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Meet Management Accountant Joe

Before he joined SafeLane, Joe played an equally vital role at the Wye Valley NHS Trust. In his Staff Spotlight, Joe explains why he made the decision to change sector and how he loves the perks that come with a SafeLane job.

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How long have you been with SafeLane and what did you do before joining the team?

I have been at SafeLane [long pause…thinks hard] for nearly 4 years now and before I was a Management Accountant for the Wye Valley NHS Trust.  I looked after different service units around the main hospital in Hereford - like A&E and radiology.

I covered their budgets and their actuals.  I also advised department managers on what they could afford to spend if they were recruiting for example, or I’d talk to them about how much they had to spend on consumables.

The decisions were always driven by how busy the department was.

Why did you change sector?

I felt like I learned so much in the post at Wye Valley but didn’t see where I could add any more value.  I wanted a role where my work could drive positive change. The role at SafeLane stood out straight away – I mean, who knew there would be a UXO clearance company tucked away in Ross-on-Wye.

When I went for the interview for my role, I was very impressed with what the company was achieving.  The role was far different to what I’d dealt with in the past, and I was just interested to learn more.

Tell us about your role at SafeLane?

My career so far has been very interesting, I’ve learned a lot about an industry I hardly even knew existed before.

I’ve travelled to countries I’d never have had the opportunity to even set foot in, like Kuwait and Iraq, and I’ve met some incredible people along the way.

We get some cool perks in the job as well.  We have great get togethers, we’ve got a gym, we get to travel, I’ve been sailing… and there’s always something new and interesting coming up with every new bid and project.

I like learning about new countries and the challenges those nations have with explosive remnants of war (ERW) or security issues.  I get on with all my colleagues…there’s a great team spirit at SafeLane.

You’ve mentioned perks, but what are some of the other aspects of life at SafeLane that you enjoy?

SafeLane has helped me immensely with my qualifications.  When I joined, I had two years left of my CIMA studies and exams – that’s the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

When I started, they were extremely responsive to me wanting to continue studying – and I’m pleased to say I passed my last exam just before coronavirus lockdown, no more uni!

Talking of lockdown, what’s it been like working from home when you’re such a key member of a number of project teams?

I do miss the face-to-face interactions – I’ve only got my cat to keep me company and she is quite boring.  But we’ve been working from home for 10 weeks now from the Ross HQ and I’ve had no setbacks or problems.  The commute to work is far quicker.

But yeah, it will be nice when we can get back together and work side by side…it’s way better than working in isolation and just having virtual chats on Zoom and Teams.

Other than a current lack of face-to-face interaction, what’s generally your biggest professional challenge?

Without a shadow of a doubt it’s the cultural differences we need to adjust to when it comes to international banking.  The levels of bureaucracy and policies differ greatly.

For example, in Kuwait it’s a hugely bureaucratic process to move money, you need to get signatures after signatures after signatures...  And if a signature is in the wrong place, you have to start all over again with the signatures!

But I just get on with it now, crack the process, make notes and make sure we get it right every time.

Did travelling to Kuwait help?

Travelling to Kuwait did help, as did travelling to Iraq.  Meeting people with whom you’re doing business or with whom you’re working at distance is always the best thing to do.

You learn so much from a face-to-face meeting and informal conversations about life etc.  It always makes things easier thereafter.

Which trip did you prefer?  Iraq or Kuwait?

I loved them both for very different reasons.

Iraq was class.  I got to travel a whole section in 1st class because I got upgraded.

I was going to sleep the whole flight, but after I got upgraded I just couldn’t.  I remember I got handed a menu by the air hostess and was struggling with what to order as it all looked amazing…

…Then she came, took the menu away but didn’t take my order…

I was confused until I was brought the entire menu – only then did I realise I didn’t actually have to choose - I was going to get everything!  I ate it all.

I travelled to Kuwait with Project Executive Alice Taylor, who was great company.

Management Accountant Joe Plant

Kuwait is a really cool and very interesting country.  You drink so much tea and coffee in meetings! 

Seeing our land release project was great – it was huge.  When you see the square meters to be cleared written on paper you just don’t get the scale or the perspective.  I was incredibly impressed with the work the team were doing.  I even had a go using the towed-array equipment.

We had a bit of downtime that I didn’t have in Iraq as well.  We went to the team villa and met everyone and joined them for their weekly BBQ.  A couple of them even challenged me to a game of pool.  I’ll let you guess who won.

So, what does a management accountant actually do? 

Ha, good question…OK, how do I make this sound interesting? 

Well, my main job is to analyse my projects every single month and compare what they are spending, both in the field and through Ross HQ, and compare that to the initially signed off budget.

I then have to identify any variances and determine the reason behind them.  For example, if we’re underspending on manpower, maybe we have a post not filled.  If we’re over-spending on fuel, maybe we had to deliver extra missions in that month.

This then feeds into the overall international numbers.

I also have to make sure my projects have sufficient cash in country.  This is where I have to deal with the different banks for example.  Or I might have the challenge of getting cash into a country that doesn’t have a bank.

And much, much more but don’t want to bore you.

What are the best bits of the job?

No two days are the same which keeps me interested. 

I also like being faced with different challenges, when different bids come out and I have to juggle multiple operational, planning and bidding roles – there’s always something new to learn.

And of course, the people!  Not just in finance, but across the SafeLane family, you can always have fun.

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