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Corporate Governance

By Deborah Kops, founder and managing principal of Sourcing Change

Not too long ago I sat through a panel comprised of very experienced shared services leaders. And it hit me like a ton of bricks; although each was accomplished in his or her own way, every panellist’s path to leadership was very different.

So I came up with a typology of career paths which represent the usual cast of leader characters…and what kind of change they are typically called on to make. Are you a lifer? A loyalist? A moonlighter? Or an expert?

Look around at the players in our shared services community, and you’ll see four distinct pathways to leadership. Each pathway corresponds to the level of maturity of the model, and at the same time is shaped by the business context in which the model operates. Which pathway characterises your career? What kind of a shared services leader are you?

Firemen, teachers, accountants, architects, astronauts, drummers, or even hedge fund managers…ask any child what he or she wants to be when he grows up, and I highly doubt you’ll hear “I want to be a shared services leader.” The majority of professionals taking up their first positions find that their careers take twists and turns, often placing them in roles that they never knew existed.

When it comes to shared services leadership, there are a number of career paths that lead individuals into the role. However, looking more closely, four main pathways become obvious, each of which reflects the context in which shared services is operating, and the degree of change that the leader is expected to drive. Whether you’ve come up the ranks as a lifer, moved from another role in the same company, often to fix or accelerate delivery growth as a loyalist; hold a “day job” such as controller but implement shared services at the same time (the ‘moonlighter’); or come in from another organisation under the mandate to implement, expand or accelerate shared services (the ‘expert’), you have the same aim: advance the value of business service delivery.

So to validate my assumptions about this cast of characters, and see what kind of havoc they wreak (in a positive sense!) on their organisations, I partnered with sharedserviceslink (http://www.sharedserviceslink.com) on an industry-first survey. Check out our results by reading our very-easy-on-the-eyes infographic at http://www.sourcingchange.com/what-kind-of-a-shared-services-leader-are-you/.

Changing careers is a big decision to make, especially if you have no qualifications to fall back on, but that shouldn’t put you off. Lauren Lockwood ACCA member and former Gold Medal winning student explains how she moved from a career in retail to accountancy

I decided I wanted a change of career after working for 7 years in retail. My role was very sales focused but I had started to become involved in payroll and other financial matters with running a retail unit. I really enjoyed this part of my job however, it was only a small part of the role.

I went to see an adult career adviser and explained that I enjoyed working with numbers and managing budgets and he suggested that I should aim for a career in accounting. He helped me to update my CV. He pulled forward the areas that were key to a career in accounting such as organisation, time management and accuracy. He also explained that I would need to gain a qualification if I wanted to progress in this industry and he suggested ACCA as I had no previous experience in this area, no academic qualifications past my GCSEs and at the time I was not working in accounting.

I was really excited at the prospect of going back to college and at first I was really positive and I couldn’t wait to embark on my new career. However, it was not quite the fairytale I had imagined.

I applied to every accountancy firm in my home-town and neighbouring cities, explaining that I was really keen to become an accountant and that I was looking for a role with them to start my accountancy career. Although some of the companies did respond to let me know there were no vacancies, most didn’t even reply.

I was also applying for jobs online during this period, most through agencies, but the majority wouldn’t even consider me as I had no experience in the field.

I was recalled for a second interview which was looking for a school leaver at GCSE level to embark on an apprenticeship scheme, but in the end the role went to someone else. I was feeling quite deflated and I was desperate for an organisation to recognise my accountancy potential.

Fortunately a recruitment agency called Sewell Moorhouse replied to one of my applications and they thought they would be able to help me find a role. Very quickly they had an interview lined up for me; I didn’t get the first one but I received some very good feedback and I was ready to try again.

The second one which I applied for was to cover the maternity leave of a Purchase Ledger Junior with a company called Bramall Construction where I got the job. I was a little worried at first at being a junior when I was 23, but I shouldn’t have been as the company was fantastic. I worked very hard and I really loved the role. It was completely different to what I had imagined and involved a lot of administration but it turned out I was a natural at it and I just couldn’t believe it had taken me so long to get into accountancy.

This was only a temporary assignment so I was still looking for a permanent position while I studied. Sewell Moorhouse found me a role as a Sales Ledger Administrator at ABP UK, I am certain that one of the things that helped me to get the role was that I was about to start to study for my ACCA and it demonstrated that I was committed to improving myself and that with time I would be able to offer a lot more to the organisation.

That was five years ago and I am still with ABP UK. I have been exposed to many areas of accounting during my time with the company, gaining experience in Sales Ledger, Purchase Ledger, Management Accounts and I am currently supporting the Financial Accountant in her role.

I am delighted that I was able to change careers when I did and I have enjoyed every second that I have worked in accountancy. During the last five years I have finished my exams and I have also achieved a First Class Honours Degree with Oxford Brooks University, through ACCA.

It has been very hard as I have had to study as well as work full time but I wouldn’t change a second of it. I would recommend accountancy to anyone who enjoys working with numbers, keeping organised and being busy.