Clodagh Hegarty describes herself as ‘passionate about education’. That passion – which the Ulster University lecturer uses to encourage students and school leavers to consider accountancy as their career choice – was recognised in ACCA’s first public sector advocate awards. (You can find out more about the initiative and overall winner Taiye Adedeji from Nigeria in this AB article.)

'Clodagh consistently articulates the benefits of the ACCA Qualification'

Opportunities ahead

While graduates and school leavers were open in their enthusiasm for career opportunities in STEM, Hegarty  – who was ACCA Ireland chair 2019/20 – noticed that many were less clear about what working in the accountancy sector might look like and the wide range of opportunities on offer.

As her award nomination states: ‘In her day job, Clodagh consistently articulates the benefits of the ACCA Qualification as the next step in her students’ journey. She does so in a professional manner, ensuring that she “plays fairly”, noting the benefits of having a globally recognised qualification.’

In addition, Hegarty has been at the forefront of ACCA's Schools Initiative, which is dedicated to changing perceptions of the accountancy profession among secondary students. As part of this, ACCA Ireland Member Network Panel members visit schools across Ireland to educate students on the different career opportunities as well as entry routes into the ACCA Qualification.

Hegarty notes that the location of Ulster University's Magee campus, on the border with the Republic of Ireland, means that the initiative was able to reach students in both the republic and Northern Ireland.

‘One of ACCA’s biggest strengths is its community'

Driven by research

Hegarty’s focus on the future also includes working for a PhD, which investigates SMPs’ entrepreneurial orientation and their capabilities to rapidly react to changes in the environment through service innovation.

‘SMPs are the backbone of the economy and you’ll find them in every town and every sector,' she says. 'They were the key link with SMEs and entrepreneurs during Covid, for example, but when we talk about having an employer focus, their contribution and their concerns are not necessarily captured, and there is a lack of policy support from government.

'They lead by example; if they are prepared to try something new, then SMEs will also look at new options.'

Those options include using analytics, building a strategic focus, and understanding the benefits of digitisation. Hegarty believes, from her own experience, that building networks and sharing expertise will benefit smaller practices.

‘I’m deeply honoured to have been nominated Ireland’s public sector advocate of the year,' she says. 'But one of the critical points I want to get across is that one of ACCA’s biggest strengths is its community.

'I’ve had people around me to support me, and ACCA members help each other on a continuous basis.'

More information

SMPs can share their experiences of service innovation by participating in this survey