In celebration of today’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences (SBCS) Graduation ceremony, we spoke to alumna Emma Black, who graduated 3 years ago with a BSc in Biology. Emma talks about her experience on the graduate scheme at EY and offers some helpful advice to this year’s graduates.
Emma Black, FS Assurance Audit Senior, EY
(BSc Biology, 2016)
25 July 2019
What did you study at Queen Mary and what are you doing now?
I studied BSc (Hons) Biology and I am currently coming towards the end of my 3 year graduate scheme at EY (Ernst and Young). My graduate scheme is the Wealth and Asset Management Audit department for which I am also studying towards a Chartered Accountant with qualification with the Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland (ICAS).
Why did you choose to study at Queen Mary and what advice would you have for 2018/19 graduates?
I chose to study at Queen Mary due to its reputation for its Science degree programmes, being one of the only campus-based universities in London, its multi-cultural community and the wide range of campus activities for students to get involved in.
My advice for 2018/19 graduates is to assess and write down all the skills and experience (academic and non-academic) you have gained from your time at Queen Mary. Assess your strengths and weaknesses, particularly from your course and use these to envisage what type of person you are and what type of career you would like to undertake.
What sparked your interest in your current career within the auditing profession?
I have always wanted to work in a large firm, working with numbers and lots of people. I believed that coming from a scientific background with analytical skills, would help me to stand out and bring a different way of thinking to the job. I wanted to pursue an accounting qualification within a large firm to become a Financial Accounting Advisor in the future. In addition, there are lots of opportunities for travel, working in various different firms and companies and various roles.
How did your time and study at Queen Mary help your career and development?
I really appreciated how research intensive the Biology course is at Queen Mary. The analytical and research skills I gained through my studies have helped me during my day job as it is very analytical and involves thinking outside of the box. The course helped me to develop an inquisitive mind, which is key in Audit – to always question and be sceptical of the evidence.
Furthermore, I joined many societies at Queen Mary and got involved in events and volunteering opportunities. This helped me to grow out of my comfort zone and be confident when meeting new people and forging new types of friendship/relationships. At EY, almost every other week I am meeting new people and working with different people, which I enjoy.
What advice would you offer to current students who themselves are considering a career in your profession?
Thoroughly research the role and carefully consider what goal you want to achieve from undertaking such a career and studying for the qualification. Consider what size firm you would like to work in and what type of environment you think you will thrive in.
In addition, check the employment benefits on offer (travelling, volunteering etc.) that you might already undertake at Queen Mary and could continue during employment. Find practice aptitude tests online, check student room chats for advice on group assessments and get your CV checked over as much as possible.
Why is exciting to do what you do?
I get an insight into the Financial Services industry and get to understand how integral it is to our everyday lives. I also get to meet new people often, travel to various companies (including abroad) and am continuously pushed out of my comfort zone.
Although people may think accountants are boring, particularly audit, it is very key to keeping organisations afloat (as you may see in the news often). Being a part of that process ensures there is a purpose to what I do.
Do you have any role-models that you look up to, both inside and outside of your field?
My parents, particularly, my father who is also an accountant. He has helped me through the struggles of studying and working at the same time, as he knows how tough it can be.
My colleagues and various other people I have met through networking in the industry. I learnt from them that being dedicated, working hard and sacrificing is important to attain your life goals.