As part of our Social Media Takeover, we hear from Catherine Browne from Orkney Housing Association Ltd (OHAL) who tells us about the journey she took to her current role as Finance and Asset Management Advisor.
Shortly after leaving school, Catherine started working in an out of school care facility in her native Shetland. She also picked up part-time work in a variety of different roles while she worked towards her degree in Cultural Studies. She then undertook a postgraduate diploma in Archaeology, which included a two-month placement in Iceland. Following graduation, she worked as an Office Administrator with an Insurance Broker before being offered the chance to move to Orkney to work at Santander. Three years later, she moved to OHAL to work in the Finance Department.
Can you describe a typical day in your job?
In the finance aspect of my job, a typical day can involve reconciling the daily bank transactions, raising invoices and rents to tenants, processing our own purchase invoices and payment runs, and keeping the Orkney Care & Repair financial records up to date.
On the asset management side, the work can vary from issuing letters to writing tender documents and analysis of previous year’s expenditure to maintaining planned maintenance records.
How did you end up in this role?
My first job, which I started shortly before leaving school, was in an out of school care setting in my local village in Shetland. I worked there for about eight years, and also picked up additional part-time work as a Court Officer in the Lerwick Sheriff Court, the Lerwick out of school club and at the local hospital as a Domestic/Canteen Assistant. During this time, I worked towards my degree in Cultural Studies before going on to study Archaeology at a postgraduate level, and was fortunate to be awarded a funded placement in Iceland for two months over the summer working on the site of a medieval cemetery and hospital site. A job in archaeology would have been amazing but there’s not that many around!
The following year, I got my first full-time job working as an Office Administrator for a local insurance brokers, which was also an agency for Santander – I had been wanting to move to Orkney for some time, and after a couple of years with the agency, received a call one day to say that there was a part-time job going in the branch in Kirkwall, and it was mine if I wanted it. A month later I was front of house at Santander Kirkwall, where I worked part-time for three years before successfully applying for a position at OHAL in the Finance Department.
In the six years I’ve been here, my job has expanded from a part-time Accounts Administrator role, to being full-time working on finance and administrative tasks for not just the Finance Department, but also Development and Properties and Orkney Care and Repair.
What is the best thing about your job?
Working for three departments means there is always a lot of variety in what I can be doing from day to day, but there are always set tasks that need done on a daily basis as well so I also have the benefit of still having some structure to my day. I’ve always had an interest in numbers as well, so it suits me to the ground!
What is the worst thing about your job?
When you label up an invoice with its payment date the following month and realise how quickly the year is flying by.
What skills do you need to undertake your role?
Communication skills are key, especially now that we also do a lot of home-working so aren’t always together in the office, and the ability to work on your own initiative is as important as teamworking. Attention to detail, literacy and numerical skills are essential due to the nature of the work, and being comfortable working with various IT formats is also a bonus as things will always be changing on that front.
What qualifications do you have?
7 Standard Grades
SVQ2 Play work
BA Hons Culture Studies of the Highlands & Islands
Postgraduate Diploma in Professional Archaeology
Currently working towards AAT Advanced Diploma in Accounting, supported by my employer.
Would you recommend this job to young people, if so why?
Yes, because it has both structure and variety to it, and the skills acquired can transfer easily to either future jobs or even just your personal life. It’s also really nice to work for a smaller local employer where you are treated as an individual, and valued as such.
Visit Orkney Housing Association Ltd on: