From ‘au pair’ to the ACA and JCI Dublin President

21 May 2019
Admin Manager By Admin Manager

I am a qualified Chartered Accountant who strives to use my skills to create positive change in the world. In my professional capacity, I work as an Operations Accountant with GOAL Global (International Humanitarian Aid Charity). Along with this, I am also the President of Junior Chamber International (JCI) Dublin which is a voluntary role.

My story

As a child to a single mother living in a small town in Poland, I had little employment opportunities because of being surrounded by a judgmental society. My chances of being successful were ‘slim’ to ‘nil’. Thankfully, I realised this quickly and despite being only 8 years old, I decided that would do everything that’s needed to secure a better life for my family and myself. It was a bold ambition when I think back but I really had no choice.

I decided that the best way to deal with the situation was by getting a good qualification and securing a decent job. Hard work in school and college paid off. Consistently every year I was either best in class or in the top three.

‘Be so good they can’t ignore you’

Finally, the ‘cool kids’ started hanging out with me and treated me as ‘equal’ even though I didn’t have the fancy clothes/gadgets they possessed. I was so happy to see other parents congratulating my mother any time she’d attend my award ceremonies. You might see nothing unusual with this but the reality is that previously they wouldn’t talk to her on the street because of her marital status.

Emigration to Ireland, a One-way ticket

I always enjoyed learning languages with English being my favourite. I was over the moon when for my 18th birthday I received tickets to go to Ireland as an ‘au pair’ to practise my English for three months during my summer holidays. I had no idea how much that trip would change my life.

Needless to say within a few days of arriving I fell in love with the Irish people, culture and beautiful scenery. I went back home to complete my Leaving Certificate but I could not stop thinking of the people I met and the experiences I had in Ireland. Therefore, I made the decision to take a study break and return to Ireland for a year. Here I am 14 years later with no intention of ever going back.

No doubt it was a bold decision: I was 18 years old, emigrating on my own with basic knowledge of English and limited resources. I was determined to change my circumstances and Ireland appeared to be the place where I could fully achieve my potential therefore, I decided to take up the risk and bought a one-way ticket to Ireland.

If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done”

Starting from scratch

I spent the first few years working as a waitress. After couple of years of saving funds, I decided to bring my family to join me on my journey here in Ireland. My mum and two younger sisters were terrified but agreed to come to visit me for a couple of weeks to see what is was like to live in Ireland.

Once they arrived, my mum understood why I loved this country so much. She was hooked. Within a week we found her a job, sent my sisters to school. It wasn’t easy. They had no English so I acted as interpreter, English teacher and the main provider for the family.

After 3 years they became independent and self-sufficient. It was time for me to think about myself and my career.

Investing in me – back to college

In 2009, I went back to college to study Office management at Athlone Institute of Technology. Back then I didn’t think my English was sufficient to study anything else at that point of time.

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Very quickly I was proved wrong. I was doing very well, especially in accounting and finance. Encouraged by my lecturers after 2 years, I transferred from Business – Office Management to The Bachelor of Arts in Accounting Course. In 2011 I received ‘Student of the Year award’ outperforming a couple of thousands of students in the Business and Accounting School. I received awards every year since including Outstanding Student in Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Accounting (2013), Outstanding Student in Financial Management (2013) and Outstanding Student in Strategic Management Accounting (2014) .

Towards the end of my fourth year, I started to consider which accountancy body I should join. Having spoken to several lecturers and done some research it became apparent that the Institute of Chartered Accounts is the perfect choice. My ambition was to become a member of the executive management. The statistics showed that 8 out of 10 CEOs / CFOs of the companies I wanted to work for were ACA / FCA qualified all of whom claimed their qualification was deciding factor in achieving their success.

In 2014, I completed a Masters of Arts in Accounting and started my training contract with one of the Big Four firms - Deloitte Ireland.

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Deloitte - Impact that Matters

The experience and knowledge I gained during my time in the Risk Advisory Department at Deloitte were invaluable. I got a chance to engage in discussion with CEOs, Managing Directors of top companies across various industries helping them to strengthen their control environment and therefore reduce risk.

I led my own projects and coached more junior team members. All this while, I was studying towards my Final Admitting Examination (FAE). I am not going to lie; juggling a full-time job that often required travel and studying was challenging; however, the support I received from both the Institute and Deloitte has helped to achieve my dreams. In 2017 I qualified as ACA.

Industry- The Shared Services Experience

After 3 valuable years in Risk Advisory, I felt that it was time for a change. I wanted my next career step to allow me to take an active part in preparation of management accounts and financial statements hence my decision to move to a General Ledger Accountant role with Amdocs in December 2017.

