Graduate Case Studies

 

 

Getting into accountancy from a Humanities degree

My journey began at A Level where I decided against Economics despite my interest. I went on to study English and American Literature at Kent because it was something I enjoyed and I had no plan in terms of career after my degree. Journalism and teaching didn’t appeal to me so I went to the CES at the end of my Second year to get some advice. When Accountancy was suggested I was surprised as I had always thought Accountancy was limited to Finance and Business degrees. Instead I discovered that Accountancy firms are often keen to hear from BA students as they like the variety of insight and creativity they bring. With this in mind I spent my Summer looking at vacancies and then at the start of my Third Year I began applying.

Getting in to Accountancy isn’t straightforward. For the Big Four and Medium sized firms the process is typically:
  1. Online Application
  2. Online Tests
  3. Phone Interview
  4. Assessment centre
  5. Final Interview

 

The most common stage for failure is the second stage; the online tests are usually a timed numerical test and then either a non verbal reasoning test or an in-tray exercise. I practised the tests before I took them and I was informed swiftly that I would have a telephone interview. This tends to be competency based; the STAR technique is best for tackling the questions asked and preparation is important. Look at the company website and check what competencies they are looking for. They don’t always have to be work related as long as you clearly explain the situation, the task, your action and the result in a concise manner. After the phone interview I found out I had been successful and I was invited to an Assessment Centre at the London offices for PWC.

Assessment Centres are actually quite fun. The people I met were all very nice and although I was the only BA student there were people who were doing science degrees instead of business/finance subjects. The assessment centre involved a written exercise, another set of numerical and non verbal tests and a group exercise. My advice for this would be to stay calm, be friendly and keep yourself aware of what they want you to do. After the Assessment Centre I was invited to a Partner interview, the final stage of the process. I prepared for this by researching the company, looking at practice videos on the CES website and keeping track of financial news via BBC news and the Financial Times. The interview itself was straightforward with a brief chat about why I was looking to do Accountancy and then some more competency questions. I heard back the next day with the wonderful news that I had been successful.

Accountancy is accessible to BA students as long as you do your research and understand what the job involves. It isn’t the easiest of jobs at the start as you typically do a 3 year qualification such as the ACA or CTA but after this you are fully qualified as a Chartered Accountant. After that the world is your oyster!

 

Deloitte - Gap Year Scholar Program

During my gap year between school and university I was lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to work for Deloitte for 7 months on their Gap Year Scholar Program. I was placed in the Life section of Deloitte’s Actuarial and Insurance Solutions department and there I followed the same training program as my graduate counterparts before, after approximately two weeks, moving straight onto my first client facing project.

Throughout my 7 months I was involved in a variety of interesting and challenging projects. One of the tasks I enjoyed most was being involved in the preparation and attendance of a briefing session for a possible annuity start-up. This involved collating information about how annuities work, and the annuity market in general, and then presenting this information to the client. For this project I also helped generate some simplified cash flow figures for an annuity using a Life insurance actuarial modeling program called Prophet. Another large project I was involved with was an embedded value review – this is essentially a calculating of an insurance company’s current assets and expected future income streams from policies already sold.

Although there was always an expectation that I ‘got the job done’, I was largely left to organise, prioritise and juggle my responsibilities myself. Furthermore, I found that my managers always took the time to explain concepts and the work to me, even though sometimes they would be working hard and late themselves. This, coupled with regular socials both within my department and with the gap year scholar group, meant that I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Deloitte – the Christmas party in particular was a spectacular event!

Deloitte has a reputation for being one of the top UK firms to work for as a graduate and for treating its employees fairly. I also found that there was loads to get involved with besides your work; some people went on one-off volunteering projects and others worked part-time giving careers advice or tuition in local schools. I personally became involved in Deloitte’s hockey and football teams, and in their Depression Awareness week. The central London offices actually have a distinctly campus type feel with medical facilities, relaxation areas, cafes, restaurants and even a fully functional gym built into the office space!

In addition to graduate careers, industrial placements and internships Deloitte offers a number of other programs to give students an insight into Deloitte. Opportunities include Insight Days and a buddy scheme, details of which can all be found at www.deloitte.co.uk/graduates. In addition Deloitte often hosts open presentations, business games and a number of other workshops which students can find details of at www.deloitte.co.uk/graduates/events

If you are interested in finding out more about the opportunities available at Deloitte then please feel free to contact me at nc201@kent.ac.uk. I had a fantastic time with Deloitte during my 7 month placement and expect to continue to do so in my future summer placements and, potentially, as a graduate employee. Deloitte has opportunities available in Tax, Audit, Corporate Finance, Actuarial and Consulting so, if you are thinking of a career in finance, management, or technology I strongly recommend that you seriously consider Deloitte.

