How did I get here?

When I say here, I really mean a partner in a Chartered Accountancy practice, a wife, mum, MLM businesswomen, twitterholic and now a blogger!  Quite a lot for a 25 year old (I thought if I said 21 you wouldn’t have believed me!)

Having left school without any A-levels, my Saturday retail job became my day job.  I was grateful but knew I needed to do more.  I heard about a new Littlewoods store being developed in the town’s shopping arcade, so went to the Job Centre in the hope of a more secure job perhaps with some training and opportunities.  I completed the application form stating that I was willing to be flexible, pretty much take anything they were willing to offer!  I sat an aptitude test and attended an interview.  I was confident that it had gone well and I would be offered at least a part-time position.  I was given the role of a full-time senior-sales assistant and would be responsible for the ladieswear department, approximately one third of the store! I was utterly amazed and my confidence and self-esteem was bolstered further when I turned up for the training to find out I was employee number 001.  I loved that job, but it was hard work.

During this time, I attempted to rectify my poor education record by studying A-level economics at the local college.

At 19 I was engaged and I left home (ran away to be accurate).  Commuting became a nightmare, it just didn’t suit me.  I needed to find another job.  I applied for several retail positions in Cambridge and the surrounding areas, but my heart wasn’t in it, I wanted more, a career. 

A temporary position at Alliance & Leicester in Huntingdon covering maternity leave intrigued me as I always had an interest in finance.  Again I sat an aptitude test and was interviewed by the area manager.  I was surprised when I was invited to attend a second interview at the Ely branch.  It transpired that once again I had excelled in the aptitude test and a permanent job was being created for me!  Customer service combined with investment knowledge would prove to be the stepping stone to my career in accountancy, not that I was aware of my destiny at this point.

A member of the family was a tax accountant, which gave me the impotus to research this career option.  After a chance conversation with a customer, I was invited to interview at a small rural accounting practice in the village where I lived.  That very evening, I attended the first lesson of a GCSE book-keeping course at the regional college, which I really enjoyed.  With my husband’s support, I jumped in the deep end and left Alliance & Leicester to persue a new career and have never looked back.

After attaining a GCSE grade A, I moved on to the AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) and found myself amoungst fellow students who seemed to progressing faster than me in their working lives.  The practice I was working for was very traditional and there wasn’t much room for progression.  Whilst I liked being there, I knew that I could not accept the lack of opportunities.  Whilst scanning the local paper I noticed an advert for a semi-senior accounts clerk at George Hay in Huntingdon. I decided to apply to see if I could get an interview because I wanted to find out what a bigger practice had to offer.  The paper wasn’t recent so rather than write in I called the partner responsible and hand delivered my C.V.  I was invited to interview and within two hours of leaving the office I was called and offered the job!  Same salary but much better training package.  That wasn’t meant to happen, I was just being nosey!

I had the weekend to mull it over, but to be honest the decision was already made.  I handed in my resignation – the best decision I have ever made.

I completed the AAT course, and moved on to ACCA, qualifying in 2001.

Shortly after I joined HBN, a friendly, sociable business network that helped me to develop my confidence, profile in the community and exposure to business people.  I repaid the organisation by acting as secretary to the committee, treasurer and then finally chairperson.  I truly believe that it was this involvement and committment to the business community that differentiated me from my peers and showed the partners that I had potential to drive their business forward. 

In May 2007, I became the first female partner of George Hay, something I am very proud of and humbled by as less than 11% of partners in practice are female and not least because I left school without any qualifications, proving that hard work, determination and enjoyment of your work goes a very long way. 

Billy and Henry HunterIn January 2008, Billy was born fulfilling another ambition of mine.  He is the light of my life, he gives me so much joy and pride that makes me even more determined to succeed in my career – but above all enjoy life.  Introducing Billy to his baby brother, Henry in January 2011 was wonderful.

12 Comments

  1. Maxine says:

    What a pleasant read and encouraging story for others! Well done on balancing career and family and finding time to network and pass on advice to others 🙂 Thanks.

  2. Penny Ritson says:

    This is the kind of inspirational story which will give young people a boost and remember poor exam results or lack of jobs is not the end of the story. How many helpful messages there are – believe in yourself, never give up, take opportunities, be true to yourself, a journey of 1000 miles begins with the first step!
    And parenthood is of course a whole new journey with unexpected twists, turns, challenges and joys – everyone unique!
    Thank you for sharing this Toni – as you know sharing is what we believe in at FreshTies.

  3. Gareth Howell says:

    Great post Toni; really inspiring.

    It just goes to show that a poor start does not have to be the determinant of your final outcome.

  4. Oma Edoja says:

    Lovely story, Toni! Very inspirational.
    Congrats and well done.
    More people should hear your story.
    I’m retweeting right now!

  5. gee backhouse says:

    Thank you for introducing yourself. You certainly qualify as one inspirational woman! Quite an adventurer, too. All the best, Gee

  6. Toni says:

    adventurer? that’s not a word usually associated with accountants!
    Thank you for the compliment, it was not my intention to inspire, but I’m obviously pleased if I have.

  7. Ken Seymour says:

    Great share Toni, as others have mentioned it is inspirational. A compelling read. Good to see addition of Henry.

    Keep up the good work which shows that it is what you do with what you have that’s with.

  8. Jonathan Wilson says:

    Very interesting reading your story. Maybe one day I will bore you with my story lol I enjoy following your tweets and blog, keep it up. Regards jon

  9. Toni says:

    Thank you Jonathan, I am sure your story is not boring and should be shared. Rest assured that I will keep up the blogging and tweeting 🙂

  10. Paul Snotra says:

    Hey Toni I like your blog 🙂

  11. Karen Dickinson says:

    What an inspirational story Toni – thanks for sharing and thank you for looking after me and my accounts so well – it’s a pleasure to know you and to do business with you

  12. julie buck says:

    I am truly humbled by your amazing story Toni…having known you for many years, I’m embarrassed that I never knew any of your early background…you are SUCH an inspiration to many others and I congratulate you for sharing your wonderful story…I wholeheartedly agree with the comments from Penny (above)
    You’re one hell of a woman…and someone I’m very proud to also call a very dear friend 🙂

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