We take a look back at some of this year’s AB interviews, which showcase members’ wide range of roles and skills, together with many fascinating career and life experiences. Here are some of the highlights of the past 12 months.


Siobhan Blackwell FCCA

Vice president in trading business management at TD Securities

Blackwell talked about how her love of mountaineering has informed her approach to scaling career heights.

Working mothers face a lot of questions, particularly from their inner circles, about the impact their career-related decisions will have on the household. As a result, we tend to overcompensate by doing more than our fair share at home, while also juggling meaningful careers.

‘Dads don’t endure the same level of questioning and judgment when it comes to furthering their careers’

From my experience, dads don’t endure the same level of questioning and judgment when it comes to furthering their careers, so by default they aren’t burdened by the same volume of guilt.

What it really takes is ignoring the commentators and not taking to heart what other people think. This is easier said than done, but success is sweeter at the end because you’ve had to overcome so much more to get there.

Read the full interview


Becky Bristow FCCA

Executive director of Dogs Trust Ireland

Bristow reflected on how her career has taken her to a role she has wanted since the age of six.

When I came on board, we were well established but still reliant on the parent operation for up to 40% of our income. We are now fully funded by Irish donors. We were also transferring up to a thousand dogs a year to the UK for rehoming.

‘We have become self-sufficient in financial and welfare terms’

By the end of 2020, our rehoming process had evolved from a centralised Dublin-based operation to a national network of fosterers and local kennels. We are no longer sending dogs to the UK.

We have become self-sufficient in financial and welfare terms and can now stand on our own two feet. We have a clear strategy that provides a vision for our donors and the people who work with us. As an organisation we have matured to the next phase.

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Andrew McQueen FCCA

Managing director, Smoothie Factory UK and Ireland

McQueen discussed the challenges of leaving a corporate banking career to become a start-up entrepreneur.

Although I moved away from direct accounting roles over the past 20 years, the breadth of the ACCA Qualification has equipped me very well for my career. When I was speaking to legal or marketing people, I knew where they were coming from because of ACCA.

‘I realised there was a life at home of which I wanted to be a part’

Business planning has also been a hugely important part of my career. ACCA helped me to not just understand and make plans, but to challenge the business plans of others if I felt they hadn’t been developed correctly.

Like many people in lockdown, I realised there was a life at home of which I wanted to be a part. I felt food and beverages was still a strong sector that would bounce back after Covid-19, and I could use the time to build something that was ready to go once restrictions lifted.

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Paul Burke FCCA

Head of fund accounting, Link Fund Solutions (Ireland)

Burke described how the lessons he learned from endurance swimming have translated to the world of work.

Clients want to work with people who know their funds and their needs. The ability to engage knowledgeably is increasingly important as environmental, social and governance factors grow in importance.

‘Companies often built in-house systems that were slow to adapt as the industry changed’

The funds industry has always used fintech in one way or another. In the past, companies often built in-house systems that were slow to adapt as the industry changed. That led to mistakes, and mistakes cost money. Fintech companies frequently emerge as a marriage between an ex-operational person who sees a problem to work on and a tech person who can sandbox it.

That creates a symbiotic relationship: as things change, you can push for releases, and both sides benefit from making the product better.

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Jason Murphy FCCA

ACCA Ireland chair

Murphy identified the role for accountants in tackling critical issues, including sustainability.

What’s important, from my point of view, is not that people say they are doing things sustainably, but that we have standards that can measure this. Unless we have that transparency, there will always be questions around believing what you see.

‘Whatever your background, you can be an accountant if you have the capability’

The International Sustainability Standards Board has set about establishing these and I believe they will become the focus of our profession and how it adds value to society in the years ahead.

One of the really nice things about our profession is how attainable it is; whatever your background, you can be an accountant if you have the capability.

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Saragh Fitzpatrick ACCA

CFO of the Houses of the Oireachtas Service

Fitzpatrick outlined how technology is changing a 100-year-old institution.

I want to see us move to a highly streamlined, technically innovative and secure financial operation. We are now at the stage where we’ve removed paper from the process and digitised it, so that the deputies can access the order papers through tablet devices.

‘I see a key part of my role as making sure everyone know what everyone is doing’

There are lots of moving parts, and many elements that are legislated for, with formal requirements and strong traditions governing them. I see a key part of my role as making sure everyone knows what everyone is doing.

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Shane Cowley FCCA

Managing director of L&P

Cowley explained the challenges facing advisers to the Irish charity sector.

Previously, business decisions might have been taken over the kitchen table, with little or no formal procedures. Now, proper process must be in place. Overall, this is a good thing for the sector and gives comfort to the public that monies are being spent appropriately.

‘We are on a journey of development for the sector’

It is vitally important to have people who understand the regulations and the standards expected, and who have an ability to question and challenge in a positive way.

We are on a journey of development for the sector. The requirements of the Charities Act can only strengthen it in the long term, and having professionals such as ACCA members to help ensure ongoing good governance will be an important part of this.

Read the full interview