At Campus Jobs, we have a diverse student team who work for us, and Ellie who is going into her 3rd year of her course and her 2nd year of working for us is undertaking the Flying Start Accounting & Business Degree via PwC.
During January to April this year Ellie was working in her first placement for PwC where she was allocated to work in their Bristol offices. After her return, we asked if Ellie could give us some insight into what her placement was like.
Here is what Ellie had to say:
Hi, my name is Ellie and I am a student and University of Reading Studying the PwC Flying Start Degree (BA Accounting and Business)! As part of this degree programme, I get to go on placement throughout university- almost like a placement year but broken up over three years.
This was my first placement, where I learnt what it was like to bring audit knowledge from the classroom into work life and gain all important practical experience. I absolutely loved the friendly, social and hard-working atmosphere of the Bristol office. During my time on placement, I worked on 6 different clients, each on a average for a week, which meant I had the opportunity to explore different industries and see different approaches to the audit and teamwork.
I have just finished my first placement and am here to answer any questions about it!
Where did you go on placement?
I went on placement with PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) during the winter term of my second year in Bristol which is a ‘BigFour’ accountancy firm. The placement is a part of my course at Uni of Reading, which means you can get work experience whilst studying throughout at university.
I chose Bristol as my placement office because I love the area, there is so much to do from shopping in Cabot Circus or going to the Bristol hippodrome to watch a show and it is also close to my home in the South-West! The office is really beautiful on the riverfront which I enjoyed spending my breaks in the sunshine.
What were the main responsibilities of your role?
PwC is one of the ‘BigFour’ firms, it is a huge company and there are many fields to work in within the company such as risk assurance, audit, working in IT or even in recruiting.
Whilst I was on placement, I worked in the Audit area (this essentially means to examine the financial reports of organisations as presented in the annual report).
As there is so much to do in an audit and this was my first placement, I didn’t have too much responsibility over the whole audit (thank goodness!) as there is so much to do, mostly at a really advanced level. So this placement was more about getting the experience of working and interacting with different clients and getting to grips with what working on an audit team was like. Therefore, I was essentially responsible for checking that transactions were valid, interacting with the clients and helping out a senior associate with their workload, who helped and coached me throughout!
What was your favourite part about placement?
My favourite part was getting to go to different clients sites. During placement I worked on six varying clients, from Babcock marines to Danone. It is so interesting to get a grasp of the varying working climates at different companies, I got to go to the head offices and work on their financial accounts.
I got to travel to Bath, stay in a hotel Plymouth and have lots of face-to-face interaction with clients. As I was gaining more confidence, I worked more independently and had own responsibilities and received really good feedback which was great!
I also loved the office monthly drinks and work socials. We got to go for bowling and pizzas and drinks where I was able to meet lots of new people and have a laugh! The next social was an office escape room event which unfortunately had to be cancelled due to Covid-19.
What did you find the most challenging about doing a placement?
I would definitely say adjusting to the long hours was the most challenging part of placement for me. Going from university straight to busy season was tough, I was averaging 10 hour days – leaving the house early in the dark and getting back in the dark! There was also so much to learn in such a short space of time which was challenging at times.
What did you learn on placement and what skills have you developed?
Moving from clients each week meant I’ve had the opportunity to build relationships with different people within the Bristol office and expand my network. I’ve also improved my confidence with meeting new people and different team work styles and familiarising myself with varying business environments. I’ve also developed better time management skills through packing more into my day!
What tips would you give to other students looking at arranging their placement year?
Make sure you fully research the job beforehand so you have a good understanding a good idea of what you’re doing before you start- this really helped me. Also a massively important one- keep positive too! When you’re new to a job there is so much to learn so don’t be disheartened if you don’t understand straight away, there will be good days and bad days but just try and tackle all tasks with enthusiasm and a positive attitude- never shun a chance to learn more.
Although competition to enrol on the Flying Start degree course is fierce, there are plenty of opportunities to do placements or internships if you are studying in other course disciplines. Talk to the careers team (or Henley careers if you are a HBS student) about how you can source some employer experience like Ellie by taking on a placement or an internship during your time at Reading.
It is also important to have experience under your belt before going on a placement, it may even help boost your application! Take a look at the part-time jobs available on campus and see if you can bolster your CV in readiness for trying out for those summer internships or year long placements!