In this blog, we spoke to Sameara Ali, who is in the second year of her Mathematics, Statistics and Financial Economics degree at Queen Mary University of London and is currently undertaking a professional placement at Ernst & Young, before returning for her third year in September. She told us more about what it’s like to work in financial services and she discussed the importance of getting work experience while being a student.
20 February 2020
What made you choose to study your Maths degree at Queen Mary?
I think Queen Mary offers versatile degrees within mathematics. Here, you can study Maths with a variety of other subjects or simply on its own. I was specifically looking for a degree with a professional placement and ideally one that incorporated economics within the programme, so this course was perfect for me. I’ve always been a logical thinker and interested in how maths can be applied to real-life, which is why I chose to pair maths with economics.
How did you get your placement at EY?
I spent a lot of time in my first year researching different placements and programmes because I knew I would be undertaking a placement later on. I wasn’t sure about the area I wanted to get into, so I applied for a range of completely different spring courses in my first year at both EY and the Civil Service and was then fast-tracked through interviews for a placement. I had done a lot of research about what service line I would be most suited to and spoke to people on LinkedIn who had completed the placement to learn more about their experiences.
Could you tell us about your experience working at EY?
Working at EY for a year has been enlightening because I’ve been able to get involved in a range of projects and opportunities, which would have not been possible if I had joined as a graduate student. I sit in the main tax technical team but have been able to take part in a lot of tax advisory projects which have been an interesting twist to the otherwise mostly technical work. We all sat two ICAS exams when we first joined so we were able to start at EY with a level of knowledge that could be applied to various projects during the year. I’ve also been involved in projects outside EY which have allowed me to attend career fairs, networking sessions, and conferences.
Would you recommend doing a placement?
I think it’s really important to do some sort of placement during your studies to make sure you know what field you would like to get into and ensure it’s the right fit for you. Sometimes, researching things online is not enough and you need real-life experience to truly understand an industry. A summer placement is useful to get a general idea of what you will be doing as a graduate and a placement year is an invaluable opportunity to allow yourself to flexibly gain experience.
What are your plans for the future?
I’ve been enjoying my placement so I would like to return but we’ll see…
If you were to give one piece of advice to prospective students who want to get work experience during their studies, what would you say to them?
Start early. Finding a placement can be tough and discouraging, so make sure you apply as early as possible for a range of different experiences and roles.
Read more about the Professional Placement Year here.