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Meet the students representing you

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 28 May 2021

New chair
Dan Gaukrodger, ICAEW Student Council (ISC) Chair

Dan Gaukrodger and Sam Hutson are the ICAEW Student Council (ISC) Chair and Vice Chair for 2021-2022. We chat to them about their plans and priorities for the next year.

Dan Gaukrodger, ISC Chair

Tell us a bit about your job.

I qualified last year, and I’m actually teaching now – I teach AAT, ICAEW, CIMA, ACCA. I trained with a small accountancy firm, and towards the end of my training agreement the partner I was working with was winding up the practice. It just so happened that there was a vacancy where I was studying, and they approached me and said they thought I’d be good at it. It’s a bit different to be newly qualified and in a teaching position, but I’m really enjoying it. I did AAT to ACA, and it’s nice to be able to speak to people about the different routes and see their own journeys.

When did you first get involved with your local student society?

It was probably about five years ago now. I started my training agreement, but I did a year of AAT first and then moved on to the ACA. I was in a very small firm – there was just me and the partner and a receptionist – so I wanted other young people to speak to! Our student society was very small too; I’m up in Lancashire, so geographically we’re a bit challenged.

What prompted you to join the ISC?

I became the local representative about two years ago, and went to my first meeting down in London at Chartered Accountants’ Hall. When I first went I didn’t know what to expect from it. You hear the words ‘Student Council’ and you think it might be a bit boring, but going to a couple of meetings and seeing that people at the institute really want to listen to students, that was the main thing for me, and they are there to help people through their studies and beyond. Speaking to high-level decision makers – people in charge of the syllabus, or the new exam software – it was really good to have that interaction and see that the institute does listen to us and take our views on board.

What are the issues affecting students that are particularly close to your heart?

One of the big things that Fiyza, last year’s Chair, and I as Vice Chair have been looking at is diversity and inclusion. It’s just so wide and encompassing, and it’s become such an important issue – there’s a new position on council now for a Diversity and Inclusion representative. So looking at that and the full breadth of what it involves; it’s not just about race, it’s about socio-economic background and the different ways into chartered accountancy. You don’t have to go to university and then get a training agreement, there are all sorts of different ways you can go into it.

What do you hope to achieve in your year as ISC Chair?

It will be nice to continue on with that, looking at the representation of all sorts of people within the institute, and the ways that people become chartered accountants or ACA students. I used to be a hairdresser and now I’m a chartered accountant – I’m not saying that anyone can do it, because it’s not easy, but it doesn’t matter what you’ve done up to a certain point. And that’s really important. So it’s about opening it up to everyone, and reaching out to colleges and schools to get the message out there that you don’t have to go to university and get student loans and thousands of pounds’ worth of debt if you don’t want to; there are other ways into it. That way you’re opening it up to people who otherwise might not think of it as a career.

How has volunteering helped your professional development?

Chairing meetings and presenting to people has certainly made a difference, and obviously that’s my job now: to teach people things by speaking to them. I was asked the other day to speak at an event in September where there will be 3,000 people, and that’s fine, I have no issue with that sort of thing now. When I was in practice, volunteering and going to events really helped me understand more about the future – we had a presentation on the Brydon report and the future of audit, for example – things that might not seem entirely relevant now, but will definitely impact our careers and the way the profession is going to change. You can put as much into volunteering as you want to, and get out of it as much as you want to. Even just people turning up to events, giving their time to come and meet other students, that’s a great thing to do. If you don’t want to be involved in the committee that’s OK, but come to the event and make it worthwhile for the people who are planning them. Sometimes the word networking scares people, but it’s just talking to other people!

Are you looking forward to the return to normality, and a chance to connect with people again?

When I was doing my application to put myself forward as Chair, I was reading back over what I’d written for Vice Chair last March, and I thought, ‘You just don’t have a clue what’s coming!’ Obviously things have been very different over the past 12 months; we’ve had to hold our meetings virtually, and we’ve had a lot less time to get things done. But one benefit has been that we’ve had a lot more international engagement – we’ve had Cyprus, Greece, the Middle East, Malaysia and Mauritius student groups virtually attending at council meetings, and that’s something we’ve never had before because they’re usually held in London. It’s so much better to have people with international views and see how they’re running their student societies, especially as a lot of them are quite new. But I’m definitely looking forward to being able to have in-person meetings again – some of us have been on the council together for two or three years and we haven’t seen each other for 18 months now. So just having a chat and really getting to know people – without always sticking to an agenda!

