Bismah is an associate at EY currently working within audit. She studied human genetics at UCL.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m a 23-year-old human genetics graduate who is now in my first year of an ACA training contract with EY. As you can tell from my background, I’m interested in a range of industries, causing the change in career choices – I’ve gained a variety of skills and experience along the way and it goes to show that the qualities that we develop through education are transferable to the work place!
I love to travel, try adventurous activities, spend time with friends and family and explore new foods – luckily these things go well together!
2. Why did you choose EY over the 3 of the big four?
I took part in a spring week at EY during my first year of university, so I gained an insight in to the firm quite early on. The following summer I carried out an internship and got to experience what working for EY is really like. The people are what attracted me the most. Everyone I interacted and worked with was friendly and forthcoming and I also sensed a lot of ambition amongst the teams I came across which was very inspiring.
I think that regardless of the job you do, making sure the working culture is a good fit is important.
3. What do you enjoy most about working in audit?
People sometimes have the misconception that audit, especially as a more junior member of the team, is only about tying numbers from one spreadsheet to another, but I’ve found that it is much more than that. Yes, there is a lot of number-work involved but there are two things about working in audit I enjoy most; the first is building client relationships – during an audit you have so much client interaction and this is where your people skills really shine. You’re often client facing from day one, which helps you to develop and learn. The second is the problem-solving, analytical aspect of audit. Often, you’ll be faced with a high volume of information that just doesn’t seem to make sense at first – piecing it all together, solving puzzles and making the work successful is really rewarding.
4. How do you think you made yourself stand out from the crowd during the application process?
For me, it was important to let my natural, friendly personality come through, whilst still presenting myself as a professional. I believe preparation helped me to gain confidence to do this – by preparing for the different scenarios I might face, I became familiar with the thought process and reminded myself of experiences and skills I could touch on, making me more equipped for a high-pressured environment.
During my assessment day, two of the key skills I focussed on demonstrating were confidence and being a team player. The way I did this was by taking the leadership role during team tasks and encouraging each member of the team to contribute and be heard.
5. What are the biggest challenges facing the audit sector?
Artificial Intelligence – I think this is both a challenge and an opportunity for the audit sector. A challenge, in that programs are becoming capable of doing tasks that used to be done by the team, and this could lead to a decrease in demand for individuals to fulfil these roles.
Many firms are investing money and man-power in developing automated tools, which can much reduce the manual aspects of parts of the audit.
However, this is an opportunity as, using these tools to our advantage can not only make audit work more efficient, but also more reliable, and increase the scope for auditors to broaden their expertise in to other areas. I believe the new age auditor is no longer trained as just an audit professional but also as a business advisor, who is looking for new ways to innovate our client’s companies.
6. What’s your top tip for prospective applicants?
I’m going to cheat here and mention three tips –
1) Remember that if you’re applying to a graduate scheme or an apprenticeship, firms are not looking for experts! They know you won’t have much technical knowledge when you apply (unless specified of course) and usually what they’re looking for are people who have the capability and willingness to learn new skills, demonstrate passion, and have also have put in the time and effort in to research. If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t let that put you off – use the knowledge you do have and try to show how you might go about finding the answers.
2) Throughout the application process and in interviews particularly, they are looking at who you are as a person – I’d advise to let your personality shine through, whilst still presenting yourself as a professional.
3) PEE (finally using something from GCSE English) – Point, Example, Explain – in an interview try and back up every point you make with an example from the experience you have gained, regardless of if that experience relates to the field you are applying to or not. The interviewer often won’t prompt you for these examples, so it’s your job to demonstrate you can, and have, applied the skills that they are looking for in to your personal and professional life. I like to make a table when preparing for an interview, outlining the qualities I may be asked about and the examples I’d use to demonstrate that I can successfully apply them.
7. If you were a Microsoft Office program, which one would you be and why?
I feel inclined to say Excel because I use it on a daily basis, but I’d have to go for PowerPoint because who doesn’t love making presentations with fancy animations?!