Interested in history and accounting – Katherine
Katherine majored in Ancient History and Archaeology at the University of British Columbia in Canada. She graduated in 2009 and joined EY as a graduate trainee in September 2014 – in Financial Services Assurance.
When did you start thinking about employers and your career, and what did you do to set the ball rolling?
“My route into financial services was unconventional. Between graduating in Vancouver and joining EY in Bristol, I spent five years travelling, living independently and working in many different jobs.
“I should thank The Economist magazine for getting me started in my career. I’d taken out a subscription and I just got immersed in it.
“This made me realise that the world of finance – more specifically, accounting and audit – was for me.
“I could see the importance of accurately measuring the financial performance of companies – and the consequences of getting it wrong.
“Next I had to figure out how to get from ancient history to chartered accountancy, and it seemed like an impossible leap.”
What made you realise you could get a job at EY with a degree in ancient history, and what drew you to EY in particular?
“Again, this was unconventional. I was living in a bedsit, working in a Mayfair restaurant popular with hedge fund managers, when I got talking to a group of customers.
“One of the ladies at the table told me I didn’t need a business qualification to get into a graduate career in financial services.
“I’m Canadian so this surprised me – my impression was that nobody in Canada gets into finance with a degree in ancient history.
“The others around the table agreed it was best for me to join a large accounting firm if I could. This is because the training is very good, it’s easier to move around and a big name looks good on your CV.
“They said that EY was a reputable firm with a strong brand in the market place – plus, it had been voted one of the UK’s best companies for women to work for.”
What skills and experiences helped you through EY’s application and selection process?
“During my five-year gap I’d worked in lots of very busy restaurants. I wasn’t afraid of pressure or hard work.
“I was a good timekeeper, good with customers, good at getting the orders and bills right, good with detail – and I knew how to build relationships so that customers would keep coming back.
“So when I had my interviews at EY – one with a senior manager and the other with an executive director – I felt confident.
“I knew I had a passion for finance, and I could see how my skills and experiences were transferable, even though my route in was unconventional.”
What skills from your degree have you been able to transfer to your role at EY?
“I’ve been able to transfer a lot of different skills, but mainly time management skills, oral and written communication skills and analytical skills.
“Thinking back, the skills I’ve learned – at school, at university, and in life – they all come in useful in this job.
“I look at it like this. I live and work in the real world. This EY office is in the real world, just like all the restaurants I ever worked in, and I’ve used real world skills in all of them.
“Business is about the real world now. Ancient history and archaeology is about the real world as it was back then – but even in those days money was important and people were doing accounting.”
What advice would you now give to a student of history or archaeology – how should they go about getting a job with an organisation like EY?
“My story is unconventional yet I still succeeded in getting a job with EY, so I can only give you advice based on my experience.
“There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way of getting a job in a Big Four firm, no exact route or set of rigid qualifications that have to be met.
“Being successful in a business environment is about who you are as a person, not about the subject you studied.
“So if I were you, I’d get to know your strengths and develop them as much as you can.
“Try to match your strengths with the requirements of the role. Don’t be put off by your lack of business experience – EY will be able to see your strengths, probably more clearly than you can.
“Buckling down and ploughing through has worked for me throughout my life – I think the professional term for this is ‘tenacity’. We all have something to bring the table. I bring tenacity – what will you bring?”