Dominic Buttery and Jas Rayat are the ICAEW Student Council Chair and Vice Chair for 2023-2024. They tell us about their plans and priorities for the coming year.
Tell us about your career and training so far.
Jas: Like many students, I’m studying via the Level 7 apprenticeship route. I started with AAT Level 3 at a small firm in Birmingham, as I thought that would be a good way to get used to the world of work and get plenty of hands-on experience. I then spent three years as an audit assistant at another small firm, where I started the ACA. I’m now in an accounts advisory role at BDO, working with a mix of small, medium and bigger clients. My training has been a bit delayed because of Covid, but I’ve now only got the Advanced Level Case Study exam left to go.
Dom: The Case Study was my favourite exam! I work in advisory now, so it’s the exam that’s helped me the most. I started off at a general accounting practice where I did a bit of everything, but mostly audit, and then I worked in risk and finance at an international wealth management group. When I qualified at the start of this year, I moved to Grant Thornton. We have a small office on the Isle of Man, where I’m based, but we’re part of the big Grant Thornton network.
How did you get involved with the ICAEW Student Council?
Jas: For me, it started from being at a smaller firm – there were only one or two others in a similar position, so I didn’t feel like I had a massive support network. I wanted to find like-minded people, as well as push myself out of my comfort zone and improve my networking skills. When I found the Birmingham Chartered Accountants Student Society, it seemed like the perfect way to meet people in a semi-formal environment – and everyone was so welcoming. There was a position available as an ICAEW Student Council rep and I thought it sounded good, so that’s how it all began.
Dom: I think that’s most people’s call to action, isn’t it? We all want to connect with each other. It’s so important to have a society that is larger than any individual or any one firm. I’ve always wanted to be involved in the future of things, to be part of the team that brings forward the next chapter. So, whenever opportunities have come along, I’ve always jumped at them. When I’m involved, invested and committed, I feel like I am at my best and contributing the most I can. That’s how I ended up becoming Chair of my local society and, eventually, Chair of the ICAEW Student Council.
What do you get out of volunteering?
Jas: When I take part in Q&A panels, or go into schools to talk to students about how they can get into accountancy, I feel like I’m giving back to the next generation. I’m passionate about social mobility and helping young people and others early in their professional path, so I get a lot of personal fulfilment from it. It’s also about developing my networking and communication skills, and it helps to create that support network for myself as I go through my training.
Dom: It’s been one of the biggest pillars of career development for me. Many of my colleagues comment on our ‘professional presence’, and I think that comes from working at that level alongside executives and senior members of ICAEW. As your responsibility rises, you too must rise to meet the challenge.
In your year as Vice-Chair, Dom, what have been your biggest challenges, and your proudest achievements?
Dom: Apart from coming out of the pandemic and taking the ICAEW Student Council back to a ‘new normal’, one of our biggest challenges has been just bringing everyone back together. We have got more student societies than ever, so it was about integration and returning to regular meetings to keep everything running smoothly. We’ve also been involved in exciting projects at the same time – the MyICAEW app, ICAEW vlogs and the ‘Hey ACA!’ campaign. Sam Hutson [the outgoing Chair] has also progressed a lot of initiatives that are even bigger and broader reaching, notably funding for underprivileged and disadvantaged people in the ICAEW community, which we continue to work on and remains of key importance to Jas and I. These are our big wins and our big challenges ahead.
What’s on your list for the coming year? Are there any issues that are particularly close to your heart?
Dom: A lot of what I’ll be doing is following on from the strategy we implemented last year. Some of the goals we set are two or three-year projects, so they might not be achieved by the time I finish and whoever succeeds me as chair will carry on those strategic initiatives. We’re also going to be meeting with the various regional student society chairs to make sure we’re still aligned with students’ most pressing concerns. A lot can change in a couple of years – two years ago we were dealing with the pandemic, but not a cost-of-living crisis. To remain at the top of our game, we must listen to students and come together to progress positively.
Jas: Promoting social mobility is close to my heart. Growing up, I didn’t know anyone who was an accountant, and without having those existing connections I didn’t have anyone to talk to or seek advice from. It can be very daunting if you don’t have those connections – I want to open it up so that young people have someone they can ask for advice. I went back to my old college this year to talk to students about my career journey in accountancy and answer their questions. A lot of the students seemed pretty worried at the thought of accountancy due to myths surrounding the profession and not having anyone to dispel the misconcenceptions. I never want anyone to fall under the false illusion of accounting stereotypes when considering their career.
And finally Dom, if you could give Jas one piece of advice for her year as Vice Chair, what would it be?
Dom: When you asked Sam that question last year, I think he said: ‘Don’t say yes to everything.’ That is cracking advice. And I learned that the hard way immediately after he said it, of course. The more visible you become, the more you are asked to help. It’s hard to say no, especially when they’re things you care about. But you have to put your own time, mental health and your ability to give 100% to something first. So listen to the wisdom of Sam: don’t say yes to everything - be selective!