An American perspective on life in Nottingham

Jordan Ditter

Our very own Sonja Dengler visited Wisconsin, USA as part of an international work exchange recently. In return, we welcomed Jordan Ditter, senior accountant at Wegner CPAs, Madison, who joined us in Nottingham. This cross-cultural initiative is a result of our involvement in the Accelerate network and its links with CPAmerica.

We caught up with Jordan and asked him about his experience.

Can you provide a brief overview of the work exchange programme you participated in?

I work for Wegner CPAs, a medium-sized Certified Public Accountant firm in Wisconsin (US) and travelled to Nottingham, England for a four-week exchange programme with Page Kirk. I worked on various accounts and audit jobs (similar what I do at Wegner) on the exchange.

What motivated you to take part in a work exchange?

I enjoy travelling in general and looked forward to going to a new country. I have been at Wegner for over four years now and, as I continue to progress in my career, I thought it would be beneficial to see how auditors at a different firm go about their work and see if I could find things to implement back in the States.

Where and how long did you spend in UK? Was it enough time?

I stayed in a flat near Nottingham's city centre for the entirety of the four-week exchange outside of one weekend in London. Being a new country for me, I felt like there was so much to do where I definitely could have used an extra two to four weeks!

What did you think of Nottingham and the UK?

I thought Nottingham was a great city and loved being able to walk or take public transit anywhere I needed to go. The location of my flat was very close to hundreds of restaurants and shops. Going to London for a weekend was great, but I think I prefer the feel of a smaller city like Nottingham.

How did you prepare for the work exchange both professionally and personally?

Most of the professional preparation was with Wegner CPAs by making sure I had all my work at a good stopping point and met any deadlines before leaving for the trip. Personally, I hadn't travelled out of the country in a couple of years and so making sure I had all my documents, luggage, and travel arrangements in order was the biggest hurdle.

Were there any specific skills or knowledge you aimed to gain during the exchange?

I think what I was most eager to observe was Page Kirk's approach to audits and then compare that to what we do at Wegner. Seeing how Page Kirk runs an audit would hopefully provide me with a couple of ideas to bring back and implement at Wegner in our own work.

How does the accounting environment in Nottingham differ from what you were accustomed to in the United States?

One thing that I found was different right away was accounts work which seemed to be required for almost every UK company, but is not something we do in the US. That type of work is typically not required for non-public US companies (perhaps because it is supplemented by required tax returns).

What were some of the challenges you faced during the work exchange?

This was one of the first times where I had gone on a big trip without family or friends and so going through all the travel on my own was a bit challenging, but once I was here for a few days, I settled in. It was also the longest I had been away from family and so that was hard at times, but it was really nice once my girlfriend came to visit for the second half of my exchange. Nottingham being a very walkable city helped a lot once I was here, in terms of being able to get around, do some shopping, and going out to dinner.

Were there any culture/accountancy barriers?

Culture-wise, one thing that surprised me was that it was harder than expected to pick up on the accents. I had to really listen and look for body language clues to make sure I didn't miss something. For accounting, we have a lot of similar accounts and practices, but they are often called something different and so learning the UK accounting jargon was a bit of a challenge (for example, debtors in the UK are customers, whereas in the US they are loan agencies).

What did you get out of the exchange?

It was helpful to see the way Page Kirk's audits were structured. Something I noticed Page Kirk did a lot more of than Wegner was interim audit testing. After seeing the testing that they performed, I certainly think that there would be opportunities to implement some interim audit testing at Wegner to save time later on and lessen the burden during our busiest seasons.

What new skills or perspectives did you acquire during the exchange?

Going to a new firm, with new software, and working on projects I haven't done before (such as accounts work which aren't something we do at Wegner) sort of made me feel like a new hire. At Wegner, I am one of our main trainers for new hires and so I think getting the perspective of being new to a firm will help me tailor my training to those at Wegner who will be in similar situations.

How did the exchange help you develop, personally and professionally?

I am a little on the reserved/quiet side (hence a career path in public accounting) and so one area I had to grow was being more willing to step out of my comfort zone and meet a lot of new people and try new activities. The exchange program also gave me some new perspectives on auditing that I can take back to the states.

What type of projects did you work on?

I mainly worked on accounts jobs and some preliminary audit work.

How did the exchange impact your day-to-day responsibilities compared to Wegner CPAs?

At Wegner CPAs, almost every audit I am on is one that I am in running/in-charge of. It was a nice change of pace to instead be the staff on the audit – being told what to do vs. being the one delegating.

How did you and your new colleagues engage in team-building activities during the work exchange?

There were a fair number of organised events during the week/weekends while I was in the UK.

These included a Forest football match, rugby in Leichester, Panthers hockey, networking, a poetry reading, museum and cave tours, Xmas market, holiday party, and a pantomime,

What recreational activities did you engage in during your free time?

I enjoyed just walking around Nottingham and exploring the city. I enjoyed trying new restaurants/pubs in the evening.

Were there any local sports, hobbies, or pastimes that you tried or adopted?

I love sports but up until the trip, I pretty much just engaged in American sports. The highlights of my time in Nottingham were probably the three sports outings noted above. Getting to see a Premier League match live was really neat.

Did you develop friendships with local colleagues?

Yes, everyone at Page Kirk was super friendly and made me feel at home. TJ organised a lot of my events and had very similar interests especially when it comes to sports. Sonja had come to the Wegner for the exchange a month earlier, so it was nice to have a familiar face when I arrived. She also organised a few the things I have never done before (poetry reading and a pantomime).

Can you share a particularly memorable social activity or event from your work exchange experience?

Being a sports guy, each of the matches I attended were probably the highlight for me although I still have to a way to go in learning all the rules. Rugby looked the most like American football, but it was tougher than I thought to follow how the game works. One of the best meals I had was actually on my first night in Nottingham when I went out for an English roast with TJ and Matt.

Did you do any travelling if so where?

I did go to London one weekend with my girlfriend and that was a really nice time. On Saturday we went took a bus tour of some of the common attractions and then went out to a nice dinner. The highlight of the London trip though was on Sunday going out for an afternoon tea.

Are you planning on implementing any changes or improvements based on your experience?

I still plan to reflect on little more on this once I get back to the States, but there are some practices I can take from Page Kirk and apply to my audits at Wegner. Something I plan to start doing more of is preliminary audit work, particularly in the months where I am less busy. The hope is that this will help lessen the burden come audit time. There were also some Excel tips and tricks that I picked up and plan to utilise in my day-to-day activities at Wegner.

What advice would you give to colleagues considering a work exchange opportunity?

I would just encourage them to make sure that before leaving that they are all caught up on work at their home company so that they can truly enjoy the experience. There were a few small tasks I had to get done for Wegner on my trip that were a bit difficult with the time difference and working at a different firm for eight hours of the day.

What was the highlight of the trip?

It's hard to pinpoint one event or day as the highlight of my trip. I feel like there was very little that I did or food that I tried that I didn't like. One aspect of Nottingham that I really appreciated was the ability to walk or take public transit pretty much anywhere. There was no shortage of activities or restaurants to try that were no more than a mile away. That is something that I don't really get in the States.

Sum up your trip in a couple of sentences:

Overall, it was a really great experience, and I would encourage anyone with the opportunity to take advantage of it. I felt like I learned a lot while at Page Kirk and even though I was in Nottingham to work, there were still lots of opportunities for leisure and activities. It was great to get meet a whole new team of people that I hope to stay in touch with after the exchange program. Nottingham is a great city and I hope to make it back again someday.

Application for a graduate scheme is still open. Benefits include the opportunity to take part in our American work exchange programme. Click here to find out more.