Opening up a world of opportunity
The power of the ACCA Qualification to open doors is reflected in a learning ethos that stresses accessibility and flexibility. Through a range of initiatives that provide free and subsidised learning in areas where there is an identified need, the opportunity for ACCA to change lives continues to grow.
Originally from Moldova, Victoria and Vlad Cazacov are making the journey to the ACCA Qualification in an experience they say has already transformed their lives.
The couple met in university in Moldova in 2008 when both were studying to become engineers, Victoria with a focus on real estate and business and Vlad on surveying. They had no plans to emigrate until Victoria visited her brother in Ireland in 2011.
‘I felt comfortable here from the start and saw it as a place I could live in,’ says Victoria, while Vlad recalls that ‘fresh out of college, we realised we had nothing to lose by giving Ireland a chance.’
While their qualifications were recognised here, they soon discovered that very different construction standards – Moldova’s derived from the old USSR and Ireland’s aligned with the UK and EU – created an effective barrier to jobs in the field. Like many arrivals in a new country, their immediate focus was also on getting work rather than progressing their career.
‘I left a managerial role in Moldova and my first job here was in a deli,’ Victoria recalls. She soon found herself in a ‘cycle of customer service jobs’ while Vlad found ready employment as a lorry driver. Recognising the need for a local qualification to advance beyond this, they ruled out a return to college on the grounds of expense: with a child on the way, saving for a deposit on a house took priority. However, a step in the right direction came when Victoria began an accounting technician qualification at night.
‘As part of the qualification, I did some work experience and that led to my first job in accounting. Soon after, we got our house in Ashbourne, County Meath, and that gave us the security to plan for the future.’
A fortuitous turn came with they discovered the government’s Springboard+ programme through Victoria’s brother, who was availing of it to make his own career change. At the same time, an accountant neighbour in their new community was unequivocal in recommending ACCA to them.
‘She listened to what we wanted to do in our careers and was certain that it was the qualification that would benefit us most,’ says Victoria.
Vlad took the lead at this point and, through Springboard+, enrolled for ACCA with the PAT Group in Dublin in 2019. Here, he met managing director Gerry Fahy.
‘Springboard and PAT made a huge difference in making the ACCA Qualification attainable to us,’ he says. Soon after, Victoria joined her husband on the same path.
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‘Gerry is an exceptional teacher and the organisation he leads is infused with his spirit,’ she says. ‘There isn’t a time you feel you can’t approach him or any of the tutors. The level of commitment and support they give you as a student is exceptional.’
The years since then have been intensely busy ones. The couple now have two children, aged five and three, and have completed 18 ACCA exams between them while in full-time work. And, of course, like everyone else they have had to navigate the challenges of the pandemic along the way.
‘We had to be very disciplined,’ says Victoria. ‘When others were going out, we were at the library studying with someone minding our children because it was simply impossible to study with them when they are awake!’
As for Covid-19, it ‘made the challenge 10 times harder,’ she adds. ‘You didn’t have access to a creche but you still had to work and do the exams.’
The couple have decided to take their final four exams in stages over the next two years.
‘Doing the exams at a steady pace means we can give time to our children and it allows us to get valuable work experience,’ says Vlad.
Yet, even midway through achieving the qualification, they credit it with a profound change in their lives as both now work finance roles. Victoria notes that even the description of ‘ACCA student’ piques the interest of recruiters on LinkedIn.
‘It is opening up a whole world of opportunity,’ she says, pointing to the areas of compliance and fintech as of particular interest to both in the future.
Vlad adds that there are ‘many things I’ve learned in the exams that have helped in real life. ACCA is broad and high level, and you can find application in many areas.’
The experience has also seen them become something of ambassadors for the qualification, with friends and work colleagues encouraged by them to pursue the ACCA path.
‘They have seen from us how it opens doors and opportunities. I can say now for sure that we won’t be out of a job for the rest of our lives,’ says Victoria.
Both feel grateful to Ireland for the opportunities given to them, but also reassured by the global nature of the qualification.
‘I don’t see us going anywhere from this country, but anywhere we go ACCA will back us up. It gives us the confidence that, if we had to make life somewhere else, we could do it,’ says Vlad.
Author: Donal Nugent, journalist
This article was first published in Student Accountant in June 2022