Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the normal audience size at Børsen was heavily reduced. Still, the notorious final exam of the two-and-a-half year programme towards becoming a state-authorized public accountant was as chilling as it has always been. On that day, months of preparation must fall into place in a compelling presentation. If all goes well, brand new career opportunities open up.
“26 test exams were how I prepared for everything”
At first, you think you might have misheard when Helene Christine Joost tells you that she organised 26 test exams within less than a month to prepare for every single outcome when the day of the real exam arrived. But that’s actually what happened – and fortunately she passed. To her, becoming a state-authorized public accountant is not only about making the cut, but also applying the persistence and diligence that will follow you throughout your career.
“The final oral exam at Børsen has always been the epitome of my nightmares about the programme. Here, both colleagues and the partners are watching your presentation, all of whom you want to impress. That’s why I prepared like I have never prepared before. I wanted to make sure that I could give a top performance even if I was clearly put under a lot of pressure.”
For Helene Christine Joost, the exam marked the end of an intense study programme spread over 2.5 years. Two entire summer holidays were spent on preparing for the three written exams, not to mention countless weekends.
“Everyone knows that it isn’t a walk in the park to become a state-authorized public accountant; it’s hard work. Fortunately, you can draw on an incredible network. Not only did I have my colleagues and mentor to ask for help; I was also part of a study group at Deloitte where we supported each other all the way to the final exam. It was amazing to see how committed the entire firm was to support our journey. That’s something I look forward to giving back to future candidates.”
Passing a huge milestone in her career, Helene Christine Joost is now ready to take on new challenges at Deloitte’s Assurance Offerings department, which operates much like a consulting organisation within the audit department, offering special advisory on complex issues such as corporate governance, financial process improvement, ERP advisory, accounting advisory and IPO advisory:
“At Deloitte I specialise in accounting advisory, IPOs as well as bond and rights issues. These are complex areas. Although many of our clients put projects on hold during the initial phases of the pandemic, we are starting to see a lot of activity in the market and strategic moves. Executives know that they need to make bold financial decisions to make it through and beyond the crisis – and of course we are here to help.”
“Professionally and personally it has been a wild journey – and the culmination of many years of hard work”
Some people move slowly into their chosen career path; others have a plan from the beginning. Nicolaj Haarup definitely falls into the latter category. He was just 19 when he joined Deloitte in 2011. Today, he is one of the youngest state-authorized public accountants after passing the exam. But it has required hard work – and the journey of growth has been a personal one as much as it has been professional.
“Sometimes, it’s not until you look back that you realise how fast things have progressed. I joined Deloitte right after business college, then I got my graduate diploma (HD), then my master’s degree and now the SR Academy where I just passed the exam. Sure, there have been many hours of hard work, but it has also been a natural progression where you constantly get better at working with both theory and practice.”
Nicolaj Haarup passed all of his SR-exams on his first try. However, as he looks back he remembers the first period to be the most difficult, because you didn’t know where to set the bar:
“Of course the last oral exam at Børsen is what everyone fears, but in fact I was more unsure in the beginning of the programme because it was difficult to tell whether you would meet the expectations or you were on the road to failure. Luckily, that insecurity vanished towards the end, and I had a much greater understanding of what was required. That helped me on the last day and made the whole exam a memorable and intense experience.”
Now a state-authorized public accountant, Nicolaj Haarup has big plans for the future:
“I already specialize in construction and real estate, and I want to become even better at supporting my clients, many of whom are both ambitious and highly successful. But more than that, I want to continue my journey of personal growth: standing by my opinions, driving the right decisions – and working with the kind of personal confidence and professional authority that a state-authorized public accountant is expected to have. My goal is definitely to one day join the partnership of Deloitte as these are the people I look up to the most.”
”School wasn’t always easy for me, so I am very proud to pass the exam”
Lea Nielsen knew from the beginning that the written exams of the SR programme would be the most difficult for her. Writing is not her favourite thing – it never has been. But with the help of supportive colleagues at Deloitte and her own determination she pushed her limits and refused to give up. Today, she is a proud state-authorized public accountant at the Deloitte Nuuk office in Greenland where she is enjoying life and work right at the Arctic circle.
“The relocation from Copenhagen to Nuuk came about after a three-week stationing in 2019. As I went back home on the plane, I had already decided that I wanted to move to Greenland. I really missed the tranquillity of life and being close to nature. Plus, there are many exciting companies in Nuuk, typically within production, trade or construction. It felt like a natural progression in my career and my life – and I haven’t looked back since.”
After a year in Nuuk, Lea Nielsen can now call herself a state-authorized public accountant. She admits that it has been a struggle to get through the exams, especially the written ones.
“I’m not ashamed to say that for one of the written exams, I didn’t pass until my third try. I’ve always found it difficult to put things into writing, so I had to do a lot of training. Fortunately, I have had great help from my colleagues at Deloitte who have reviewed my papers and made suggestions for improvements. I feel that if you reach out for help, help is there for you. There is such a sense of community among people in the firm.”
Now in Greenland, new challenges are approaching as the economy is booming and qualified labour is in high demand in the Arctic region:
“There are many opportunities to do business in Greenland, but the talent shortage is an obstacle for many companies. That’s why it’s a clear priority for us to educate and train our new colleagues at the Deloitte office, just as I plan to teach at the business school or university in Nuuk in the future. I feel it’s important to contribute to society and give something back. Greenland is such a wonderful, magical place, and I love it here. I’ve finally found my niche.”
”When I set myself a goal, I’m determined to follow through”
Ismaeel Rasul passed the exam to become a state-authorized public accountant only a short time after his 27th birthday. In spite of this impressive achievement, he still remembers being just 18 years old and getting rejected for a job at a Big Four company. But Deloitte gave him a chance, and he promised that they wouldn’t regret it. Now, eight years later, he is serving some of Denmark’s largest and most successful companies.
“For many years, I have felt that I needed to prove myself. This is probably due to my young age and the fact that my parents came here from Pakistan in the 1970s to create a better future for themselves and their children. I’ve always wanted to show people that you can succeed in life even if you’re just a Muslim kid from Albertslund. So when Deloitte decided to offer me my dream job back in 2012, I wanted to make sure that they would never regret making that decision.”
Today, Ismaeel Rasul works with Deloitte’s top-tier clients, including listed companies and international groups. On top of this, he is part of the Assurance Offerings team in Copenhagen specialising in the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and complex accounting matters.
“Working with some of Denmark’s largest companies makes you feel humble and proud. Despite my age, I have been given a lot of responsibility and been asked to solve complex tasks, including IFRS implementations, which are often quite tricky. That has made me mature a lot personally and grow professionally. This is also why I decided to join the SR programme at an early age. I felt that I was ready to take it on.”
With so many years ahead, there is plenty of time for Ismaeel Rasul to pursue career opportunities. A two-year stationing at Deloitte’s London office is already in the pipeline:
“The reason for going to London would be to try one’s strength against the really big corporations and for my personal development. So far, the corona virus has put a temporary stop to these plans, but I’m sure they will come true once things return to normal. The idea, then, is to bring that knowledge back to Denmark once the mandatory audit rotations are put into effect among the C20 companies. It’s exciting to think of the many, many opportunities ahead.”