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Deirdre Hughes

Deirdre Hughes Principal Research Fellow

Be Inspired Series

Ronnie Patton

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants

From a junior accounts clerk Ronnie Patton became an ACCA member and completed an MBA As well as a teaching diploma and is now working full-time in education

What is your educational background?

I’m a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and I have an MBA. On entering teaching, I completed an Advanced Diploma in Education at the University of Ulster. Although I have to say that working in third level education means that you are constantly reviewing, learning and gaining new techniques and for me this has been as educational as any of my formal qualifications.

What was your very first job?

Junior accounts clerk in the Milk Marketing Board for Northern Ireland - now United Diary Farmers. It gave me a great grounding in accounting which has stood me in good stead to this day - sorting out the inevitable errors helped me to develop a logical approach and problem solving skills, key skills for any accountant. The job also confirmed that I had passion working within the accounting profession, even though I knew my long term goal was to work in education. Yes accountants can be passionate!

What made you decide to pursue your present career?

Becoming an ACCA member is a really flexible and transferable qualification and I believe it was a great qualification to have as it kept many doors open to me, including teaching.

Having completed my MBA, I was then offered an opportunity to teach part-time in my local college. I found the interaction with students and sharing the buzz that they got from passing exams to be extremely rewarding. When a full-time post came up, I applied for it and I can honestly say that I’ve never regretted that decision.  

How long have you been in your current position?

I’ve been there since January 2004 and have seen some seismic changes.  

Does your role offer ongoing training and development?

Absolutely! It’s not so much a case of offering but a pre-requisite. In education you must continually review and assess all your processes and procedures not only from a personal perspective but also from a departmental. The University is totally committed to providing opportunities, which means that my ‘quota’ for Continuing Professional Development is usually achieved by April.

What does a typical working day involve?

Part of the joy of my job is that there is no ‘typical’ day. Some days will be heavily loaded with teaching, but there will often be meetings as well. The motivation is that almost every day involves interaction with students or colleagues – all of which I have to say I find really stimulating.

What are your main responsibilities?

Apart from preparation, researching and teaching classes, setting and marking assessments which takes a considerable amount of time, I have responsibility for running and developing our ACCA course at the University. I also oversee UUJ’s short courses. One way I’d like to develop this area is increasing the University’s involvement in delivering CPD for ACCA members.  

What skills do you need?

There are many skills needed in the teaching profession but if you don’t have passion and are not a communicator your other skills are redundant because you won’t pass them onto your students. Other useful skills include technical skills, good time management, motivation, speed-reading and organisation.

What’s the best thing about your job?

It’s getting the best out of my students and seeing them achieve their goals.  It might be a bit clichéd but for teachers it is so true, there’s no greater buzz than seeing a student growing in confidence and starting to believe in themselves.

And the worst?

Whilst seeing students achieve their goals is a highlight, one of the worst aspects of my job is when someone misses out. It’s hard not to share in their disappointment but that’s when educationalists come into their own. It’s when we need to lift the student and work with them to develop their opportunities.

What personal qualities does your job require?

Where do I start - desire to help people to learn,  willingness to continue learning, openness to new ideas, creativity, ability to listen, empathy, persistence, patience, judgement, openness, stamina, energy, enthusiasm, real interest in the subject, and a reflective approach  - I think that just about covers everything.  Oh yes, a sense of humour is key, I think I have one, but not everyone appreciates it!

What advice would you give to someone wishing to pursue a similar career?

Try to find a part-time post to see if you enjoy it. Although opportunities might be a bit limited at present, there aren’t many career options that you can test in this way.

When you get an opportunity to teach, remember that no matter how motivated you are, not every student will respond in the way you would want them to. Sometimes the reason for this is outside your control. That can be frustrating.

However, more often than not, a little support and encouragement can help to remove the obstacle – so keep the communication lines with students open. When that works it is incredibly rewarding.

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