Tell us about your role at Shorts and your career to this point

I’m a qualified Chartered Accountant, qualifying that long ago that that I had paper-based training records and had never heard of computer-based exams!  I left school at 15 and started working at a practice as an Office Junior. Up until my qualification I worked full time and studied in my own time, taking more GCSEs, A levels, then AAT and finally ACCA. For my chartered qualification I was self-taught - I bought the study books, revised and entered the exams without a training provider.  It was a hard slog but worth it. During my finals I also moved house and it was year-end at work - I love a challenge!  My career mirrored my studies; with every move I progressed, starting with transactional roles, Assistant Accountant, Accountant and then Finance Director.  With the exception of that first role and my current role, all of my career has been spent in industry.  

Some would say that my previous role of Finance and Operations Director must be far removed from my role at Shorts, but in fact it is very similar. At Shorts I act as our FD, overseeing the internal Finance Team along with our client-facing Payroll Team. I am also responsible for the operational side of the firm, which includes anything from our governance to our team welfare and everything in between. My day is always varied and because of the nature of what I do, it’s more reactive than proactive, although I always have a number of change management projects ongoing at any given time.

What has been your career highlight so far and what are you still hoping to achieve?

A career highlight for me was passing my final ACCA exams without the support of a training provider - with no-one but myself to rely on during my studies, I had to be hyper organised.  I have so much left to achieve in my role at Shorts. As we continually seek improvement I am always looking to the future and determining if our management information pack provides us with the correct data to make business decisions, along with ensuring our processes and procedures are supportive of giving our clients the best possible service.  

Who or what have been the biggest influence on your career?

I had no role models growing up, going into further education full time wasn’t going to be an option for me and so I took it upon myself to be my own role model and just work really, really hard.  It wasn’t until very recently (in my previous role) that I met a lady that runs her own training company.  She had such a big influence on how I approach certain situations and I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve been able to bring her into Shorts to work with us.  I’m also very lucky to have a very supportive and considerate Manager at Shorts. Andy is the Managing Partner, and we work really closely together.  

We are aware you are a big advocate for Mental Health at Shorts – what is your involvement and what makes you so passionate about the topic?

Absolutely. One of the first things I did at Shorts was to qualify as a Mental Health First Aider and have recently re-qualified.  I have built up a mental health library for our team; we sign everyone up to a wellbeing app; we have regular wellbeing webinars; I organise new starter information sessions; support mental health days; provide a counselling service via a third party and have organised training for all our people Managers.  I’m really pleased that one of the Partners recently qualified as a Mental Health First Aider, with another two to follow, equalling our physical First Aider numbers.  I’m very passionate about the subject because I have had anxiety and depression from around age 14.  Some days my mind is my worst enemy and I want to ensure that others know that if they are feeling similarly, support is around them.  

What makes a good mental health champion in your view?

I think you must have had personal experience of a mental health illness to be able to support others.  Not so that you can say ‘oh yes, that’s exactly how I felt’ because you never know that to be the case, it’s more so that you understand how challenging and lonely a place it can be.  Being a bit gobby also helps!  I love to spout on about the positives of sharing mental health experiences.

What is the most rewarding and also the most challenging aspect of being a Mental Health champion in the workplace?

The most rewarding aspect of being a mental health champion is that moment when I’ve seen the light come back on in someone.  When I’m supporting someone, it will be very frequent contact initially and then as they improve, and use professional support or self-help techniques, I slowly step back from them until they no longer need me.  The bravery of some of the team I’ve supported has honestly blown me away!

Tell us about Michelle out of work

Well, I can’t sit still.  I have a problem with relaxation, let’s just say I like active relaxation.  I’m a volunteer at my local dog rescue centre, so spend Sunday mornings there.  I also run, walk, and have a home gym.  I love a bit of home décor and often spend time off decorating or upcycling.  The most inactive activity I do is reading, I have an addiction to buying books, with 60 I haven’t read yet.  I also have a house plant obsession, many of which I give names to, including Myrtle the Mexican Fortune Tree and Pete the Peace Lily.

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