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Kevin: security guard to partner

My route into accountancy and journey to partner is maybe a little different to what people would typically expect, and that is one of the main reasons I think social mobility is so important. If we don’t open up the profession to people from different backgrounds, and different educational journeys, we won’t reach a diverse workforce and we’re missing out on fantastic talent.   

I left school at 16 and worked in my hometown of Scunthorpe for a year or so, doing various jobs including working in factories packing goods into boxes and cutting PVC windows frames.  After some discussion with my siblings, I decided to move to London where they were living at that time. I didn’t particularly have a plan about what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted more opportunity than I would get living in Scunthorpe.   

My first step into the world of professional services was as a security guard at one of the large professional services firms and it was through chatting to the people who worked there that I started to learn more about what they did and saw that there may be the option to consider it as a career. The opportunity did come up, and through me networking with the finance team, I managed to secure a role in finance. That then ultimately lead to a role in VAT working in the same building where I was previously manning the security desk.  

One of my biggest concerns when I started in this career was my written English. It was not a strong area of mine throughout school.  I knew that it was an area I would need to greatly improve to be successful within this environment, particularly as so much of what we do is providing written advice on the law. 

When I started, I spent a lot of time reading other people’s reports and memos, and learning how they structured their written work. The reality is that I learnt a lot better through learning on the job, rather than in the classroom environment, and it hasn’t held me back. Yes, it’s taken a lot of hard work, but I’ve been able to achieve some amazing things.   

What really stood out to me through the process of joining Grant Thornton, is how everybody is able to be themselves. I joined the firm in June 2023, having spent the vast majority of my career in two of the larger professional services firms. You get a real sense of who people are at Grant Thornton, which isn’t something I had come across at previous firms.   

I know in myself that I’ve changed the way I speak over the years, but since being at Grant Thornton, I don’t feel like I am going to be judged by colleagues or clients if I don’t use sophisticated and complex words where it’s not necessary. Nor will I be judged because of my accent – accent bias is something that I experienced in the early part of my career. Previously, I know I have had a ‘client’ mode and a ‘partner’ mode, and have chosen the words I use very carefully, often over complicating simpler terms. Now, I feel able to be myself in a way that I haven’t previously.  

One of the big pulls for me, after 10 years at my previous firm, was that by joining Grant Thornton I was getting the opportunity to build a team and really develop the firm’s Financial Services VAT offering. Rather than stepping into an existing team, I have the opportunity to build the business. In just the first six months we’ve had some great client wins and we have lots of new business opportunities.