Meet Shamaila in Assurance
Shamaila joined the Assurance apprenticeship programme in Birmingham after deciding university wasn't the right path for her. Below, she shares her great career story so far, including being a winner for the 2019 Asian Apprentice Award.
How did you first hear about EY?
After having dropped out of university, I began working as a PA within a forensic accounting firm. The partner was an ex-director at a competitor firm. He introduced me to the Big 4 accounting firms, suggesting they were the best option for someone wanting to pursue a career in professional services outside of the traditional university route. EY stood out to me as it seemed the most people orientated. EY’s people culture being a strong focus of everything it does and stands for.
How did you know you wanted to be in Assurance?
Having only ever studied predominantly the sciences during school and sixth form, I had very little exposure to what a career in professional services would entail. As a result I wasn’t sure when I joined EY specifically what kind of role I wanted in the future. I chose to join Assurance because I liked the fact it involved being both client facing and technically competent. It was always important to me to be able to study towards a professional qualification, as an Assurance apprentice you are able to study towards the ICAEW chartered accountants qualification. It allowed me to gain an understanding of small and large businesses from many diverse sectors from not only a financial perspective but also how these bodies operate day-to-day.
What is your current role?
I am currently a senior within UKI Assurance. Working predominantly in the Government and Public Sector
As part of my role, I get to work with several different teams and locations on a day-to-day basis. As a senior, I am now the lead on many of the audits I am a part of. I will often be the intermediary between the client, the newer joiners and the audit manager/partner. This role allows me to develop both my leadership and project management as well as my technical knowledge.
What was your first day like?
My first day in the office was an incredibly nerve-racking experience. Even though I had worked in a professional environment previously, walking into this incredibly elite corporate world at such a young age felt quite overwhelming. Luckily EY operate a mentoring ‘buddy scheme’, through which all new joiners are assigned a ‘buddy’ from the same business area who has been with the firm for over a year. This colleague will reach out to you a few weeks prior to your start date to introduce themselves and answer any initial questions you may have. They will also meet you at the reception on the first day in the office and be your companion for the day, give you an office tour and introduce you to your wider team. This scheme helped accelerate the settling in process.
What surprised you most about EY?
The fact at EY there is no end to the amount of people willing to support you, regardless of their seniority or position in the firm. If you have a question or are struggling they will always be willing to help and coach you. As a new joiner with no prior professional services experience, I expected to work mainly alongside the other newer joiners in the firm however, from the very beginning I have always worked quite closely with senior managers, directors and partners. Even though your audit teams changes frequently, everyone is incredibly inviting in making you feel like you belong and are valued. Furthermore EY is somewhere I feel truly valued as an individual rather than just a ‘member’ of a team there to complete a job. If you want to pursue something or have an interest in a particular sector, you can very much drive your own career and build a portfolio which is specific to your goals.
Is your daily job what you thought it’d be like?
To be honest, having had very little exposure to the finance sector before EY, I was not too sure what to expect. However, I find there are a lot of misconceptions around professional services - we are perceived to be very ‘serious’ and ‘analytical’, spending most of our times with spreadsheets and very little interaction outside of our teams. I think the job is actually quite varied especially in a service line like Assurance. Every client is so unique in the way they operate, and therefore to truly offer a high-quality service, a lot of what we do involves constant conversation and inquiry with not only our clients but external regulators, industry professionals and the wider market.
How has your role progressed since you started?
I think EY offers you the opportunity to progress at a rate that is most comfortable for you. If you wish to accelerate your career, there will always be someone willing to give you the development opportunities to allow you to do so. There is no set time frame after which you will be allowed to take on certain roles or responsibilities, EY does not also limit you based on your selected department. There are plenty of opportunities during the programme for example, such as taking part in secondments to aid your overall experience. Now in my third year with EY, I am not only studying to become an accredited Chartered Accountant alongside my apprenticeship but I am also being supported to take additional exams in taxation and have become an active member of the profession as a volunteer board member at the Chartered institute of Taxation.
Do you feel like you have career options?
I feel I have an incredible amount of career options after completing the apprenticeship programme with EY. Not only have I achieved a dual Chartered Qualification, the experience I have gained through the five years of working with such complex and globally recognised clients is something both recruiters and employers value immensely. Furthermore the exposure and networks a firm like EY can offer helps you discover your own personal interests and goals. Over the last year alongside my full time apprenticeship I have become a home owner and have spent the last six months working on and developing an online marketing platform for event suppliers. I have finalised a beta working version of the app and have started to pitch the concept to investors at wedding fairs and conferences across the Midlands and North West region. Before I joined EY I always had a keen interest in starting my own business with entrepreneurial hopes, however I lacked confidence and found speaking to ‘professionals’ quite daunting. But now having lead presentations and meetings with CEOs, CFOs and industry experts I am more than comfortable interacting with anyone and everyone, whether it is one-to-one or addressing a room full of 20+ people.
Do you find it easy to juggle work and a social life?
At first this can be quite challenging, especially when you this is your first real job coming straight out of education. Trying to balance full time work, with professional studies and a social life requires a fair bit of trial and error before you develop a strategy that works for you. I think one of the most important skills you acquire during the programme is self discipline and the ability to be adaptable. The firm makes a huge commitment towards flexible working and encouraging us to maintain our social interests and hobbies outside of work. Alongside this EY operates a very full social calendar hosting events throughout the year such as the Winter Ball and the Summer Barbeque.
Do you have any proud moments?
I was recently awarded the ‘Asian Apprentice of The Year’ Award for 2019 - I am immensely proud to have won this award amongst over 300 other nominations. I was approached by the Creative Director of the Awards at a careers fair in 2018 where I was representing EY. He was impressed by my passion in a talk I gave at the event about the barriers faced by young school leavers wanting to pursue careers and pathways outside of the traditional university route. He told me about the Asian Apprenticeship Awards and how the nominations had closed for 2018 but highly encouraged me to apply the following year. I discussed the awards with the Birmingham recruitment team, specifically my Student Recruitment contact called Pam who was incredibly encouraging in me making the application. She sent regular reminders and provided support throughout this nomination process.
I am honoured to have been able to share my story with some of the most influential and inspiring people from across the country at the awards ceremony, and am delighted this experience has now allowed me to be an ambassador for this long-awaited change to the traditional ‘University > Apprenticeship’ mindset.
What advice would you give someone trying to decide whether to join EY?
I would encourage them to reach out to our incredible recruitment team with any questions they may have, whether that’s by attending the various outreach events we operate across university campus’ schools and colleges or by just picking up the phone. Do as much research as possible into the type of career you want and how EY can fit into that.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Be yourself, when starting in the corporate profession it feels like people expect you to conform to a certain type of individual and act a certain way. One of the biggest things valued by EY is individuality and diversity, by having teams of people with different ideas and unique solutions we are able to provide our clients the exceptional service we strive for.