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PwC Australia

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  • > 100,000 employees

Bella Colbran

I chose Risk Assurance as I wanted a role in a company that I knew would be on top of current trends and challenges in technology and in the work they do.

Where did you grow up? Talk us through your education. 

I’ve lived in Sydney my whole life. I went to Queenwood School for Girls where I studied mostly humanities, languages and arts and finished in 2014. When leaving school I had no idea what I wanted to do at university, but somehow wound up in the UNSW Co-op Program studying business information systems. The program gives you the opportunity to take up industry placements during your degree, so it seemed like a good place to work out what I wanted to do with my life! My degree was three years, but I worked part time at PwC via the Trainee Program, so I finished it in four.

How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it? 

PwC Risk Assurance was my first placement as part of my university’s Co-op program. Through the Trainee Program I was given the opportunity to stay on at PwC for the rest of the year part time, while I continued my studies. I am starting full time as a graduate in Risk Assurance in July 2019, after taking some time off to travel.

How did you choose your specialisation? Were you weighing up any other alternatives before choosing this specialisation?

I chose Risk Assurance as I wanted a role in a company that I knew would be on top of current trends and challenges in technology and in the work they do. I felt PwC could offer a role that would allow me to use what I had already learnt (and would continue to learn) throughout my degree, while also teaching valuable skills that I could use in whatever career path I chose. 

I’d visited PwC with my university and had taken part in the STEM Academy program, so I was able to get a good feel of what the place was like. I felt the people were quite similar to me in that they were hard working, didn’t take themselves too seriously, had a lot of fun and took the time to get to know the people they worked with. 

I also met other trainees and graduates who had only recently finished university, so there were plenty of people who had been, or were going, through similar experiences as I was. You don’t often get that in other companies.

What was your interview process like? What kind of questions were you asked?

I interviewed as part of my university’s Co-op program and once accepted, I was allocated to PwC based on preference. Before I started, I had a call with someone from the campus recruitment team who was really helpful in giving me information about my first day, answering any questions I had and also asking me what I was interested in so that I could be placed in a team that would best suit me. As this was my first corporate experience – and being so young – I was worried I would struggle with the adjustment, so it was great to have such a hands-on onboarding process. I also had calls with my buddy and coach before starting, so I already knew a few names before I walked in the door. 

What does your employer do?

PwC is a professional services firm. We offer a variety of different services to large and small business, multinational corporations, individuals and others. The main service offerings are Assurance, Tax and Legal, Consulting, Private Clients and Deals. Within Assurance, we have Financial Assurance and Risk Assurance, which incorporates audit, regulatory work, data analytics and plenty more.

What are your areas of responsibility?

I sit within Risk Assurance (under the Assurance umbrella) and mostly work on external IT audits. I’ve also worked on internal audits, data assurance engagements and regulatory reviews, as well as some of the newer consulting work we’re doing as part of the growing emerging technology portfolio. 

External audit support is the IT/systems side of your typical financial statement audit. We test controls over systems that feed into the financial statements and ensure these business processes are implemented as they should be. My clients are mainly financial institutions, but I’ve also worked on clients in real estate, energy, government and media. On jobs like this, typically we perform and manage testing of certain systems or business processes. I’ve managed client communication, coached new team members, run meetings with clients about their processes and plenty of other things.

In emerging technology, I am part of a small team that’s working on automating both internal and external processes to improve how PwC and our clients function on a daily basis. The team have been building bots for the last few months that have really improved a lot of the work we do. It’s a great team to work with and is more of a project management role, which I’m really enjoying!

Can you describe a typical work day? What was the last thing you worked on?

At the moment, I’m working on the emerging technology portfolio, which is a relatively new addition to Assurance and we’re still in the early stages of building the team and spreading the word about this new offering. The key focus at the moment is Robotic Process Automation (RPA). We’ve spent the last few months building bots and training ourselves up to help improve processes and make an impact both internally and with our clients. 

As this is a new offering, there’s a lot of meetings and discussions around current processes and potential future developments. It involves a lot of complex problem solving and the ability to communicate with experts who know and are comfortable with their processes. Not only that, I’ve also had the opportunity to work on a lot of marketing and promotional materials for the use of RPA internally, which is something I hadn’t really done before but have really enjoyed.

