Joining PwC was a big change for me; I originally studied Molecular & Cellular Biology at Glasgow University and after graduating went on to complete a PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Dundee. I enjoyed the world of science and academia but I knew that in the long term I didn’t want to pursue a career in scientific research.
At first, I didn’t know very much about finance and accountancy so spent a lot of time researching, and PwC really stood out and seemed to be the perfect fit for me. I’ve now worked in the Edinburgh office for nearly two years and have completed nine out of the ten professional exams with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS).
Why did you choose a job in this sector?
I’m a naturally inquisitive person and love analytical thinking and problem-solving. I also like working with people and wanted a career that allows fast progression and varied challenges. Training to be a chartered accountant with PwC seemed to combine all of these aspects.
I’ve been really happy with my choice. Being involved in interesting projects and working with great colleagues, I’ve learnt something new every day and as I learn and develop new skills, I’m given more responsibility which is very rewarding.
How did you get your job at PwC?
I went through the normal graduate recruitment route by applying in plenty of time. I started the application process in September, had an offer by mid-November and then started at PwC the following September. The application process was really well organised and although there were lots of different stages, it went by quickly.
What was the application process like?
The application process is quite long and can therefore seem daunting at first. That’s why I’d say that it’s best to take it one stage at a time. The PwC UK careers website is really useful and I’d recommend potential candidates to carefully research what’s involved.
For the online tests I found doing lots of practise questions helpful. In preparation for the interview, candidates should be familiar with the PwC Professional framework – details for this can be found on the PwC UK careers website. In the interviews it’s important to answer the question you’re asked (not the one you hope you were asked) in a clear and concise manner. That’s why I’d recommend perhaps practising with a mock interview.
PwC have interview and psychometric e-learns on their website to practise for these parts of the assessment process. My final word of advice is during the interviews and the assessment centre, try to relax and just be yourself.
What skills are useful in this sector/profession?
You might assume that for an accountancy role you only have to be good at numbers, but soft skills are really important too. In my opinion, it’s much more about being able to provide excellent customer service. The abilities to get along comfortably with new people, to empathise with clients and to listen are really invaluable. Analytical skills and the ability to quickly grasp new concepts are also important.
What challenges have you come across and how did you overcome these?
The biggest challenge for me has been the professional exams with ICAS. The time commitment that these exams take shouldn’t be underestimated as you have to learn a large volume of material in a very short period of time. However, as your year group takes the exams together, there’s a real feeling of support and group spirit.
Multi-tasking and working to tight deadlines can also be daunting at first. I find that remaining calm, prioritising my tasks, and trying to tackle issues one at a time really helps. There’s plenty of support available and everyone is really helpful and friendly. The most important thing that I’ve learned is that there are no silly questions and that you can always ask for help.