Finance profile: Elaine Starr

Elaine Starr joined British Steel in December 2016, embarking on her career in our Audit team. Now working in our Finance team, Elaine shares her journey....

What was your first role in British Steel and what's been your journey since?

In 2016 I joined the company as an Internal Auditor for the Audit, Risk and Assurance team. Internal Audit is an incredibly interesting and varied function, its main role is to provide assurance to the Executive Board that an organisation’s risk management, governance and internal control processes are operating effectively. To do this, we work from an annual audit plan, which is developed by identifying key risks and opportunities across the business. Work programmes are designed and evidence gathered to review how an area, system or process is operating and the findings are fed back through an audit report, where we highlight areas of excellence and good practice and identify suggestions for improvements. Curiosity, an understanding of what you are auditing, diplomacy and building a rapport with people is crucial to ensure an audit runs as smoothly as possible. 

Since May 2019, I worked with Purchase Accounts on invoicing activities, which was a particularly busy period. It can be quite a time intensive activity so in 2021, our Purchase Accounts team successfully developed and implemented a more efficient process for handling and processing invoices.

From June 2020, I also took on responsibility for the Release Strategy on our SAP system. This is where all business spend passes through agreed authorisation routes, helping us keep expenditure within planned budget levels.

In November 2021, I transferred to the Finance department so I'm now learning my new job. This involves a wide range of activities, including:

  • Assisting in month end financial reporting
  • Performing monthly balance sheet reconciliations
  • Monitoring and analysing financial data
  • Organising and responding on a timely basis to requests made by the business’ multiple stakeholders
  • Review of invoices (Goods Received Invoices Received - GRIR)
  • Tracking spend on our general ledger
  • Financial reporting as well as supporting various project activities

Of course the COVID-19 pandemic has brought new experiences to me in the workplace. During the lockdowns last year, I continued working from the offices. I felt safe as we have excellent COVID-19 procedures in place to protect the people that need to come to our sites. At first, the Admin Building felt eerily quiet, but now I’m so used to office colleagues homeworking that I’m going to find it strange when people return.

How long have you been at British Steel?

I joined the company on 12 December 2016 and the time has flown by!

Where did you work before?

I have an unrelated background, completing a BA Honours degree in Textile Design at Nottingham Trent University. I stayed in the city for a few years, working in Administration and Accounts before moving to North Lincolnshire in 2003. I worked for Hull Art College before joining North Lincolnshire Council in 2004, starting in Housing Finance and then transferring to Audit where I worked as an Internal Auditor for 10 years before joining British Steel.

What do you bring to your current role?

Attention to detail and a strong numeracy skills are a must. And, as with many things in life, a sense of humour always helps!

Why do you enjoy working for British Steel?

No 2 days are the same, I learn something different about the business or meet someone new nearly every day. And there is always something to learn because there are so many aspects to our business. However, what really makes British Steel is definitely the people. It’s like one big family, no matter where you are based – I'm pleased to have met some of our lovely colleagues in Lisburn, Teesside, Skinningrove, Immingham Bulk Terminal and FN Steel.

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

During the lockdowns last year, I learnt 3 jobs from different departments and I loved it. I really like variety and learning about how our business works. I got to meet so many different people as well as a lot of our new starters in the Admin Building in Scunthorpe. I’ve been assisting the Accounts Payable department and am amazed at the sheer volume of goods and services we need to order, and consequently the corresponding receipt of hundreds of invoice emails a day.

One of my biggest learning curves was taking on the responsibility for the company's Release Strategy; this ensures our cost centres have the appropriate authorisation routes in place on our SAP system so purchase requisitions and orders are authorised by the right people at the right level.

Now, not only am I a lot more familiar with who works where and the different departments that exist, I have widely developed my knowledge and use of the SAP system. 

What do you hope the future holds for you at British Steel?

Personally, I am looking forward to learning my new role in Finance and settling into working with a new team.

Our steel is known for its exceptional quality and British Steel has a survivability factor like no other company I know. In the 5 years I've been here, liquidation and a takeover were scary, but I can see where my longer serving colleagues have got their tough resilience from after all they’ve been through over the decades. With our new parent company, Jingye, I believe we are in safe hands and that we can continue to meet our customer demands through advancement in technology, decarbonisation and sustainability.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

  • I’m older than I look and a little mischievous!
  • I have a slight obsession with Christmas trees and decorations!
  • I have the makings of one of those hoarders you see on TV documentaries. I can’t stand waste or history being thrown away. As much as I’m fascinated by demolition, watching the Heavy Section Mill in Scunthorpe being removed was really sad for me. If there was a British Steel museum, I’m sure I could start to fill it!
  • I’ve been on the Scunthorpe Steelworks tours run by the Appleby and Frodingham Railway Preservation Society at least 6 times since I started here because they are amazing

What advice would you give to other people considering a career here?

If you enjoy a different way of working, try British Steel. Go for it! It really is unlike any other workplace you will have worked in. Your skills will certainly be tested and how far you want to progress is up to you. If you are willing to work hard and honestly have the best interests of the business at heart, then you will go far and grow both personally and professionally. The sky is the limit (or the height of the Basic Oxygen Steelmaking Plant)!