A typical day in IT audit involves a lot of client contact. We need to reperform processes that people within the businesses do on a daily basis, so it’s essential to keep them in the loop with our work. There will be times of the year where you are in back-to-back meetings all day and others when you might be spending time working through complex testing. It really varies and no two days are the same. 

What are the career prospects with your job? Where could you or others in your position go from here?

I’ve always been told that Audit is a really good foundation for anyone starting out in their career and the more clients and jobs I’ve worked on, the more this has become apparent. You learn a lot of soft skills such as communicating with difficult clients, working with people from different backgrounds and working to deadlines. The technical skills (Excel, SQL, Tableau etc) and the knowledge you acquire about various businesses, processes and industries is unparalleled. 

The career progression in Assurance is very quick and if you’re good at what you do and enjoy it there are some great opportunities – including secondments to both PwC-member firms and clients, new offerings and projects. The skills and knowledge I’ve obtained over the past three years are invaluable and could be applied in any other position.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Absolutely! The great thing about Risk Assurance is the variety of people and backgrounds that work here. I’ve worked with people who’ve studied science, medicine, accounting, finance, engineering, arts and plenty more. As long as you are keen to learn, willing to try anything and ask a lot of questions, you will get a lot out of a career in Risk Assurance.

What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?

I was looking at degrees in international relations/politics before I found myself studying information systems, so I’d probably be working in government or media.

What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most? 

The best part about working at a firm like PwC is the opportunity to work on a variety of clients from various industries and locations, with different teams and on a range of engagements. There are so many different teams you can work on within Risk Assurance: from Digital Trust, which has more of a cyber security focus; to Transformation Assurance, which involves more project management and assessment; to IT audit for some of Asia Pac’s largest companies; to Data Assurance. 

My favourite role within Assurance has to have been getting involved with emerging technology. It’s a great team and there’s a lot of responsibility but also flexibility as it’s a new team and there are no set practices yet. I’ve learnt so much in the last few months about the work PwC does and where we can improve. I’m really keen to see RPA and our team grow over the next few months and years.

There’s also a great social side to PwC.The average employee age is mid-late 20s, so everyone’s around the same age and essentially starting their careers together. I’ve made some amazing friends here, both in my teams and through the graduate and trainee programs. There’s a really great culture and everyone’s very supportive and friendly. There are plenty of events to get to know people, including sports days and competitions; lunches and dinners; drinks; and big days like Melbourne Cup and the Christmas party. There’s always something on!

At PwC there is a lot of career support. When each employee starts, they are assigned a coach and buddy to help with anything from IT equipment through to promotion and career opportunities. My coach has been so helpful from day one and has been a good person to ask questions to or give advice. Not only that, I’ve come across some incredible role models in directors and partners – particularly those female partners who have had great success in the technology space. The representation of women in technology is something I’m really passionate about. Having these people to look up to and ask advice of has been such an asset, both personally and in terms of encouraging other women to study or work in technology. The motivation you get from meeting successful people who have started in a similar position to you and have had similar challenges in their careers, makes such a difference. 

What’s the biggest limitation of your job? Do you bear a lot of responsibility? Do you have to work on weekends? Are the stress levels high?

You are definitely given a lot of responsibility from when you first start; the learning curve is steep, which can be difficult to manage. You need to make sure you make the most of your teams and the support available to you. I think it took about two weeks before I was sitting in on client meetings and engaging with key contacts. You’re treated like a team member, not a graduate, so you need to be prepared to set expectations and live up to them.

There are periods throughout the year where you have to work late hours. This differs for each person depending who their clients are and when they report. For me this is usually a couple of months towards the end of the year, but aside from that my typical working day ends around 6.30 pm. 

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student? 

  • Enjoy your time at university, because it will be over in no time. Looking back, I’m glad I was able to learn so much while studying and working, but I regret not taking more time to enjoy the freedom that comes with being a student. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you for a career.
  • Expand your network at every opportunity: go to events, talk to people about what they do and what they have done in the past and don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice. Particularly in a firm like PwC, there are so many people who have followed all sorts of career paths to get to where they are today and they’re very willing to share their experiences. It’s the best way to get to know people and you never know where it might lead you!
  • Ask questions! There’s nothing worse for a colleague than someone who doesn’t understand a task and then wastes time doing it the wrong way. There’s nothing wrong with clarifying a task; it’ll save you and everyone involved a lot of time.