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School of Mathematical Sciences

Why is a professional placement a good idea? – Riya Vasa and her placement at Deloitte UK

Riya Vasa, BSc Mathematics, Statistics and Financial Economics student, has recently accepted a professional placement offer at Deloitte, in the London office. She shared with us her insights on the benefits of industrial placements. She also told us about the challenges encountered during the application process and how she was able to overcome them. Keeping a positive outlook, networking at careers events and gaining work experience are only a few of Riya’s top tips for maths students looking to make the most of this great opportunity.

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Why did you opt for an industrial placement?

Industrial placements or "year in industry" are an extended period of work experience (typically around 12 months) undertaken by university students looking to supplement their degree with professional development. They allow students to better prepare themselves for the workplace and develop practical skills as well as academic ones. A placement year increases your chances to land a graduate job within the same firm or elsewhere by providing you with an edge of one year of work experience over other graduate applicants. Therefore, a placement year is an excellent opportunity to explore your career interests, contextualise your academic learnings and gain an invaluable employability benefit.

What challenges did you encounter during the application and interview process for your industrial placement?

The entire online application process for my audit and assurance placement at Deloitte UK was quite good and seamless. I had to clear five stages of the application route to get an offer letter for the placement. The first two stages were a standard eligibility and application form with personal, professional and academic details to be submitted alongside my CV. The third and fourth stage involved an immersive online test and a job simulation, which were mathematical, financial and soft skills-based tests programmed to assess my suitability to the placement role and the company core values of operation. The tests are usually major hurdles for most applications, hence I prepared for them using online test prep resources to be better equipped to answer the questions. The last and the most imperative stage was an hour-long interview with a Senior Associate at Deloitte. Virtual interviews can be nerve-wracking, therefore I tried to have a few responses prepared on wide-ranging interview questions available online; otherwise, being confident and natural really leaves a great impression. Additionally, I would like to thank the early careers team at Deloitte for always supporting any queries and help I required for the entire process while applying as an international student.

How many opportunities did you apply for?

I applied for over 25 opportunities for industrial placements and summer internships. I had mixed feelings on whether to continue with my placement or opt for a summer internship instead, so I applied for both and decided to go with the best opportunity I landed. However, I was inclined towards an industrial placement as it seemed to be an amazing opportunity to contextualise my academic skills and gain corporate working experience in the UK. I was primarily interested in finance and business data analytics roles. I was fortunate to have reached final interview rounds for Volkswagen UK, Disney, GSK UK (for two different roles), ABI (Association of British Insurers) and Deloitte UK.

What advice would you give to first-year maths students looking for placements?

My primary advice to all first-year students would be to start planning early and zeroing down on interested industries and job roles. The aforementioned can become easier by attending varied careers events by QM societies or other public company-hosted events. Career or insight opportunities are excellent networking grounds to meet people working in different types of job roles, learn more about their responsibilities, and work environment. Careers events such as the "Career Mentorship Event" run by the QM Fintech Society, educate students about the application process, giving tips for CVs, cover letters, interviews and more. Typically, these events host current company employees and Queen Mary alumni who have been successful at grabbing certain opportunities in a particular field. It is therefore an opportunity to learn first-hand from seniors in the industry. Additionally, careers events help you comprehend whether a certain type of job or industry interests you or not. Further networking via LinkedIn also aids in building connections in a specific company or industry. In addition to networking, work experience of any kind will be beneficial to highlight on your CV and cover letter during applications. I would suggest that students try to become members or stand in elections of QM societies/QMSU, apply for QTaster and Student Consultancy Project, and look for any internship opportunities which could be beneficial in honing their skills to make them more suitable for their aimed placement jobs. You could also use the guidance provided by the maths careers team to find more opportunities and work on any applications. Just keep a positive outlook, grab any opportunity to network, and gain experience.

What support did you receive from our careers department?

The support I received from the careers team was extremely helpful during my application process. Regardless of living amidst a pandemic, I was able to virtually gain support on CV feedback and career guidance from the maths careers department. As mentioned, I was a little confused on whether to continue with my placement or just take up a summer internship so my conversation with Stefan Couch, Careers Consultant, was very helpful in deciding on my course of action for the early application process. Additionally, I booked a CV check-up twice to finalise my general CV and I learned how to modify it to make it more specific. I would suggest that other students definitely book an appointment.

What does your industrial placement at Deloitte entail? What do you expect from this experience?

My placement opportunity at Deloitte is within the audit and assurance department at their London Office. It is a great honour for me to get an opportunity to work for such a reputable and prestigious consulting firm, which exercises a dynamic culture of inclusion, collaboration and employees’ career growth. My placement commences with a two-week training period followed by a transition into the department projects and undertakings. I will be inducted alongside new graduate placement students and I look forward to networking and interacting with them while going through the initial department joining procedure. I have always been interested in accounting and finance, so I am enthusiastic to learn more and hone my existing skills throughout the placement within the audit and assurance department. I am specifically elated to join the Llyod’s Bank project that the team is currently working on. Additionally, I am ecstatic to also have gained an opportunity to give two accounting qualification exams within my placement. I look forward to kickstarting my journey at Deloitte UK, London from September 2021!