Sam Hutson, ISC Vice Chair

New chair
Sam Hutson, ICAEW Student Council (ISC) Vice Chair

Tell us a bit about your job.

I work for a small firm called Colin Hutson Accounting in Northallerton, North Yorkshire. It’s my parents’ firm, and it’s very much a family business – two cousins work here too. I actively avoided becoming an accountant for the longest time because my dad was one! But I did a business degree and a management masters, and by that time I’d realised that accounting isn’t just one thing, it’s a thousand different things. I’d also found an area I was really interested in – small businesses – which means I get to do a little bit of everything. You get a nice variety of work across your desk and all sorts of different clients, and being a small firm you really feel like you’re part of the local community.

When did you first get involved with your local student society?

When I started my ACA training, I was working for another small firm, and the Vice Chair of NCASS [the Northern Chartered Accountant Students’ Society] at the time got in touch with me about becoming a local representative. It was a bit of an intimidating sales pitch because it felt like I was being thrown in at the deep end going straight into a representative role! But actually, because of the committee around me, it really wasn’t too difficult to step into, and after a while you make the role your own. You learn what you’re supposed to do and what you need to leave to somebody else, and what can reasonably be expected of you and what is maybe too much for someone who is working and part-time studying.

What prompted you to join the ISC?

I got involved with the Student Council last year. I’ve always had a connection with people on the committee because of my role at NCASS, and spoken to them about what’s going on, but I wanted to start hearing it first-hand. It was a way to develop connections for my region with ICAEW’s Education and Training team, and make sure that our students feel heard and valued by them. They already get lots of feedback from students of course, but it’s about having that extra voice and having someone that students feel they can talk to who can then go and talk to the Education and Training team on their behalf. We’re in a social media world now – you can send a tweet or a Facebook message, but even if someone responds it can feel like you’re shouting into the void. So having someone who comes back to you and says, “I have had a response, they have said this” helps people feel like something is being done.

What are the issues affecting students that are particularly close to your heart?

One of my passions that I like to talk about at committee meetings is exams, because they’re just all-consuming when you’re a student, aren’t they? When I was studying I didn’t pass first time, and that was entirely down to the anxiety and stress I felt while I was doing those exams. So my secondary goal is to improve access to the mental health and wellbeing support that’s on offer from ICAEW and CABA. I want to make sure that students know it’s there – of course not everybody needs it, but for those who do, having that support system can be invaluable.

What do you hope to achieve in your year as ISC Vice Chair?

I want to keep that line of communication between our students and the Education and Training team, and ICAEW as a whole. There are plenty of people within ICAEW willing to lend an ear, but from the outside it can feel like things are moving quite slowly – just because there are so many things to get through. So any way that I can reassure people that ICAEW is doing the right thing, or trying to do the right thing, and that things are being done. But also to feed back when things need to be fed back. Ultimately that’s all we can reasonably do, isn’t it – just be that communication line, and that place for people to come to who need it. That’s something I’ve tried to do for my region but now, as Vice Chair, it’s something I need to do for, well, everybody!

How has volunteering helped your professional development?

It’s definitely helped my organisational skills, and also working with others to achieve a wider goal. My public speaking and networking skills have improved dramatically too. I understand that volunteering is not for everyone, and I know that people have a lot of commitments both inside and outside work, but it’s been invaluable for me, and for my firm. Every meeting I go to I get this feeling that there’s a bunch of people just trying to do good here, and you get a real sense of achievement. You also get that connection with your peers, a camaraderie and a support system that can be difficult to find elsewhere. Over the past year it’s helped to keep things relatively normal for me, having that regular meeting each month with familiar faces. And it’s been really good seeing everyone take on this challenge and come up with new ways of doing things.

Are you looking forward to the return to normality, and a chance to connect with people again?

Absolutely. I can’t wait to get out there again, to go down the pub and have a burger and talk nonsense with a group of mates! But it will be nice to go and see clients face to face again too. You can’t necessarily get the same feedback on a Zoom call, so professionally it’s been a bit stifling in that regard. Obviously we still try our best despite the circumstances and I think we’ve done really well, but it’s never going to be the same, and you feel like you’re less able to give the personal touch that you’re known for.

The ISC and ICAEW student societies bring together ACA students from around the world, providing a voice and a feedback mechanism for you and thousands of training students.

Find out more about the ICAEW Student Council

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