Staff Interviews – Joanne Douglas

Welcome to the second in our series of staff interviews! This week, we're talking to Joanne Douglas, our resident Finance Manager here at Vital. Jo's been working in finance a long time, and has a fascinating slew of jobs under her belt. But it wasn't always what she had her heart set on doing.

Vita Finance Jo
Joanne Douglas

Hi Joanne. Great to get a chance to finally sit down with you! How are you?

I’m good thank you!

Great to hear. Well let’s jump right in shall we? When did you start working at Vital?

It was the 8th of December 2015, so we’re almost coming up to my one year anniversary.

Good timing for an interview then. And what were you doing before you got here?

Well, I’ve been working within finance over a number of years with lots of different companies. I was with the last company for about a year. They dealt with music festivals, nightclubs, construction companies etc, and my job was to revamp all of their finances and make sure everything was legitimate!

Before that I worked for a well-known design consultancy called WPA Pinfold, based just outside of Leeds. They were going through a real bad patch at the time, so my job was again to help them revamp their finances and put them on the path to growth. By the end of my stay there, their turnover was more than double than at the start!

Seems like you’ve been fantastic wherever you’ve been then! Was working in finance always your goal?

Funnily enough I did a drama degree at university, so none of this was what I intended at all! Afterwards I worked as a cashier on the cruise ships for three years, so I was very lucky to have been able to sail to some amazing places, like the Caribbean, Canada and Australia. Once I came off the cruise ships I had the practice of using a computer, and at the time that was a rare skill. Because of that I landed a job with Barclays, working in their finance department as an information analyst, so I was dealing with a lot of mortgage stuff right around when the crash happened. I ended up really enjoying that job and that lead to all of this! It’s amazing how fate can take us in the right direction sometimes.

Jo Vital Finance Caribbean
A cruiseliner Joanne may or may not have worked on

It’s interesting how much your career can veer from one path to another, depending on the circumstances. After all of that, what was it that made you want to work at Vital?

I had been looking for somewhere where everybody really enjoyed working, where people were very friendly and worked as a team. For that reason the advert for this job really caught my eye – It was written in such a friendly way and talked about caring about who you are, and not just seeing you as another cog in the wheel. When I came for the interview it just reinforced what lead me to apply to begin with. 

So, tell us a little bit about your role here. What is it you do on a day-to-day basis?

The majority of what I do is about reconciling the bank with what happens in our order system. It’s different to any other job I’ve had because of how many different costs are involved in the legalisation of documents and the acquisition of birth, marriage and death certificates. There could be as many as twenty transactions a day, but within that multiple different orders. You’ve also got income coming into different places and via different means. For example, SagePay may give me one transaction at a certain price, and I have to figure out how that splits out into all the orders that have been taken that day!

Sounds terribly complicated!

But it’s very challenging and I enjoy that. I’m also constantly struggling with the number of currencies we have to deal with, since we have service partners across the world who want to be paid in either dollars or euros or riyals. So we have to convert that from one of the two base currencies we work in. So yes, it is complicated but very interesting.

I suppose we’ve talked about this a bit already, but what are some of the biggest challenges you face in your role?

It’s mostly just about keeping on top of everything because there’s so many things to deal with. When I started here we didn’t have any proper management accounts, so it was about creating those and being able to give clarity to our spending. Now we can see exactly how well we’re doing, if there’s going to be a problem with cash-flow in any situation etc. It allows us to take much better decisions about our spending than we had done before, which is great.

Sounds like you really enjoy your job. What is it you enjoy most about working here?

On a professional level it’s the challenge of what I’m doing which makes this job so rewarding. On a personal level it really is about the people I work with. It feels like a family of really friendly, but really dedicated and professional people who are all really good at what they do.

So you said you’ve been here almost a year now. How has your role changed since you started working here?

For the first six months it was a case of sorting everything out and gaining clarity about where we were as a business, both financially and otherwise. Since then it’s really been about handling those management accounts and making sure we know where we are every month and can break down those numbers to take the best decisions possible.

And we do have a lot of projects to funnel that into, like the new offices in Saudi and Qatar that are hopefully opening next year.

Yes. It seems we’re constantly growing and pushing towards the next thing. We always figure out a way to do things which is a great ability for any business to have!

I agree. So, tell us more about Joanne as a person. What do you like to do in your downtime?

Well, I enjoy spending time with my husband and my two boys. Five years ago we bought a house which was an absolute wreck – the kitchen consisted of a sink and walls with no plaster on them! We’ve spent the last five years doing that up, which is great for me because I love interior design. I think that’s how I channel all that creativity these days! I recently revamped our entire garden as well, so that’s another way I like to spend my time.

I sense a theme running through your life – you just love revamping things! Whether it be finances, gardens or rundown old houses.

Haha! I suppose you’re right. I also really love reading, and will read at any opportunity. If there’s an advert in the middle of a programme I’ll pick up my book and read a few pages just because I can! My husband and I have recently taken to country walks as well. We have a book with all the most stunning walks around Yorkshire, and usually just pick a number from there and go!

Vital Finance Jo Buxton
Joanne in a lovely field

That sounds incredible! I look forward to hearing your recommendations. Final question. Do you have a favourite quote?

“It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.”

Maurice Switzer

Well you certainly haven’t made a fool of yourself today! Thank you very much Joanne!

Thank you!

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Ashraf Vachhiat
Ashraf is the Marketing Technologist at Vital Consular, which means he handles all the technicalities involved in bringing this blog to life! He also enjoys creating in-depth articles around current affairs which impact the travel and relocation industry. In his free time, Ashraf relishes travelling as much as possible, and is always looking for quirky spots to take some great photos.
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