Case study

Associate in public sector audit — Vanilla Shi

Vanilla is applying the analytical and critical thinking skills from her PhD to succeed in public sector audit

How did you get your job?

Around the time that I was writing my PhD thesis, I started thinking about my career. In higher education I'd only focused on science subjects, so when given the opportunity to try something different I went for it.

I've always had interests in law and finance. My job application process started with research on international law firms and accounting firms to find out what was available, as well as what type of people and skills they were looking for.

Training schemes open to all graduates seemed most suitable for me. I attended a lot of events organised by my university, which enabled me to meet with firms and get advice on my applications. Everyone I spoke to advised getting to know the companies I was applying to - the time I spent doing this paid off when I received my job offer. From this, I secured my associate role with Grant Thornton.

How has your science degree helped you?

Although my biology degree and molecular neuroscience PhD aren't relevant, they both gave me useful skills that help me in my every day work.

My undergraduate studies equipped me with confident presenting skills and the ability to work as a team. My postgraduate studies provided me with strong analytical skills and the ability to think critically, which are essential for my current role.

What's a typical working day like?

The nature of public sector audit at our firm involves a lot of work at clients' sites. As an associate, this means we travel a lot to different cities and counties depending on the work we've been assigned. A typical working day will therefore involve receiving tasks from my manager, and the work can be mostly desk based or having direct conversations with the client.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The working environment is great as everyone is very supportive and you're encouraged to ask questions.

What are the challenges?

The biggest challenges come as part of the steep learning curve to understand all of the jargon and concepts in the field.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I've only recently started my job, yet already I can see the impact that my work is having. My career ambition for the short term is to successfully get my auditing qualification.

What advice can you give to aspiring auditors?

Make sure you research the company really well. This isn't just about the motto on their website, but more importantly what work they've done in the past. For example, the cases they've covered, what training programmes or opportunities they offer that other firms don't and what new strategies they're about to launch.

Plan early as most firms offer internships and placements at different seasons, especially the summer. Make the most of your time between terms.

Employers are also looking for someone who will be a good fit in the company. Extracurricular activities are therefore as important as your academic grades.

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