This was a great learning opportunity which helped to expand my knowledge of US GAAP and work with several legal entities including trading companies, cost plus and investment holding entities in UK and Poland.

In addition to my day to day job I also initiated and led a review of our approach to work with the aim to introduce efficiencies and improve work-life balance. This project was successful in the Dublin Office and the EMEA Financial Controller recommended that this review will be rolled out to other regions.

Young Professionals

As a young professional who recently moved to Dublin, I was looking to expand my network. One day I received an email from the Institute inviting me to the Young Professionals event. I took up the invite and have been attending the events since.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Young Professionals Committee, it is a voluntary body which focuses on the needs of members of the Institute (within the first 10 years of their career). It does so by organising events that allow ACAs to acquire skills beneficial to their personal and professional development and network with each other.

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Within 4 months I became a member of the committee attending monthly meetings at Chartered Accountants House to organise various events. I have recently hosted The Art of Executive Presence workshop with Neil Curran which was a huge success.

In addition, I set up and manage Instagram account for the Young Professional Committee which brings new attendees to every event.

JCI Dublin

It was at my first Young Professional event when I was introduced to JCI (Junior Chamber International) Dublin. The guest speaker was Derek Reilly and he mentioned during his talk that one of the networks he is a member of was JCI.

Derek described it as a leadership organisation and international network. I was intrigued so I went home and did some research. I learned that some of the former JCI members include John F Kennedy, Kofi Annan and Peter Power. I read statements such as ‘At JCI we grow leaders’, ‘We are development organisation’, ‘Our aim is to create positive change in the world’. That was enough to encourage me to attend my first event. I absolutely loved it. 2 years later I am a more active citizen, a better professional and I also happen to be the JCI Dublin President.

I have no doubt that the skills I gained as part of my qualification as a Chartered Accountant have helped me to accelerate my career in JCI Dublin.

I have the privilege to lead a board of nine directors and organisation with membership of 55. I am proud to represent Dublin at national and international arena.

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JCI Dublin is the largest and fastest growing branch in Ireland. It was recently named as one of the top four organisations in Europe. Considering there are 1,000 local chapters in Europe, this is a huge achievement. But we are not stopping here… our aim for next year is to be number one in Europe.

Getting to your GOAL

Joining JCI made me rethink the industry and role I was interested in. I discovered that working towards addressing the needs of our community, helping others and supporting small businesses gave me great satisfaction. This was being fulfilled by my role in JCI but could I find a full time job with the same job satisfaction?

I consulted with Ciara Tallon – Career’s Coach at the Institute and she was a huge support. Ciara helped me to look at my next career step differently. I gained clarity regarding my values, motivation and long-term goal as well as the steps I should take to get me there.

Keeping these in my mind, I started searching for new job opportunities. The offers were coming in every day. This really showed me the prestige of the Chartered Accountancy qualification. The phone wouldn’t stop ringing with offers in the area of business and finance across a large variety of industries with highly competitive salaries and benefits.

But none of these met the criteria that I established for myself until… I came across a vacancy with GOAL Global. The role of Operations Accountant was perfect for me. It allowed me to use my qualification to work towards reducing poverty and building a more sustainable world for all. I was delighted to hear that my application was successful.

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Since October 2018, I have a job that makes me excited to get up in the morning. The most enjoyable part of my role is the coaching aspect. I help my teams in Honduras and Haiti to be better accountants and finance officers so in return they can best support the humanitarian and development programmes in their countries.

I need to say that I found my recent visit to Honduras very inspiring and I am already looking forward to my visit to Haiti in June.

One Young World

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I would be proud to represent Chartered Accountants Ireland at the One Young World Summit in London this October and I would promote the Institute online and offline. To be able to interact and challenge world leaders makes me very excited as a young leader.

This opportunity would allow me to exchange experiences and knowledge with other leaders from around the world as well as build lasting relationships with them with the aim to support and encourage each other and perhaps work on future projects together.

On my return, I would be able to share my newly learned skills and knowledge with other chartered accountants in Ireland. The Chartered Accountants Ireland qualification has already opened so many opportunities for me. No doubt you need to work hard to earn the qualification but it is worth every drop of sweat lost along the way. I can’t wait to see what the future brings!

Find out more on becoming a Chartered Accountant >>>

#CharteredStar #CharteredAccountant #YoungProfessional #MyJourney #ACA

Patrycja Jurkowska

JCI Dublin 2019 President