Daniel O’Hara – FS Assurance Associate at EY and a University of St Andrews graduate

Friday 6 February 2015

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Daniel graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2014. When he was still an undergraduate, he completed a CAPOD internship.

Daniel was happy to give an interview for PSC Employers’ blog and share his experience of applying his knowledge to the professional environment.

Could you introduce yourself and say a little about your role?

I’m an Assurance Graduate at Ernst & Young based mostly between Edinburgh, Glasgow and London. Specialising in banking & capital markets it is my job to provide reasonable assurance to the public that the banks central to our economy are operating legally and that the statements they produce to the public are indeed a true and fair representation of their financial position in that period.

Is the world of work what you expected?

I like to think that my first year at EY so far has gone much better than expected having previously heard many horror stories about the dreaded “busy season”. In a three year training scheme it is perhaps no surprise that the majority of our time is spent on professional development. We are given a huge amount of time off in the year to study towards the accounting qualification as well as occasional week long residential training to cover specific changes to our industry. I’ve been here for six months now and still feel as if there is so much to learn.

My first engagement happened to be with one of Scotland’s largest retail banks as it was going through its “busy season” and was almost taken by surprise at the hours and complexity of the work involved. Although it was a relatively stressed environment, my team were very supportive and spared a lot of time coaching me through a lot of work I was very unfamiliar with.

The Professional Skills Curriculum aims to promote students attending workshops to develop skills like leadership, time management, professional conduct, confidence, and resilience. Do you think development programmes like this are helpful to make graduates ‘employment ready?’

While I do think being employment ready is very personal and may come quicker to some than others, taking part in the professionals skills curriculum is almost certainly a benefit. Most graduate roles expect no prior experience in the field and will instead judge candidates almost purely on their character. Every interview will implicitly examine you on your professionalism, confidence and may even ask you outright about your time management and leadership abilities.

That being said, attending workshops is not enough.  It is crucially important that further to attending these workshops you must apply these skills learned to your other activities, whether that be in a part-time job, managing a society event or even coping coursework deadlines and staying on top of your studies.

What professional skills do you use in your current role?

Effective time management is a crucial part of my role. With client work, exams and graduate recruitment making up a large portion of my responsibilities it is vital that I stay on top of deadlines and manage my workload effectively. Understanding how to prioritise tasks based on importance, deadline and length is vital to communicating your workload to managers. When presented with a new task it is very difficult to say “No, I don’t have the time”, but by effectively communicating your current workload makes helps her decide how to manage resources so she may either push the deadlines on other jobs back or offer the task to someone else.

If a student in St Andrews was thinking about taking part in the Professional Skills Curriculum, what would you say to them?

I would absolutely encourage any student to attend. It only takes up an hour each week and there is guaranteed to be at least one class you’re interested in. It’s a great opportunity to learn new skills and a way to meet similarly minded people in a relaxed atmosphere. The quality and diversity of the workshops on offer is excellent and at the very least its something else to talk about in an interview.

What would you recommend about a career at EY?

The two biggest perks of EY in my opinion is the investment in your professional development and the international opportunities. In my first year I’m given 5 months paid study leave towards the Chartered Accountancy qualification, on top of that we have roughly another month of in house training specialising in skills directly relating to our profession. In total that’s half the year spent out of the office and in the class room making for an excellent transition between university and the world of work.

As a firm that prides itself on its global reputation there are many opportunities for international work. Our hugely popular New Horizons programme helps qualified staff arrange work placements in our other offices around the world for anything between 3 months and 2 years.  In my team right now we have people on rotation from South Africa, USA, Australia and Albania who are all loving their experiences so far and I look forward to taking advantage of the scheme soon.

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