Tuesday, 06 August 2019 13:31

Technological advances throughout my career

When I look at the work I do now as cloud accounting senior manager for AAB it is a very long way – geographically as well as professionally – from when I started out. I did a law degree, but was always interested in business and finance, so becoming a chartered accountant seemed like a good move. Working in the audit departments for two of the big accounting firms in London and the South East was a different world to the one I inhabit now, certainly in terms of technology. No computers in the office, other than those used for admin – just think, no Excel, no email! Computer systems at clients were largely main frame computers housed in special rooms, and as an audit junior I remember being given reports to add up – because we had to prove the computer had done it properly.

And yet here I am now, with technology at the very core of everything I do at work, whether for clients or in the office. It’s been an interesting path - the gamechanger was when, after a family career break, I was asked by a friend if I’d go and work for him, setting up and running training courses on Sage software, and delivering support to clients. I’d left the profession just as desktop software was becoming more widely used - I still remember being given a demo of how to use a mouse - and yet here I was being asked to take on a role I had absolutely no idea about! But what my friend had spotted was that his engineers and the accountants they were training spoke a different language, and he thought an accountant could bridge that gap. It was a very steep learning curve; I was taught the software from the inside out, and then wrote the training courses, so although I am certainly not a techie and couldn’t write code to save my life I understood how the software was working, and I learnt how to apply the accounting and audit skills I had learnt in practice to real-life business situations.

But even then I could not have envisaged the way cloud accounting would revolutionise how businesses work and where that would take me. About 9 years ago a client told me he wanted to change from his Sage desktop software to this new Xero cloud-based software which had recently come over to the UK from New Zealand. I’ll admit now I wasn’t convinced and honestly thought it would never catch on! And I’ll admit too that I was wrong.

At a personal level technology enables us to be in touch, keep up to date, share information, ideas, make plans - and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to do so! When my brother married an American girl in Texas almost 30 years ago my father compared the world as it was then with that of 30 years earlier, when he, a Yorkshireman living in Plymouth, married a Cornish girl; and 30 years before that when his own parents had met whilst living in neighbouring towns. Over those years things had changed, the world had shrunk and what was unimaginable to his parents’ generation was now an accepted part of our lives as we travelled across the Atlantic for the celebrations.

I love technology – whether it’s keeping in touch with the US family through video calls, or family chat groups, following family members as they travel around the world or even sharing momentous sporting occasions. I’ll always remember sitting in South Queensferry listening to the World Cup semi-finals last summer, chatting with family in San Diego, London, York and Kent. I’ve always loved photography, and that hobby has been revolutionised first of all by my digital SLR camera - my pride and joy! - and now by my phone. I love being able to share my photos with old friends as I explore my new surroundings in Scotland, or work on my new home.

And I love the difference technology has made to my career. I’ve seen so many times the difference it can make to a business where owners or managers are engaged with their finances and their accountant, and it gives me a real buzz to hear the positive reactions you get from users where you’ve had an impact. Joining AAB last year gave me two fantastic opportunities – to move to Scotland, which I’d been talking about for some time, and to work with AAB as we develop our cloud offering both internally and to clients. It’s challenging, change is never easy and as accountants I think we are naturally a little cautious. But if you think about the changes you accept in your personal life, and the many benefits they bring, it makes it less frightening and easier to understand that change at work can be good too.

And you’re never too old to change – it’s not just the millennials that ‘get’ technology. Those of us who have been around slightly longer have seen huge changes, adapted to them, and actually enjoyed them! When I was doing my Chartered Accountancy training in London all those years ago I could not have dreamed that I would end up helping to drive technological change - so if there’s one lesson I’ve learned along the way it’s be open-minded, and take opportunities when they arise. You never know where it might lead!

Hilary Dyson, Senior Manager.