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Jackie Outram - nee Higgins (BA German & French 1986)


I am married with three children, still living in the Reading area and have enjoyed a flexible and challenging career as a Chartered Accountant since leaving University, working as an auditor whilst training and then going on to work in a fast growing telecommunications business, being self employed, providing accountancy services to small businesses in the local area, and lately as a Financial Controller to a scientific consultancy.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Reading?

I chose to study at Reading because I loved the atmosphere around the campus and the beautiful green spaces when I came for the Open Day. A school friend was already studying here and he was very enthusiastic about it.

What was the best bit about living and studying in Reading?

I really enjoyed living in Windsor Hall for my first and final years. There was a great sense of community and we had a lot of fun in the JCR! I also had a great time performing in the German & French Society plays. The Year Abroad in my third year was probably the highlight for me, where I immersed myself in language and culture in Cologne & Strasbourg.

What top tips would you give to students who are beginning their studies?

I would tell students to study what they are passionate about and visit as many Universities as they can before deciding where to apply. Choose the one that feels right for you and don't be too influenced by league tables . If you are studying something you love in a place that you feel comfortable in, you are bound to be a successful student.

If applicable, how did you benefit from spending a year abroad / a year in industry?

The experience of going to live and study in Franc and Germany was hugely important for me in my personal development. It made me much more confident, and able to face new challenges, after having the daunting prospect of finding accommodation, making new friends, and living independently in a foreign country. And of course I spoke much better French and German by the time I came home!

What are you up to now? How did you get there?

My Chartered Accountancy qualification along with my language skills has given me an interesting, varied and flexible career while juggling family life. I am now enjoying working for an Employee Owned company where I am a senior manager, responsible for accounting, human resources and legal matters. I have been called on to translate tender documents and have provided translation for my scientific colleagues on occasion. My daughter is currently on her year abroad for her French degree and I am looking forward to visiting her many times!

What would be your top tips for students interested in working in this sector?

Go for it! I never thought that I would be an Accountant when I embarked on my degree. I was studying what i loved without much thought for the future. Training as an Accountant broadened my skills and opened my eyes to the world of business. It is not necessary to be good at maths or have strong family links to this profession. An ability to challenge yourself to do new things, work hard and present your ideas well both orally and on paper are the best attributes to be successful as an accountant.

How has the University of Reading and the Careers Centre helped in your chosen career path?

At the milk-round, I had a number of unsuccessful interviews for sales & marketing. My lack of business experience was apparent in this process so I needed to try a new direction. I was first introduced to the idea of being an accountant by attending the summer recruitment fair after finals. My future boss was there and encouraged me to apply and come for an in-depth interview after an informal chat at the fair. If I had not had that initial first contact, it is doubtful I would have pursued this.

What are your top tips for students graduating this year? What should they be doing to secure the job they want?

Do your research! Talk to lots of people who are doing the job you want. Try to get some work experience. Talk to your parents and their friends about their jobs and find out what they love and hate about it!

What does the University mean to you and what is your favourite memory?

I have very fond memories of my time at Reading University and thanks to studying here I have had a fulfilling career , home and wonderful family life. I was lucky enough to be taught Linguistics by David Crystal and love to hear him talk about languages and dialects on Radio 4. I also studied Samuel Beckett with Professor Knowlson . I have a clear memory of a tutorial in his office and being swept up in his enthusiasm for Beckett and slightly in awe that he had actually met the man himself! Hard to pick a favourite memory, but aside from the whole year I spent in Cologne and Strasbourg, the many Windsor Bops and formal dinners, probably it would be Inter-railing in Europe with my fellow German and French students for two weeks one Easter. We got all the way to Lake Lucerne - which was as breathtakingly beautiful as it was expensive for us poor students! Happy days, sleeping on trains and in youth hostels, eating bread and Quark, and Kaffee und Kuchen.

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