy. I graduated with a degree in accountancy from Queen’s University Belfast and then completed a Masters in advanced accounting at the University of Ulster. 

I joined BDO 10 years ago as a trainee and qualified as a chartered accountant in 2005. Since then I’ve gone through a series of promotions and was appointed director in March 2010. 

Tell us about your qualifications/training.

In my final year at school I was awarded the Institute of Directors Sir Ian Gow Scholarship which provided sponsorship and business mentoring throughout my time at Queen’s. 

My Masters at the University of Ulster provided an in-depth study of accountancy which meant I only had one set of professional accountancy exams to complete when I joined BDO. 

Training is ongoing and I still receive regular training and development here at BDO. 

What qualities are required for your job - personal and professional?

Professionally I always have to ensure that I keep abreast of technical advances and changes in accountancy practice. Beyond that we must be cutting-edge in our approach and it’s critical we stay ahead of the competition whilst always ensuring a client’s audit process results in a robust, value added audit for the client.

In any client-facing role good communication is vital – at times like this it’s important we understand the pressures and challenges faced by clients and how we can respond to their needs. 

Personally, you need to be able, available and affable – the more you put in, the more you are rewarded. 

What is the best advice you ever received? 

Treat other people as you would like to be treated yourself. 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I’ve two very young children aged five and three and all my spare time is devoted to them and my husband.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.

I was one of four people who was awarded the IoD’s Sir Ian Gow Scholarship which included business placements right through my degree.

I worked at Action Cancer during my summers at Queen’s and it gave me a unique insight at an early age about all aspects of their organisation – financial management, strategic planning, lobbying and PR.

The scholarship also provided mentoring which definitely gave me a taste of the kind of businesswoman I would like to be.

Who has inspired you most in your life?

Personally my parents have inspired me throughout my life – their strong work ethic was always a great example to follow.

Professionally I admire anyone who is courageous enough to go out, set-up and run a business themselves -the people who have vision, the risk takers, the innovators and entrepreneurs.

How do you get the best out of people? 

It is important that I share all the knowledge that I have with our team. The more you share, the more you teach, the better people become. 

Any director should try to ensure that the people they work with and teach become better than them. I need people on my team who know what I know to make sure that our clients are getting the best service. 

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