Q&A: What’s it like coming from a non-accountancy background? Part 2

In the second part of this Q&A blog, Stephen, a commercial audit intern from the Liverpool office, offers up his thoughts on his internship having come from a non-accountancy background…

What do you study and where?

I’m studying Russian with Serbian at the University of Nottingham. As you do.404

Why did you pick accountancy?

Halfway through my second year of university I decided that I didn’t want to pursue a career which would involve using my Russian language skills. As a result, I started to research other possible careers. Much like Kieran, last week’s Q&A interviewee, I spoke with family members. My Grandad was a chartered accountant and he was able to give me a large amount of information about what the job might involve. It all sounded very appealing; from the opportunity to work with a wide variety of businesses to being able to better understand how those businesses operate. As a consequence you understand how the economy operates, something I have always been interested in.

In addition, I was attracted to audit by the fact that I will  be supported in working towards a well-respected qualification which will provide me with a platform on which to build the rest of my career. As Kieran has said, it opens up doors and that’s a key reason why I chose accountancy.

What skills that you have learned from your degree have you transferred to the job?

Communication has played a key role in my degree, albeit in a different language, and my skills have been easily transferred to audit. The ability to communicate effectively is, in my opinion, underestimated and I have benefitted from the skills picked up at university. I am always in contact with people, whether it’s colleagues or clients. During my internship, I have had a number of client meetings in which it is important for you to communicate clearly and efficiently so they know exactly what you require in order to complete your task in audit. If you have good communication skills, you’re off to a flyer.

Speech Bubble Communication Concept

What has been the hardest part of being from a non-accountancy background?

Everything is new to me. Well, almost everything. I was baffled by the double entry accounting system initially and I am guessing someone from an finance background wouldn’t have been as baffled. Microsoft Excel doesn’t get used very often in a Russian degree, so my skills are well below par and this caused a few problems at first.

Would your internship have been easier had you completed an accountancy based degree?

I don’t think it would have been easier at all. A number of interns I have met are doing accountancy degrees and I get the impression that they have been in exactly the same position as I have. It’s been a level playing field I think, whatever degree background people may have come from. Further down the line, people from accountancy based degrees are eligible for exam exemptions and so that implies they should have a better understanding and are one step ahead. However, at this stage, I feel like it’s a learning curve for everyone.


What advice would you give to someone from a non-accountancy background applying to a firm like Grant Thornton?

I have a very standard answer to this question but it cannot be overstated – do your research! The internet is a wonderful thing and it’s important you make the most of it. There is a wealth of information out there and I researched a lot before I started to apply to firms. For me, it’s important to find out about each firm’s work culture so you can decide if you’re suited to them.

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

I contrast Kieran in my answer to this question –  I feel like I have been doing similar work each day. I have been out at client sites for the duration of my internship (except for the trip to Bradenham) and when I’m there I have been doing audit checks on various aspects of the business. They may be different checks, but the nature of the work is still the same and so, whilst the location of my work changes periodically, I feel like the work itself is similar each day. That doesn’t mean to say the work is boring, I just don’t think the work has been as varied as Kieran has said.

On a typical day I travel to the client site, ask my in-charge which tasks need completing and then I get to work. I’ve asked a lot of questions and, luckily, everyone has been more than willing to sit down and talk me through any query I have had.

What has been the highlight of your internship so far?

The teamwork. Throughout my internship I have worked as part of a team and I’ve loved that. Everyone I’ve come across has been a genuine pleasure to work with and they’ve made me feel welcome. As a nervous intern, who hadn’t experienced anything related to accountancy, I have relied on the help of others and they have been more than happy to help.

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