• Role: Audit Assistant
  • Location: London
  • University: Manchester
  • Degree: Philosophy
  • Organisation: KPMG

Alex Pickering

Why did you choose a job in accounting?

I graduated from the University of Manchester with a degree in Philosophy. I had heard about the ACA through friends but I didn’t research it until I saw a job posting for a role in audit. From this it was clear to me that the ACA equips people with the best set of skills and knowledge they need to be successful in any career. I thought it would be a good platform to start my career and that it would open many different doors for me within business. I was really attracted to the opportunity to work while gaining a professional qualification and meeting like-minded people with similar ambitions.

I wanted to work in one of the ‘Big Four’ as I knew there I would get to work with the best people and clients. KPMG stood out to me because of their presence on several communication channels – from social media to career guides. I knew I would have great opportunities there, from being able to work abroad to working in other divisions in the company.

What are your main duties?

As I am a first year, day to day I am typically out at a client site performing audit work. I work on a number of accounts within the business and work with the client to complete tasks that will form part of the signed statutory audit. Much of the work is analytical and requires gathering audit evidence from the client. Every now and then I go out to clients who hold inventories and perform stock takes, which is generally a more relaxed day where you can get out of the office and go to a new place.

What skills are useful in this sector?

One needs to be able to understand and grasp complex problems and ideas quickly. A lot is expected of your ability from the start and though it is always encouraged to pause and ask questions the team is relying on your ability to pick up new concepts (usually accounting principles) and apply them straight away. If you are confident in your ability however, this is a rewarding thing to be able to do.

Is it a 9-5 job?

It doesn’t feel like a job. With the mix of studying/attending college, client work and the social experience from being in such a big firm with similar people every day is a new and fun experience that is so much more than sitting at your desk. I really enjoy the variety of the job; every week tends to bring a new client. Travelling around inner and outer London is fantastic as it’s a new city to me. I’ve worked with companies in the gold and precious metals industry, the fashion industry and even watch makers, so I am already experiencing a wide range of businesses. Before I started I thought the work would mostly be an automated process, but having to understand the different objectives of each company or industry means you get to apply the accounting knowledge differently each time, making the job a lot more creative than I expected. It also teaches you much more than the financial side of business, so by gaining the qualification you are setting yourself up for so many more opportunities than you would expect.

What would you like to achieve in the future?

In terms of long term aspirations, I like most that this is a proven path for those who want to go on to be really successful, so the job gives you confidence in what you’re doing every day.

What challenges have you come acrossand how did you overcome these?

So far the learning curve has been my biggest challenge. You have to soak up every new thing you learn and you need to be able to understand and grasp complex problems and ideas quickly. It can be quite draining if you don’t stay enthusiastic. The balance of learning at work, self-study and going to college with friends means that the learning is varied which helps to keep it engaging.

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