Name – Thomas Gallen
Company – PwC
Role – Operations (Finance / Sales & Deployment)
Degree – BSc Economics with Finance from Ulster University
Talk us through your typical work day?
Every morning I’m in the office for 8:20am. The first thing I’ll do when I get in is get my laptop and notebook set up, and go through my emails. Once I do this I carry out my first daily responsibility which is to go through expense claims and check that they are all within the firm’s policy. I then have meetings throughout the morning to deliver updates to senior management.
My daily responsibilities are looking after expenses for the business and managing the business’s accommodation portfolio. I also produce charts and statistics for senior management to help inform their decision making. I am also responsible for producing forecast models that allow the senior management to plan ahead for potential sales opportunities.
What has surprised you the most?
The amount of responsibility I have been given during my Ulster University placement has been a huge surprise, but a great one. Before I started my placement I thought that I would mainly just be watching how others work. On my third day of placement I was put onto a client project, which just happened to be for one of the largest global investment banks in the world. Since then I have moved to the operations team where I have been given the responsibility of managing the entire accommodation portfolio and producing key statistics and graphs for senior management.
The 9am – 5pm day was a big shock to the system as I was only used to physically being in university 8 hours a week, albeit there is a lot of independent study, compared to now working 8 hours every day. However, I definitely see this as a positive, because now I have adapted and will be better prepared for going out into the workplace after university.
What has been your biggest challenge and achievement?
I feel adapting to the corporate culture and developing the required work ethic has been one of my biggest challenges since I’ve started my Ulster University placement. The business that I work in within PwC is extremely fast paced and requires me to learn and deliver complex processes. For example, if we get a job request I could be required to forecast our availability of staff to see if we have the staff available for the job.
Managing the accommodation portfolio, which covers 5 cities and over 25 projects, has been my biggest achievement. It requires me to think logically and make decisions that affect large amounts of people. I have to make sure that all the costing is correct as it could affect the entire financial budget if anything was overlooked.
What skills and qualities have you developed through your role?
My technical skills have improved greatly. Every day I use excel for equations to solve complex calculations or develop graphs drawn after analysing large amounts of data. I am now able to use and understand a wide range of excel formulas, which I didn’t know how to use before I started my Ulster University placement. Going into final year this will help me a lot as I will be using excel for various university projects.
I have also developed my organisational skills. During the day I am asked to carry out multiple tasks, some of which may have strict deadlines. I have had to learn how to prioritise and meet strict deadlines, which will also help me in my final year of university.
What first attracted you to the role?
PwC Augment came to a lecture at Ulster University and delivered a presentation on what they do and can offer me as a student at looking a placement year. The majority of PwC Augment’s clients were financial institutions such as banks and hedge funds. At the time I always felt like I wanted to get into some form of banking as a career which is exactly what PwC Augment offered. PwC being a global company and one of the big four will provide opportunities within financial services, not only here in Belfast but worldwide.
How do you think this will help your future career?
I feel that placement lets you fill your CV with all the key skills an employer would want to see. The array of clients that I have had accessed through my placement with PwC is a great boost to my CV. Placement also prepares you for what working life is like and gives you a real insight into what to expect. It also provides guidance as to what you want to do as your future career. I have made a wide range of contacts throughout the company as well who have been able to offer me great advice on which direction I want to take my career in.
Top Tips for applying for a placement role.
Just keep applying. I had 5 application rejections from different companies before I received my first job offer. A lot of companies won’t get back to you, so you just need to keep sending out your CV. Learn your CV. Every interview I went to nearly all the questions I was asked were based on my CV.
Make sure to research the company you have the interview with as a lot of the time they will ask you a question or two about them and why you want to work for them. So having a good fact learnt about them will go down well and show that you have done your research.