By Vickie Clarke Brown CDIR chief financial officer, Custom Solar Ltd 

What is your current role?

I am chief financial officer at Custom Solar Ltd, the chair of South Yorkshire Branch of Institute of Directors, and a non-executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce.

What does that involve on a day-to-day basis?

There are several responsibilities, including ensuring the company has access to sufficient funds to achieve its strategic plans, and that the board and management team understand the financial performance of the business and how we are tracking against our plans.

In addition to the long-term strategy, there is also the day-to-day management of the finance function, overview of the cashflow and daily spend, plus management of external stakeholder relationships with bankers, auditors and other funders. Much of what I do as a finance director is about communicating with people and developing relationships.

How did you get started working in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)?

South Yorkshire has a proud history of manufacturing and I’ve been fortunate enough to work for some great companies such as AESSEAL Plc where I was based for ten years following my training.

Accounting is a transferable skill, but the management accounting qualification is particularly applicable to the manufacturing process, understanding the profits made by each product stream and what levers can be pulled to maximise a company’s returns.

What qualifications did you take or gain along the way?

I’m a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and also the only female chartered director in South Yorkshire.I’m a huge believer in lifelong learning and achieved my chartered director qualification only a couple of years ago.

Why do you love working in STEM?

Every day is different, there are always new challenges to tackle, new products being developed, new processes established.

As a finance professional I have to understand every part of the business to be able to ensure we achieve our targets. The costs and what drives them are fundamental to the board’s decision-making on what we take forward into production.

What challenges have you faced in your career? And how did you overcome them?

Early on in my career it was a challenge to be taken seriously – tenacity is important. Just keep going, and take every chance to prove yourself, grasp every opportunity and even when you don’t succeed, learn from the experience.

Never be afraid to ask if you don’t understand something, and never miss an opportunity to learn – everyone can teach you something.

Seek out mentors who can advise and support. They don’t need to be in your business, or even your sector, but if you find someone you think is inspirational and reach out to them, you might be surprised at the people who are willing to lend a hand.

What advice would you offer for someone joining the STEM sectors?

Go for it – it’s such a vibrant exciting fast-moving environment, you will never be bored!

What do we need to do as an industry to attract and keep more women in STEM?

Fly the flag for women in STEM and let the younger generation know how exciting and diverse the different roles are.

To find out more about equality in STEM, including individual and corporate membership, visit our website