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Overcoming Hidden Challenges – Guest Blogger Mimi Beard

Date: 30 Jul

Guest blogger Mimi Beard highlights the extra challenges that she has faced on her road to meaningful employment. Her original blog can be found on her Medium blog page.

The life of a trainee accountant is an interesting one. Not only do you get your classical training, sat in a classroom stripping the complexity that comes with accountancy to basic rules and laws; you also get all the ups and downs of working in a practice.

Although some think that accountants just look at what and when monies are spent, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Our job is not just to execute the wishes of our clients but also to learn, understand and help them to achieve their dreams, and ambitions. We are there to support and advise our clients through good and bad patches alike.

But there’s more. If you add in my computer coding to create more effective methods of analysing data and applying data science the mix and now you begin to see my storyline emerge. But to understand my journey we need to head back to the start.

In this blog I want to delve into the highs and lows of apprenticeships, the importance of data science and provide you with some of the hints and tips I learned along the way.

The Rocky Path

Just two years ago I felt lost and without direction but more than that I realised I was struggling with every aspect of my life. My upbringing was turbulent to say the least, with social workers, counsellors and house moves littering my first 13 years. At 16 I was living the YMCA after being homeless, and at 18 I found myself homeless again due to unforeseen circumstances. Eventually I ended up living in another social housing for vulnerable young adults.

Everyday basics were a battle; how long could I afford to keep the electrics on, was there enough left to heat the water for a shower? should food take precedence? I can’t even begin to say how many hours I must have studied for college by candlelight.

The supported accommodation where I lived did not have a good track record; nobody had ever completed their A levels, in fact, almost 100% of the tenants had dropped out of education altogether, so I knew the odds were against me. And, as much as I hate to admit it, I very nearly gave up, reluctant but defeated, ready to become another one of those statistics. Life was bleak, I was tired and I couldn’t see a way out.

But I was desperate for an escape from all the stress and worries. The pressure was constantly mounting and crushing me; there wasn’t a single aspect of my life that I felt I had control of. I realised the only possible, viable route out of this mire could come from my studies and although I. couldn’t immediately change my situation, I began to study as if my life depended on it – because, in reality, it did. The cost? My social life became next to nonexistent, a necessary exchange, another one of the sacrifices I needed to make in order to achieve my goal.

It was during this period that I met Wo and Kate, the founders of an amazing tech company called Hi9. Although they’re reluctant to admit it, their support during these dark times are the reason I am standing where I am now.

Wo began to mentor me. He showed me that there was a vast array of options out there for young professionals; something, that being part of the socially excluded, I was never aware of, something utterly unreachable.

For those of us who experience domestic violence or homelessness at a young age, we fall down so many steps we can’t even see the doors closing, the possibilities being missed, life’s options narrowing with every step. When my peers were looking at universities to apply to I was looking for a sofa to sleep on. When they went to private tutoring I went to the food bank. It’s hard for some people to accept that even by the age of 16 living standards can be so incongruent.

I knew from early on I would never walk the same path as my friends but that didn’t necessarily mean I couldn’t succeed. In fact, my success would be that bit sweeter.

During my weekends and evenings, I began to work at H9, filling in grant applications and learning more about emerging technologies. Although I didn’t have any experience, my love for business studies (one of my A levels) spurred me on. It wouldn’t be fair to lie and say this was easy, it was a huge change for me; I found myself having to apply my classical training to the real life – I am just so thankful it paid off.

And with that little bit more confidence and a whole lot of support for Wo and Kate, I pushed myself to apply for work experience.

As standard, I wrote to many local accountancy firms, hoping for a reply. On a whim I sent off an application to KPMG, knowing full well that dozens of people would be too after all this was one of the 8 hotspots for training. I thought I had no chance of getting in, but I also knew if I didn’t try I would never know for sure; anyway what was there to lose?.

The process was long, with exams, essays, and video interviews. I couldn’t afford the expected smart clothes, so Kate gave me hers whenever it was needed. And my god it caused anxiety; I was aware that for the first time in my life I was wearing more money than I had ever owned!

I don’t think I can truthfully say that at any point in this process I felt confident of being chosen. Why should I? I hadn’t networked with the appropriate people, I didn’t come from a good school – in fact, I actually came from a school that went into special measures – and I certainly didn’t have the self-confidence to blag my way through it all. So you can imagine my surprise when I opened the all-important email that told me I had been accepted. Accepted to work experience with one of the top four accountancy firms, KPMG!

These were my first tentative steps and can you believe it, I’m writing this, sitting on a bus taking me from Falmouth to Truro, onto my job at a leading accountancy firm; I still quite can’t! But more of that later….