Here is a wonderful motivational story from one of our successful ex-students. It shows how the ICSA Chartered Secretaries Qualifying Scheme can provide a pathway to a fabulous career. Thank you to Tonia for writing this for us.

Want to be a Secretary …. ??

My name is Tonia and this is my story. Following school I went to College for a couple of years to train to be a Secretary/PA. This was back in 1985 and staying for A levels and then going to University was something for the kids who had their ties done up properly, carried an oversized brief case to school and had fairly wealthy parents!

I was going college to learn to type properly on a manual Adler Triumph, take shorthand and be a Secretary and that is exactly what I did. By the time I was 22 I was Secretary to an Assistant Director in the Housing Department of a Local Authority and was very proud of it!

My first daughter came along when I was 24 and my second at 26 – job share was a very new concept and only a very few employers would entertain such an idea but I was lucky and managed to hold on to my prestigious secretarial job.

Time went by and when I was 30 an opportunity presented itself, to be part of a team to set up a Housing Association for the Local Authority who wished to transfer its council houses. I jumped at this and 3 years later the Housing Association was set up, a company limited by guarantee. I moved over to the Housing Association and became the PA to the Chief Executive. I had made it, I was a top notch Secretary. I wasn’t of course, I had never heard of a Chartered Secretary!

Having done so much setting up the Housing Association I was then very bored being a Secretary and spoke to my boss about opportunities. I of course, knew by then that there was such a thing as a Company Secretary and he asked me if I would like to assume that role in the fullness time if I did a few exams. Of course, looking into it I could see that Company Secretaries were highly regarded, were the company historian, the conscience of the business, the keeper of records, the font of all knowledge, the beating heart.

I wanted to be a Chartered Secretary.

So the journey began, we are now in 2001, I am 34, I have two youngish children and a full time job. I did manage to get an exemption from the first level of the CSQS (there were 4 levels in the olden days) so that meant only 12 exams instead of 16. I needed some help with this, I couldn’t go to college as I had a full time job and therefore distance learning was my only option, I searched and found Campbell’s College. I rang, had a chat with Jane and decided to sign up.

Well, maths and financial stuff had never really been my strongest subject but Jim was as patient as a saint and I spent hours and hours getting to grips with double entry booking keeping to start with and then moving on to management accounts and financial accounting. There were tears and tantrums and huge frustrations but Jim got me through.

The law side of things was much more my cup of tea and I enjoyed those modules with Vivien. She was an inspiration to me, she too had studied with young children and knew how hard it was to balance the responsibilities of family and also strive to reach your goals. Vivien drove me on, she was a hard task master but she made me believe I could do it and I wanted to show her that I could.

The governance and secretarial modules were also right up my street. Alan was a brilliant tutor with a relaxed and informative style. A man of many stories which you come to realise all have a relevance to what you are learning and stick in your mind ready to pop out on exam day.

Did I pass them all first time? – no I didn’t – I failed 3 out of the 12 and had to retake.

Did I do revision courses? – yes I did them all and met some wonderful friends, like-minded people. Being together for revision weekends and working our way through, exam by exam provided a camaraderie like no other. These were people who understood, people who cared, people you could call when you were stuck and people who could help lift your spirits when you were alone night after night, weekend after weekend with your nose in a book.

Did my kids feel neglected at times? – yes.

Do they remind me? - yes

Do they forgive me? - yes they do because they understand now that my success bought them their first cars, put deposits on their first homes and now pays the nursery bill for my grandchildren!

Yes it is hard, you need to be committed and determined to succeed. You will get knock backs. It will impact on your family life which you have to try and balance. My family and parents were very supportive and helpful but I could have done a bit better with balancing my time.

So what happened in the end?

I qualified in 2005 and became the Group Company Secretary of the Housing Association. I moved on in 2007 to the financial sector and in 2008 became a Head of Compliance and Society Secretary for a Building Society.

Today, I am 12 years post qualification and my minute taking days are over. I am now the Executive Director of Risk Management and member of the Board.

So, do you want to be a Secretary?

Yes you do, a Chartered Secretary, because the doors it can open for you are many and the opportunities are vast.


Tonia Lovell ACIS
June 2017

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