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An interview with Jacqueline Young

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Jacqueline Young, Finance Director, Student Loans Company

Career to date:

I qualified at one of the London boroughs as part of the first year’s intake for an innovative  pan London scheme to address the need for trainees and qualifieds within the sector. I then moved to Network Rail where I did a variety of roles and learnt a lot about the importance of maintenance. I then moved to Ofcom (the communications regulator) to lead their Planning and Performances team. At the start of 2015, I joined the Student Loans Company which is a partner organisation of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

Why did you think you would suit a career within finance?

Its not that simple! There are so many roles within Finance; it would be hard not to find a role within a typical Finance Team for most people. A successful team is made up of many component parts and individuals who complement each other. They say that variety is the spice of life and a well rounded and functioning Finance Team is no different. That said, those willing to learn about the business they work with, have an eye for detail, an awareness of the bigger picture and are flexible make excellent Finance Team candidates.

What attracted you to a career in finance?

I’ve always liked numbers but Finance is about much more than getting to a number. Successful Finance professionals use the numbers to tell a story that their business partners can relates to and feel a part of. Finance is an integral part of effective decision making and lies at the heart of a company’s strategy and future plans. 

What do you enjoy about your current role?

Quite simply, the variety and the challenge that I encounter on a daily basis. SLC is a diverse orgainsation and our Finance Team has all the traditional components of a Finance Team with the additional complexities of Project Accounting, Systems, Management Information, Student Finance and cash management on a significant scale – It is likely that in the current year, SLC will pay out approximately £16billion in loans and grants.

How do you feel your organisation’s finance function has developed as a result of the squeeze in public sector budgets?

Finance’s role within the organization is to equip people to make successful decisions. It’s evolved over recent times to include the role of the critical friend – providing constructive challenge and feedback. A significant development is the efficiency drive and the analysis that you need to have to make this successful – Finance is key to this.

What attributes do you feel makes you successful in your current role?

Bags of positive (hopefully!) energy and enthusiasm and the ability to appear unflustered as well as a significant trust in my teams ability to make the right decisions. I’m not afraid to make tough decisions and quickly and I’m mindful that my team look to me to take the lead.

What advice would you give someone who has recently qualified and looking at a career in the Public Sector?

The Public Sector has so much to offer candidates. There is so much variety and challenge to keep one interested  and stretched.  I would advise candidates to be mindful that attitude and potential are as important to potential employers as experience and qualifications. A candidate has to consider the ‘why’ as well as the ‘what’. When I interview, I look for  reasoning and an understanding of the wider context and this needs to shine at an interview. 

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