Jan Hetherington - Head of Corporate Development and Treasury

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Talk us through your career journey so far?

Overall: very much unplanned! I’ve always gone for interesting opportunities, and I have never mapped out my career years in advance. One aspiration was to stay in Scotland as I love the outdoors, our scenery, and our wildlife.

I studied Biochemistry and Immunology at Strathclyde University and graduated with a First Class Honours. I then secured a Wellcome Trust scholarship at Edinburgh University and completed a PhD in Cell Biology. I studied what I found interesting, and I didn’t plan too far ahead. The job market in Scotland at that time was very limited for Biochemistry so I decided to have a look around and see what else I could apply my skillset to. PwC were recruiting and I got a job in Edinburgh Audit (which also allowed me to study for my ICAS exams) – re-training as an accountant. Whilst it seems a circuitous route studying what I loved gave me great results which got me in the door of PwC.

I loved my time at PwC and really enjoyed audit but wanted a wider experience so then moved to Quayle Munro a small merchant bank in Edinburgh specializing in advisory work and taking equity stakes (primarily on Project finance deals).

When the QM fund got bought out, I moved to Barclays Edinburgh (again within project finance) and got some really great lending experience with a great mentor there.

The lending market got challenging so deal flow was very slow and less interesting, so I moved again to KCA Deutag in 2012, where I am today. I’m originally from Inverness so a move further North to Aberdeen was a nice change.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I would say firstly the variety and the mix / complexity of things that come across my desk. We work in many jurisdictions and that can be fascinating. The company is also very dynamic so there is a lot of M&A / financing activity which keeps life very interesting. The treasury side of things is also very exciting (and an area people I would say underestimate and see as less attractive which I never understand!). It can be highly complex and analytical and engages your brain on a daily basis.

Continual learning is important to me, and I am passionate about achieving a work / life balance and working with / developing great people.

Did you always want to be an accountant? If not, what did you want to be?

I really didn’t have a plan – I just like problem solving, learning, and analysing. I loved science at school so just started with that and let things develop. I grabbed opportunities as they came up. I try and work hard and always deliver. At school I looked at a whole range of things from journalist to lawyer. I think it’s hugely difficult to make life decisions at that age so it’s best to not be too prescriptive too early.

Do you see the job of an accountant changing over the next decade, and if so, what do you see?

Technology will be the key change. I don’t think the fundamentals of accounting will move massively. Automation however will drive efficiencies and will reduce the need for manual processes and laborious reporting. More time will be available for analysing the output, the KPI’s and the key drivers of a business and in understanding and maximizing the cash generators as well as predicting future growth areas.

So, I guess on balance, time spent number crunching will continue to decrease with more time spent looking critically and commercially. Companies and individuals that embrace change and technology will flourish and others will be left behind.

Has the COVID pandemic changed the way you view work?

Flexible working has of course increased, and I currently work approximately 50% in the office and 50% from home. I do like the human contact that the office affords but the flexible working is a great opportunity for me as it allows me to be closer to some of those outdoor activities that I love.

Hybrid working in my view is here to stay in some shape or form and aside from the upside it creates in one’s personal life it also massively expands the job market and can create many more exciting opportunities for individuals.

I also think that the flexible working has somewhat changed the way in which people work in that the hours are more varied. Employees can more easily choose the hours that they work and flex this around their personal life.

In my view it’s critical that companies can offer that flexibility and work life balance to continue to recruit and retain talent.

What advice would you give to an accountant who might be considering changing jobs?

I would say that if that thought process is there it doesn’t do any harm to test the market. It can either lead to a change or can leave an individual feeling more settled where they are.

If you do seriously want to pursue a change then research the company as much as you can and speak to any trusted contacts that you have within that company. You cannot beat inside knowledge. I certainly used that when I moved to Barclays as I’d worked with the team on several deals.

Use a recruitment company you can trust and be wary of unknowns! If the job sounds too good to be true it very probably is.

If you could, what advice would you give your 18 year old self?

Don’t over think your career path – study something interesting and excel at it. Work hard and enjoy it – the rest will take care of itself. It’s good to do things every day that are outside your comfort zone and important to keep developing and adding to your CV. Fundamentally however you should always play to your strengths and be honest with yourself. Pursue what you are good at, and not what is deemed to be the “in thing” or what your peer group are doing. Don’t necessarily follow the crowd.

What do you still want to achieve?

I want to continue to learn and be challenged and I never want to be in a situation where that is not happening. I don’t really see retirement any time soon!

Being an accountant can be a demanding job with often long hours. How do you like to relax and what do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I love travel both abroad and in Scotland – Aberdeen is a great location to get to the Northwest Coast and places like Skye and the Outer Hebrides. The wildlife and scenery is outstanding.

I spend a lot of time outdoors and given much of that is in Scotland that can be in varied conditions! I try and make the most of it despite the rain / hail / wind / snow / midges. I do a lot of cycling (primarily road bike) but I do it for the miles and the scenery as opposed to having any interest competitively. I love the achievement of a long cycle. I love walking (usually if conditions don’t allow anything else). I also do a lot of sea kayaking which can certainly have its scary moments! I do like that feeling of having to finish the trip and really having no other options but getting yourself back home.

Scuba diving is my first passion both in Scotland and abroad. I’m an instructor but now only dive for fun as I do a lot of underwater photography. You simply can’t beat it.

Lastly, tell us something interesting that most people don’t know about you?

I’ve dived in all 7 continents and have dived with most types of sharks, however the only time I’ve ever quit a dive was in Antarctica where an overly inquisitive leopard seal appeared to view me as a penguin (and a potential dinner option). That type of experience certainly gets the heart going…….