F

Financial Services

What exactly do you do for a living?
I advise large pension schemes how to invest their money.

How did you get interested in what you do?
I found this by accident after working in financial services for many years.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
Got some Highers and went to Uni to study law, but dropped out after a year. Went to work for an insurance company as a clerk, became a salesman for them, then an independent financial adviser and later moved into advising large institutions on their
investments.

Talk us through a day in your life
Very varied. Lots of emails and often travelling to London to visit clients and attend their meetings. I am a partner in my firm so I also have partner meetings and meetings about running the business. We have 600 staff so it is a big responsibility.

Was this your planned career when you were 18?
Lawyer

What did your parents want you to do?
Lawyer

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
Get a good degree because that is the entry point these days. It does not have to be in finance or maths. Then get into a good firm that will offer a good training programme to help you develop your skills.

What other career directions could you go in?
I know quite a lot about finance and investment so could work for a bank, fund manager or other financial business. I do work as a volunteer on a charity board.
It is a very varied career and the most enjoyable part is meeting lots of different people and helping them solve their financial problems.

Financial Services 2

What do you do for a living?
I provide financial advice on major public sector capital projects, such as new hospitals and schools. My job title is Assistant Director – Infrastructure Advisory

How did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?
I worked for the NHS after doing my degree and got involved in big projects then as part of a wider job. I found it a really interesting role and have been doing it pretty much ever since. When I did my degree in Business Studies, we were offered six month placements in business/industry, and I did one of these in the health service, which is how I got into the NHS, and went back to work there after my degree was finished.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
After I started work in the NHS (down in England) I joined a training scheme where I was able to qualify as an accountant, funded by the NHS. I then moved up to Edinburgh, still in the NHS and worked for the Scottish Government, where I was responsible for managing projects involving new health facilities – hospitals, health centres and the like. I did that for a few years and then got asked by the big accounting firm Deloitte to work for them advising on projects, mostly those using the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). I worked there for a few years and then was asked by another big firm, Ernst & Young, if I wanted to go and work for them, which I did and have been there now for 9 years. I’ve never applied for a job or had a proper job interview in my life!

Talk me through a day in your life… what sorts of things would it involve?
Most of the time, I’m hired by clients who want me to advise them on their project – this is usually a Council or part of the NHS and usually in Scotland, although I’ve done work in England, Ireland and Wales and Ernst & Young do a lot of work in my field in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Africa and the Middle East. I’d usually help my clients by looking at different options, work out the cost of the project and apply for Government funding for it. I then help them look for a private sector partner who’ll design and build the new hospital/school for them, helping them specify what they want and then evaluating tenders that come in from private sector organisations who want to win the business and picking the winner. The whole project can take several years to complete. Some of these projects are big – as much as half a billion pounds – and can be very complex. At the moment, I’m helping on the project to build the new Sick Kids Hospital in Edinburgh and also on a new Hospital project for Dumfries. I don’t really have a typical day, but I might be in meetings with the public sector client, in negotiations with bidders or with the banks or other investors who want to fund the project, or writing business cases, tender documents or evaluating tenders. I have a small team of four people who work for me on these projects, so some of the time I’m managing them.

Was it your planned career when you were 18?
I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do then – I sort of drifted into doing what I do now.

What did your mum and dad want you to do?
I don’t think they had any idea either. My dad was a bookmaker and Mum didn’t work – anything but a bookie, I guess.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
Go and speak to people – most people are very helpful and keen to talk about their work, so someone interested in a career doing what I do can easily find out more. It’s helpful to be good with numbers but not essential – I didn’t do a Maths Higher, for example.

What other directions could you go in /work in within your field other than the job you have chosen?
I could have stayed in the NHS or the Civil Service and become an NHS manager or worked in other parts of the Civil Service. In Ernst & Young, other parts of the firm do all sorts of other work like auditing, advising on mergers and acquisitions, tax and other types of financial advice, which I could move into, but I like doing what I do now.

Freelance designer
What do you do for a living?
Although ‘design’ is the title of what I now do for a living, I neither trained nor qualified in it, so occasionally I still feel a ‘chancer’!

How did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?
My lifelong interest was always to paint. There was no formal career advice as such, simply the desire to follow that which fascinated….

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
After qualifying from Art School (Aberdeen) a career as a professional artist began. It worked, after a fashion, for the next twenty years. However, the arts are a wide spectrum and need and chance play a huge part. As well as exhibitions and sale of paintings and printmaking, roles in illustration, theatre design, and particularly in book publishing played an increasing part. Working closely with authors and responding to the need for visual metaphor to words has always intrigued me. With this and growing involvement in working for different publishers, the need to have an in-depth understanding of all the processes of printing, book production and design meant learning new skills. Being self-employed, formal training was unavailable, however it came nonetheless. I have to admit that occasionally it came through my making alarming errors and simply having to repair them!

Talk me through a day in your life… what sorts of things would it involve?

I am self-employed and work from home. Although no longer a painter, something I remain very grateful for is the sound training in the visual arts at art school. It still informs the essential grounding to all that has followed. This varies considerably from day to day. Most frequently I am involved in printed guides (and have just completed a series for a Kenyan wildlife trust to help train their rangers tackle poaching). Then there is website development for every form of need. Indeed, a day can be totally surprising and perhaps it is this variety and the need to respond quickly to the unexpected that I value most.

Was it your planned career when you were 18?
definitely not…

What did your mum and dad want you to do?
Their advice was anything but art, based I imagine on the reality that there is very little financial security in the arts. With my father being in the Armed Services, such advice was not surprising. Yet I was lucky in that they never vetoed my choice nor tried forcing me into accepting their views. Once qualified and practising as an artist, a certain resignation came I think!

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?

I rather suspect that a certain degree of ignorance may be ‘bliss’ for a career in the arts! Not to advocate ignorance, yet perhaps because the process of becoming successful as an artist is something of a tightrope act. Arrogance, hubris and often downright stubbornness(! ) can all have a necessary part to play to enable an artist to work through the often alarming facts of a reality in which no one offers you a secure ‘job’. An inner certainty is definitely key to becoming an artist therefore. Sometimes it is impossible to see beyond the moment you are in. In actual fact I have drifted away from artist into design, partly for financial stability, partly in order to work more closely with others, yet also because the freedom of the artist still remains (even if the price is a more restricted practice). In terms of advice therefore I would suggest that to be an artist you definitely need to ‘burn from within’ and ‘know you have to do it’ whatever anyone else will tell you to the contrary. For a graphic designer the creative dream can still remain a guiding light, the creative spark lies within the daily practice and the tightrope act is mercifully less stressful. For both artist and designer, I believe you must love what you do… it simply wont work otherwise!

What other directions could you go in /work in within your field other than the job you have chosen?

Choosing which way to go at any one moment is usually close to a sense of ‘this needs doing’ or ‘this really needs a solution’. The scope may be wide yet I rather suspect that I, like others, carry the tools of the trade with us unaware of what lies ahead. In this, perhaps like the old annual Hiring Fairs for the rural trades each year, we await whatever chance there is to apply our trade and skills to whatever opportunities or employers ‘for our destiny’ may be out there!

If there is anything you have not covered about your area of expertise, please feel free to add here.

Perhaps if you can say with confidence “I would love to do that!” then an inner flame is born. To choose a profession, I might suggest that only that guiding inner flame is worth anything and it is best to forget the rest! However, if that is an artist’s privilege, then don’t believe me… but try it for yourself!