A young woman, who is a graduate, in business attire smiling at the camera in a well-lit room. There are grey couches and chairs in the background.
Cassandra Ezechukwu. Image: EY

‘As a graduate, you’re not left alone to fend for yourself’

7 Sep 2021

EY’s Cassandra Ezechukwu discusses her experience on the graduate programme and how it has prepared her for a career in financial services.

As a new academic year begins, many fresh graduates will be considering their next move and, for some, that means joining a graduate programme.

Cassandra Ezechukwu completed a bachelor’s degree in information technology and business information systems in Middlesex University London followed by a master’s in financial technology in the National College of Ireland.

She then joined professional services firm EY Ireland as part of its financial services consulting graduate programme.

‘You get the opportunity to work with some of the biggest clients’

What drew you EY when you were seeking work as a graduate?

I’d say the fact that EY is a multinational firm providing financial services offerings, which is the area I knew I wanted to work in. Besides that, the opportunity to work with other financial institutions, along with the wealth of knowledge I’d gain working with experienced professionals on cross-collaborative projects, was also very attractive.

What expectations did you have before you began the programme?

My expectations prior to joining the EY graduate programme were to work on projects where I could confidently apply the knowledge I gained from college and to work with experienced consultants in the field of finance and technology, and I can say that expectation has definitely been met.

In addition to that, I wanted to work for a company with a strong focus on innovation, and at EY there is a customer-focused and innovative culture in the way we work and interact with clients, ensuring that we are providing them with the best services and support.

What duties and responsibilities were you given initially?

Within the first week after completing my induction training, I was assigned to my first external client project as a project management office (PMO) analyst on a regulatory-based project for an Irish bank.

In my role, I supported the lead PMO and programme manager with governance activities such as project status reporting, project planning and resource management.

In addition to my assigned external client project, graduates are also given the opportunity to join an internal project, which is helpful to expand your EY network. I joined the EY financial services innovation team and assisted the team with organising fintech focus events, which aimed to shed more light on the value propositions of Irish fintechs and start-ups.

Did the scope of your work change as the programme progressed?

Yes, I went from working as a PMO analyst on a regulatory based project for a bank to more recently working as a business analyst on a strong customer authentication (SCA) project for a bank.

Can you describe a typical day in your role?

A typical day will vary among graduates and is very dependent on your assigned role. I’d say as a PMO analyst, there’s a lot of working hand in hand with the programme manager to ensure the smooth running of the project, from onboarding resources to financial management to project planning.

Whereas in my role as a business analyst, there could be more independent tasks and activities, however the output of my work will basically still contribute to the overall success of the project.

How do your responsibilities compare to more experienced employees’?

When I joined my first external client project, I joined an existing team with more experienced staff and an EY engagement manager. This is the case for most people that will join the graduate programme and this is great because you’re not left alone to sort of fend for yourself and you can learn from their experiences or reach out to them if you’re stuck with any task.

Although I was already given enough responsibilities from the outset, over the course of the programme I got to work across more teams, both internal and external, and proved myself to be trusted with handling more tasks.

Do you feel more prepared for working life after completing this programme?

Yes, definitely! As part of the graduate programme at EY, I’ve worked on projects and have also been given responsibilities as an experienced hire would have been given. I’ve also learned a lot from both the managers and senior staff I have worked with.

Why should someone apply to the graduate programme at EY?

Applying to the EY graduate programme is a great career opportunity and definitely a really solid stepping stone in your career journey.

From a renewed focus on learning and development, to recognising and rewarding staff and the provision of career counsellors who oversee your growth in EY, there’s much to learn and you get the opportunity to work with some of the biggest clients in not only the financial services space, but across other industries too.

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