Ex-pottery worker Jane swaps plate painting for plate spinning

In just five short years, Jane has dramatically changed her career path from a plate painter at a pottery firm to that of Company Secretary and Legal Director at Newcastle-under-Lyme based business consultancy Strategi Solutions.Jane, who lives in Stoke-on-Trent, says that returning to college was a daunting prospect at first but has turned out to be the best thing she has ever done.

She enrolled at South Cheshire College in September 2016 and has spent the last four years combining study towards AAT Accountancy qualifications with her job at Staffordshire-based business consultancy Strategi Solutions, successfully passing her Level 4 AAT qualification in December 2020.

Jane said, “I was extremely nervous on the first day. I didn’t know what to expect as I’d never been to college before. I thought I would be the oldest in the class and didn’t know if I would be able to keep up. However, it was a very mixed group and the person I sat with on the first day is the same person I sat with up until the end of the course in December.”

Jane, who has two daughters and two grandsons, says that combining work with study has been a challenge, especially during the pandemic.

“I was fortunate that my girls were adults so I could do revision at home. Then in March, lockdown happened, so we moved from classroom to Zoom. I’m not going to lie it was hard, looking at numbers all day and revision at night, but I got through it. I didn’t give up, even though it was tempting! I’d come so far and there’s no better feeling than when you get a pass result.”

Reflecting on her career path, Jane says that after finishing Sixth Form College she spent much of her time ‘falling’ from one dead-end job to another.

“I married young so having a mortgage to pay and mouths to feed were the drivers – all I wanted was a job for life but think they’re an urban myth in my case. I’ve always had a confidence issue, so I took what came available until it ended and then looked for something else.”

Things took a turn for the better for Jane when she joined Strategi as Office Manager in May 2016, one of just three staff at the time working with company founder and CEO Wendy Dean.

“Wendy saw something in me I didn’t. At that time, she was extremely excited about the company she was giving up her job to start. She was so infectious and when she offered me the chance to join her, I took a leap of faith and went for it. In May 2016, I sat at my new desk thinking that this was a career not just another job to pay the bills.”

Jane has since been promoted to Finance Manager at Strategi and says that learning new skills has given her more confidence and enabled her to grow in her role with the company.

“What I’ve learnt at college has helped so much in my day-to-day job and gives me more confidence in what I do. I’ve come a long way, but I still have a long way to go. I’m truly fortunate that I’m in a great company that gives me the tools and support to grow.”

Since completing her AAT course, Jane says she has caught the learning bug and is keen to keep growing and improving her skills.

“Every day is a learning day! Strategi never stands still and as it grows it means I will grow with it, so for me my career will be a natural progression and there’s still plenty to learn here. We have some excellent trainers in-house so now I have a bit more time, I’ll be jumping on their courses.”

Looking to the future, Jane says she is excited for what the future holds.

“To have seen Strategi grow from three people in a tiny office to the company it is today has been a wonderful experience. The team is an amazing group of incredibly talented individuals and I hope that some of their magic will rub off on me. We have some rising stars in the business, so I’ll have a front row seat in watching them grow and hopefully helping them along the way.”

Wendy Dean, CEO at Strategi said, “We strongly believe that skills development and training are vital to business growth. We want all our employees to be the best they can be, and Jane’s inspirational story just goes to show that when it comes to learning and improving, the sky’s the limit!”

“Without Jane, Strategi would not be what it is today. She has been instrumental in our growth as a team, the purchase of our very own building and has always been the glue that holds us together. To say I was proud of her would be an understatement.”

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