 

A leopard can change its spots

Getting your foot in the door of job related to your degree is difficult, but getting your toe in the hallway of a career path away from your degree is enormously harder. This is my story of how a leopard can change its spots.

I had graduated from UKC after studying Computers Systems Engineering, and at the time my options ranged from IT developer to Electrical engineer, but mostly staying in the technical side of business. Following graduation, I ended up working as an electrical engineer for Motorola. Although interesting at the start, the repetitive day-to-day tasks kicked in and the challenge became procedure. I managed to last a year before I quit to move on.

Back in Uni, I've found that I had a natural “common sense” when it comes to marketing and advertising and I set my heart on securing a job in the marketing industry. After 6 months of re-inventing myself, and not giving up, I finally managed to get my foot in the door.

I'm now working for a leading ecommmerce website design agency based in London as the Marketing Executive. Waking up on Monday mornings is no longer a struggle. Although I didn't have any formal qualifications to being with, I got in by demonstrating that I was capable of learning quickly in my 6 months out of work. Luckily for me, Digivate has a great culture in investing in people and as a result of talented staff, they now have has a stellar client list from Selfridges to HSS and Paperchase.

Through my experience, I found that if you have the ambition and desire, persistent job hunting will eventually pay off. The additional background knowledge in your degree will give you the advantage to help you secure a dream job in any sector.

Kun Dang, Digivate Ltd

 

Getting into PR

I have finally got a job in PR, you said it could take anything between 6 and 8 months and it took 6 (although, if I'm being honest I have only really been trying since the New Year).

After about 100 applications (speculative, and to advertised jobs and work experience), an agency picked up on me (JFL Recruit  www.jflrecruit.com  they specialise in PR) and offered to set me up on a work experience placement. I worked unpaid for a week at a PR and Design specialist company and they wanted to keep me on. I turned down the offer because of  the commute (I travelled for 5 hours one day because there were trees down on the line). I felt like I was shooting myself in the foot but realised it was impossible really to work such long hours unless/until I moved to London.

After updating my CV after my work experience, however, I applied for a few positions locally via www.reed.co.uk - a job website I highly recommend for people searching for specialist careers in local areas (they advertise thousands of specialist regional jobs), I got three interviews.

I was offered and have accepted the job at a music and entertainment company. They said I was the only person they considered with no or little experience but they liked me and are giving me a good salary and are going to train me on the job and even hire a computer specialist on a temporary basis to set up the company digitally and train me in multimedia. It will be an in-house PR role with some marketing and computing duties and it is just a 20 minute drive away from me. I start next Monday.

BA English and American Literature graduate

 

The FatMoose story (www.fatmoose.com)

It all began in Woodys Bar at the University of Kent, Canterbury. We would always go there after our 2 hour E-commerce lecture (after that lecture we always needed a drink or two!) One night we decided we didn’t want to work for 50 years in a job we didn’t enjoy and so decided to start our own company based on something we would be passionate about – FOOD!.

We had a lot of ideas, some were OK but weren’t really something we were excited about and others were just really bad. The one that really got us excited was to create an easier way for students (and pretty much anyone else) to find what and where to eat at great prices. Being students ourselves this was something we could really related to and knew that there was definitely a need for such a application. The initial idea had recipes and loads of other functionality which really, when we thought about it later, didn’t make any business sense.

This brings me to advice number 1:

Keep your idea simple – don’t overcomplicate things to early on at the start up stage. Understand the core of your business and how it will be useful to customers. Then build on new concepts that help add value to your core business.

After we had the idea, we became very paranoid that someone would take our idea and do it for themselves if we told them. We wasted time and money on getting people to sign non-disclosure forms, etc. It was only until we started developing the business that I remembered something Jason Porter (the co founder of Friends Reunited) once told me; “A business is 10% idea and 90% implementation”. It’s not the idea alone that will make you successful, it is the processes you implement to produce and deliver your service or product that will really take your business to great hieghts. Think of it this way (and this concept can be applied to pretty much any business) if you had two Indian restaurants next to each other which looked exactly the same, what would make one better than the other is the quality procedures to ensure the food remains fresh, the chefs and amount of spices added to each dish, the customer service, a smiley owner, etc.

A business is 10% Idea 90% Implementation. Concentrate on the processes you have that operate your business, and don’t be scared to give some details about your business to others who can help you.

In Jul 2009 we finally incorporated the company...

