Recently my mentee narrated this lament to me over an expensive £3.50 caramel macchiato coffee at Starbucks which I couldn’t really afford but I had to.
And I write this for any out there reading this who aren’t dead sure.
She says…”This is my first proper job in industry”… ….
She is the management accountant for a Group of Wealth Managers, her boss is a very nice lady who is happy to let her get on with it.
This is a nightmare, no matter what I do, the budget process falls over at 90% of the way through and after 2 hours and forty five minutes has passed.
It winds me up and is particularly difficult because it is a time-waster! I have to run the whole process through, before I know for sure if it will pass…..and unfailingly the spreadsheet crashes time after time after time. My career is over and I haven’t even begun!
So I said to her…look…when I was in practice, one of the particularly nicer old timers had told me of how he’d had to pay for his own training…..he actually paid the firm which hired him, for him to be trained by them!
And for the first three months, all he did at work, was add up all the telephone numbers in the yellow pages! (the uk’s telephone directory).
I hinted….. that she would have to dig deeper.
I had always wondered whether or not it was, that here is the origin of the use of the word “cast” in audit practice, in reference to the process of adding up tables of numbers. Vertically was to cast, and horizontally was to cross cast, and when the totals were correct, they had “checked” or “tallied” or “agreed”.
I thought of the yellow pages and decided that after doing that type of work for one day you would definitely become disagreeable and probably would have cast your supervisor into a net, if your index finger hadn’t hindered you because it was now cast in some plaster of Paris from all that casting you’d had to do all day.
So I said to her, look we probably all got it easy in some ways nowadays, so you cannot afford to mess this up.
I decided this was a line by line job, and I offered to help if she sent an anonymised copy, and I would talk her through over the phone. As I carried on looking at the spreadsheet I switched into the zone. Any veteran knows what this is..it is almost mystical…it is zen…as you and your calculator become one.
Zoe James used to do it without looking at her calculator, at the same time, she delivered a scathing verbal commentary on your work perchance you were fool enough to approach her as she was checking that the casts agreed, across the lead schedules of some audit file or another thing else that needed to be cast.
Perchance you dared to come close because erroneously in your tiny audit assistants mind, you thought you could approach her for clarification of an item YOU had messed up and she had told you how to fix it in her audit review notes, she was evil.
Not because she was sharp, but because she did fifteen things all at the same time.
I had cast and cross cast all the numbers, they all were in perfect agreement…in desperation I invoked the Micrsoft excel “Reveal Code” command.
Line by line by line, the formulae scrawled across the face of my screen, like some strange waterfall of otherworldly alien forms…. and there it was!
The miscreant was this. …..one of the formulae had an asterix instead of an ampersand…and I was home.
So I emailed the spreadsheets across to my mentee and she was delighted.
The next weeks Friday she called again…..she was a bit upset…she narrates how every thing had been going on well, at a recent team meeting she asked the FD…since she had been working on the budget for 5 days straight and she still didn’t understand how the cross charging worked, it seemed the group was not making any money…but when you hit F9 recalculate, suddenly it was there.
So this afternoon, the FD pops down he wants to go over a couple of items on the budget sheets….. her immediate boss wasn’t around but he seemed to be okay with that ….he said it’ll take just 20 seconds…so she went.
He wanted to confirm which sheet was the final version of the intercompany calculations, he opens the sheet and as she confirmed it was…..he says thanks…ok lets look at the mickey mouse budget!
He then scrolls across a tab, he presses a button …(she had no idea it was there) and it reworks the whole spreadsheet right in front of her eyes. It even had graphic overlay and to top it all, it was in color! By this time her whole mouth was agape wide open. Definitely not with love…. but with shock and awe.
Ok he said….good work..this should keep the Mickey Mice happy..I have booked a celebration dinner for the team tonight. See you at the OXO towers at 8.
That’s why I called, she said. What should I do? I am upset that he called my work Mickey Mouse, and obviously I wasn’t senior enough for the celebratory dinner until tonight, because I didn’t even know about it! And tonight we have a girl’s night out already planned for Pizza Express!
And so I sought to appease her and I said, ok I’d feel upset if my work was called that too but I am sure that he was only joking with you.
Listen If I were you, here is what I’d do. Just reschedule your girls night till later, your girlfriends will understand that it is because of work, and ..I’m sure the food at the Oxo Towers trumps that at Pizza Express. You know your FD probably knows three times more about your own work as you do, and he might have more superior technology than you, but that is because such modules are too expensive for everyone in the team to have.
So maybe suggest at dinner, a team workstation that the rest of you can share so you all can help him do his work faster, or even if read only, you would be happy just to cross cast his work to make sure it agrees!…And I am sure he has planned a general team dinner for all so be happy that you get to attend with the seniors tonight which means that you might attend two dinners. So she thought about it and agreed to do so.
The evening draws to a close as I shuffle in line at burger king at Kings Cross British rail station, waiting for my train, which had experienced something of a delay. Nevertheless, I am pleased with myself for a day well spent. As I think of my mentee attending her posh dinner, I tick my day’s achievements off in my head, plus! A job well done for a happy mentee, life is good.