Louise Fellingham, management accountant
Find out more about her career
Louise Fellingham took science A levels and studied biology and zoology at university. But when she realised she did not want to pursue a career in science, a final-year project in business ignited an interest in accountancy. She speaks to Amy Olson about her education and career, and her current job as management accountant at Wellcome.
(This interview was conducted in 2012. In the autumn of 2017, we checked to make sure its careers advice was still accurate and updated the essential subjects and salary guide sections.)
What do you do?
I am the management accountant for the Operations division at Wellcome.
How would you describe your job in a single sentence?
I look after all the accounts and the budgets for the Operations departments, such as HR, Finance, Facilities and IT. I also manage the budgeting for all of our employment costs and look after Wellcome’s fixed assets – our big pieces of equipment, our buildings, our furniture, our IT infrastructure.
What did you study at school? Did you go to university?
I studied A-level biology, chemistry and maths and AS-level Spanish. Then I went to Durham University, where I studied biology and zoology.
Given your academic career, how did you end up being an accountant?
I enjoyed my degree and found it very interesting, but I knew that I didn’t want to pursue a career in science. In my final year at university, instead of doing a research-based project, I did a business project in which I developed an idea for a biotechnology company. I took on the finance side of that and quite enjoyed it, so I looked to get an accountancy qualification when I graduated.
Was it hard to find your current role?
There are lots of opportunities when you graduate to train to be an accountant. It is quite competitive, but if you’ve done your research and you prepare yourself for the interviews and tests, you can get into accountancy. Jobs at Wellcome are harder to get, but that’s not to say they don’t come up!
What one tip would you give to a young person who’d like the same job?
Look around for every opportunity that you can find to get experience. Just after I graduated – before I got a job on the graduate scheme – I did a short stint as a finance assistant for a biotechnology company, in their accounts department. Little bits of experience like that add to your CV and can give you the edge over other graduates.
What skills from your biology background do you use in your work?
I use a lot of the analytical skills. Much of the science in my degree involved analysing results, doing experiments, and that ties in nicely with finance and what I do on a day-to-day basis (analysing the finances for all of my departments, looking at trends, working with spreadsheets…). So, actually, that’s been quite transferable.
What prospects for progression are there?
Accountancy can have quite a structured progression. You get your qualification, move on to where I am now, and then – I hope – in a few years’ time look to take on more of a managerial role.
What do you do for pleasure?
I like to cycle, a lot! I belong to a cycle club based in south-west London called London Dynamo. I race for the ladies’ team and we do rides abroad. When work allows, I try to get to evening races and training in Richmond Park. Some times of the year are busier than others, so I just try to fit after-work training in when I can.
A levels: biology, chemistry and mathematics (2002).
BSc (Hons), zoology, Durham University (2005).
ICAEW Chartered Accountancy (2009).
Temporary work as a finance assistant for biotechnology company Oxford Immunotec (2005).
National Audit Office (qualified as a chartered accountant) (2006–09).
Management accountant, Wellcome (2009–).
Salary guide (2017)
Fully qualified accountants can earn anything between £26,000 and £50,000. In areas of the private sector this can rise further with experience (Prospects).
Essential subjects (2017)
To study accountancy as an undergraduate degree, you won’t need any specific A levels, but maths and/or economics would be helpful (Which? University). You can also enter accounting through an apprenticeship. To enter a graduate accountancy scheme you’ll need a 2.1 degree or higher.