Getting it all figured out

Andy Hart, senior associate, PwC Assurance Department, may not have intended to become an accountant, but he has not looked backed since embarking upon that particular career 

I started my training contract with PwC just over 2 years ago and have just sat my ACA finals this November. Five years ago I had no intention of becoming an accountant. 

I completed a masters degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Bath straight from school, and was absolutely not looking towards an accountancy qualification, actively avoiding the advances of the ‘Big Four’ at careers days, and after a 4 year course and a year’s industrial placement I was looking to do something different before starting a career anywhere. I spent the following 2 years training and working as a snowboard instructor in western Canada during the winter and as the senior sailing instructor at St Aubin’s Fort in Jersey for the summers. These were both very challenging and rewarding experiences, and very little stresses you out after teaching kids in potentially dangerous outdoor environments, but once my visa expired in Canada I decided to look for a more permanent career back in Jersey.

I still wasn’t set on accountancy but despite my misgivings I managed to arrange a week’s work experience with PwC in November. I spent time with a few different teams, travelling out to different clients and getting a real, albeit brief, taste for the work involved in an audit. This convinced me that the work was actually really varied and interesting. But what really persuaded me to change my view and put in an application were the people I worked with. PwC employs a wide range of people with different academic expertise and backgrounds, from all over the world but they are universally welcoming and willing to help. I joined the team I’d been working with for the month end event at the end of my work experience, which is just one of the regular sports and social events which the firm provides throughout the year, and ended my week absolutely convinced that PwC didn’t conform to the widespread stereotype of ‘boring accountants’. I’d missed the training contract induction that September but was able to join on a temporary 5 month basis from January followed by one final summer on the water at St Aubin’s Fort before beginning my 3 year training contract the next September. PwC takes on a large number of trainees each year in both Jersey and Guernsey (this year taking on 38 in total) but places fill up fast so applications are best made as early as possible. There are also work experience opportunities available throughout the year.

When new starters begin in September the training begins immediately, with a few weeks in college beginning your journey towards a professional qualification followed by a PwC specific induction. With a number of dinners and social events thrown in, there’s plenty of time to get to know your new colleagues before starting work in the office. 

This was my start towards a well-respected qualification at a world renowned firm. Which fingers crosses I’ll soon have gained, PwC provides a clear and very quick career progression in the early years of employment and a great career springboard for those that do decide to move on after qualifying.

Studying for exams was initially a shock to the system as I’d expected I’d sat my last exam when completing my degree almost 3 years before, but soon found I was able to get back into the habit alongside all the recent graduates and school leavers I started training with. There are two equivalent training routes available to new starters, the ACA and ACCA qualifications, both of which are internationally recognised. A real sense of teamwork develops within each year group studying, working and socialising together.

The majority of the office works in the audit and assurance department although there are also opportunities to join the tax and advisory teams. I’ve spent most of my time working on private equity audits but also a number of local trading company audits and a part time advisory secondment to a local bank.

A day ‘auditing’ can be varied but essentially involves travelling out to the clients’ offices with a small team and working face to face with the clients’ staff. Most bookings only last a few weeks so there’s always new people to meet and new clients to learn about. This means you get to experience lots of different jobs and work with different teams throughout the year. You need to be adaptable, able to assimilate new information quickly and also strong on your people skills.

Workloads generally get heavy for auditors January to May following December year ends for many clients. The upside though, the overtime you put in can build up significant time off in lieu to increase your holiday over the summer months or you can chose to be paid for your time. This year I’ve been able to compete in a windsurf event in the south of France in May, travel to Bermuda with the Jersey Windsurf Team which won Team Gold at the Island Games in July, and still have time to take off to study for exams.

Although PwC has offices all over the world there aren’t many places where you can work for a renowned financial services firm and be on the beach windsurfing within half an hour of finishing at the end of the day (or even the odd dawn raid when the tides line up for an early start).

I may not have the career I expected but I haven’t looked back.