Faisal Mahmood shares his battle with OCD, and how he resumed his accountancy career later on in life.
When I was a teenager, I lost my grandmother - who I lived with. 6 months later I lost my dad too. It was a chaotic time, and in the midst of it I ended up pursuing a career path that just wasn’t right for me.
At university I studied science, and it wasn’t until after speaking to a friend that I decided to try accountancy instead.
One thing I want to tell everyone is ‘do what you enjoy’. You can only perform and do your best if you enjoy something. If you don’t, you'll find an excuse to miss lectures and you won't be interested.
In my final year of University I started to develop severe OCD, which caused me to miss lectures. My lecturers noticed something was wrong, so they called me in. After I explained what was going on, they suggested I get medical help.
So I ended up seeing a psychotherapist and got put on medication. Getting this help then allowed me to complete my degree and solidify my interest in accounting.
After graduation I started pursuing an accounting career. However, my illness overwhelmed me and holding down jobs became very difficult.
It’s never too late
As the years progressed, I still thought about getting back into accounting.
Initially I wanted to study ACCA but couldn't do it because of all the other ‘life things’: my illness, getting married, and having a lovely daughter. Finances were also a factor, but I was still determined to get back into accounting.
As things started to settle down, I was able to get a job - at the University of Bradford. Once I settled in, I told them that I wanted to get back into accountancy. Despite feeling a little rusty, I went back to the beginning and started the AAT Foundation course.
So, the last three to four years have been quite a long slog. I've been juggling work, family life, running the household, having a social life, and studying. And although my OCD has never completely gone, it's now manageable.
Studying Live Online
Because of my OCD, I found that Live Online was perfect for me. I'm in the comfort of my own home and have everything I need. I think it's the best of both worlds because you get the classroom atmosphere, so you can ask questions and interact with other students, and don't have to travel.
Another thing that was fantastic was that it was recorded. So, I could play them back if I was unwell, which happened a few times during COVID.
The online resources were fantastic as well as the printed materials. It was also easy to interact with the tutors through live support, email a tutor, or directly contacting your own tutor. There was always somebody there for us - we weren't on our own with Kaplan. I can honestly say every tutor was fantastic.
My first tutor, Sarah Powell, will always be my favourite tutor because when I first started, I had a lot of doubts. She encouraged and supported me. I'll never forget that.
Be proud of your achievements
I'm proud of my achievement and my exam results. In Level 2 and 3 I got quite a few 100% marks and an overall distinction for both. The lowest mark I got was 82% in Level 4, for which I got an overall merit at 87%.
For me it’s really important to share my story and help others. If I can inspire people who are going through difficulty, financially or health wise, I want them to feel that it's never too late.
I'm now in my 40s, and had my doubts, but ultimately realised it's never too late. Despite all the obstacles and hurdles with illness and responsibilities, I got there.
I’m currently an Accounts Assistant and my ambition is to become a senior member of the finance team here, such as the Finance Manager. I want to give something back, and I also enjoy working with young people and helping them.
There are times when things get difficult, but you just need to take a step back.
Not everything will be clean sailing. There may be challenging topics or challenging personal circumstances, but that is life. When something's out of your control, there's no harm in taking extra time, as long as you get there.
It’s never too late. Inspired by Faisal’s story? Have a look at our accountancy pages to see how you could start your accounting career.