Assistant Audit Manager at KPMG
PhD Byzantine Studies, 2019
Please tell us a bit about your role.
I got into KPMG originally by applying to their audit graduate scheme as an audit associate. I recently completed my ACA qualification training for becoming a chartered accountant and became an assistant audit manager at KPMG.
My current role is managing a small team of junior auditors for reviewing companies' accounts and financial statements. Before the end of my PhD in Byzantine Studies, I decided to change my career, so explored different career paths by attending workshops organised by the Careers Network at the College Graduate School. I eventually decided to apply for a role in audit or compliance at larger organisations.
What motivated you to do your postgraduate taught course/research course?
I chose to do a PhD because I was very interested in how the medieval merchants negotiated with local rulers for protections during the Crusader period. Looking back, my life as a PhD student gave me space to explore ideas and find things I did not know about and discover new ways of thinking about history.
What do you enjoy most and what do you find challenging about your role?
In my current role, I enjoy very much the diversity of my work portfolio. I get to work on companies of very different industries (from airlines, telecommunications to manufacturing) and speak to a wide variety of people in the course of an audit.
Due to the nature of my job, I also constantly move from team to team throughout the year, so I have been working with a wide variety of people within my firm as well. Time management is one key skill needed to ensure that our audited companies do not miss their reporting deadlines. This involves effective multitasking.
Have you faced any barriers during your career journey, if so, how did you overcome them?
It was initially difficult for me to imagine a life outside academia. However, by attending the workshops organised by the Careers Network and the College Graduate School, I explored and found that I was interested in areas such as audit or compliance, so went on to apply for a place on the graduate scheme at my current firm. For my PhD I was an international student.
Being someone who never worked full-time in the UK before, presenting a convincing case for hiring me was initially a challenge, including the tone to use in emails, CV, cover letters, or finding a suitable career path for myself.
I would say finding a career outside academia and eventually finding one job required mainly a process of trial and error of applying for different things.
How did your time at Birmingham help you prepare for this role?
Even just 4 years ago, I could not imagine myself being an auditor or an accountant. Instead of thinking that my Birmingham experience led me straight into my current role, I would say that at Birmingham I had the space and opportunity to explore different professions and industries.
I also made use of the services offered by the PGR career advisor, including gaining contacts for my professional network to meet Birmingham alumni and to understand some career opportunities I was interested in. And of course, I made use of interview skills workshops, mock interviews, CV reviews etc. offered by the Careers' Network, which helped me to get ready for eventually finding my job.
What are your career plans for the future?
I am not sure yet.
What advice would you give to students interested in further study?
Before starting my PhD, my favourite university professor advised me to focus on what interested me, instead of guessing what the job market will be like when I finish it, which would likely be 5 years away. Focusing on what I was interested in did help me get through times when I was stuck on research and writing.
What advice would you give to postgraduate researchers interested in getting into your industry or role?
My general advice for international students who are job hunting is to take good care of yourself and never give up. Make good use of the professional connections of the career advisors at the University of Birmingham when you are still exploring your career options.
Decide on a career goal in the next two to three years based on what you want to do and then search the job markets to find those vacancies that match your goal most closely. On the other hand, make ample use of Careers Network to understand what employers are looking for and find the best match between what employers need and what you can offer them.