Just get on with it – don’t be scared about making mistakes, just know that you will and that each one will be a learning experience, even if you learn just not to waste your time doing things a certain way.

In Dec 09 we finally launched a version of www.fatmoose.com we were happy with. At the moment we are concentrating on promoting our business and getting the word out there. When looking at advertising or any sort of investment always think in terms of ‘Return on Investment’. If you spent £100 on advertising and it only got 10 users onto the site effectively it cost you £10 per user (quite expensive). Word of mouth, viral, buzz is something I would recommend, requires more thought than conventional methods but can provide a higher return on investment.

A few final tips...

If you are starting a business make sure you are passionate about it and you remained focused, so when the hard times come (and trust me they will come) you remain dedicated to your core business and push past the hurdles.

“Face the brutal facts and never lose faith” – if there’s a problem deal with it head on, and if things are really getting so tough that you start questioning your idea, remember your core business and IF there is still a need for it then never lose faith, it will pay-off in the end.

I hope this story will help you in some way, if you are planning to start your own business I wish you all the best and if you have any questions or have any feedback on www.FatMoose.com feel free to email me at pritesh@fatmoose.com (always happy to help out entrepreneurs).

Pritesh Patel

 

Orion - To the stars and back

As I reached my final year in Computer Systems Engineering I was faced with the daunting task of choosing my final year project; a project which carried a large weight of my final degree mark. My department presented us with a list of example areas to which pervious projects had been based on. However nothing on the list completely grabbed my attention, so I was left with two options; the first being to pick a topic which did not completely grab me; the second to choose a completely new project deviating from the example list. Choosing the former would have in many ways have been the simpler and easier option but by choosing the latter I would be able to research and discover an area of great interest to me. I chose the latter and took on the extra work of sifting through a variety of areas in Computing Systems Engineering in order to find a topic I wanted to pursue for my project and found supervisors willing to support me through it. Taking on the extra work at the start really paid off in the long run.

Picture of the Earth from space, taken from the Orion balloon

Earth from space

I chose an area of great interest to me, space, and created my third year project around that. As it was an area I was hugely interested in, I set to work straight away. My project consisted of sending a payload (a polystyrene box containing scientific instruments) which included two digital HD cameras into near space, over 30,000m up from Earth, along with light and temperature sensors. I programmed the cameras and sensors to take data readings and images at 20 second intervals and sent it up which was then attached to a parachute and in turn a sounding balloon.

After weeks and weeks spent in the electronics workshop, it was finally ready to be tested in an environmental chamber to check whether everything worked accordingly before sending it up. Following a successful testing at -63°C, I took it up to Cambridge where, having collaborated with Churchill College Cambridge University throughout the building of my project, I was able to send the payload up into near space.

The sounding balloon was filled with helium and carefully released. The feeling I got as I watched it lift off was exhilarating. It was a mixture of anxiety and excitement. It was the moment I’d been preparing for after months and months of work but I had just set it off into the air attached to a weather balloon…would it all work and would I get to see it again?! Acquiring all my results rested on me being able to successfully track my payload. It was here where a GPS tracking device, that I had built kicked in once the payload was in range. The payload also carried a backup GPS device devised by Cambridge, which initiated live tracking and helped when the GPS was out of range.

I was able to send it text messages to which the device would text me back with the coordinates of its location. There was a moment where the GPS lost signal due to the altitude it was at, which meant we were following it blind and hope was placed into landing predictions made. Anxiety levels reached a new height. Thankfully it kicked back in when it came back down into altitude signal range.

The high altitude process causes the balloon to expand with increasing altitude until it reaches a bursting point, where it cannot expand any further and bursts.

After the balloon had burst the parachute takes over and takes the payload safely back down to the Earth and with the text messages from the GPS system inside the payload I was able to track it down and pick it up where it landed, in Nuffield, 147 miles away from Cambridge. Pure relief filled me when I found it lying in a field, still in once piece with everything still intact. The images and data came out perfectly and data had been collected for one very successful project. It was a completely novel project for my department, no student had yet before had involved near space in their project. I had created more work for myself in choosing it but the love and interest I had for the subject area gave me the drive I needed to get through all the hard work and it was what made it successful. I was also lucky to have found great support in my supervisors and department when needed. It has also been very beneficial in helping me realize what is it I want to go into for my career and will also be a major help in my job hunting for these careers.

For more information on previous articles and to view the results on my Project: www.eda.kent.ac.uk/school/news_article.aspx?aid=798

Images and video from the project

Scott James, CSE 3rd year Undergraduate 2009/2010