Aoife Hegarty had a pretty clear idea of what she wanted to do with her life, but it was only when she first came across EY that the path to achieving her dreams became clear.
College students can visualise their futures with varying degrees of clarity. Some will have a pretty concrete idea of the type of career area they want to go into, while others may be strenuously avoiding thinking about what is to come after university. A few rare people will have a five-point plan in their head.
These three all are representatives of different points of the spectrum.
Aoife Hegarty did accounting at undergraduate and graduate level and knew she wanted to become a chartered accountant. She even knew that she specifically wanted to cut her teeth in one of the so-called ‘Big Four’ professional services firms. However, it was through her part-time college job that she realised she wanted to join EY.
The company provided external auditing services for her place of work at the time. The representatives from EY dazzled her with a perfect combination of in-depth knowledge of the business and great personality. These are things Hegarty knew she wanted to emulate in her own future professional life.
We chatted to Hegarty about how life has been in the EY graduate programme so far.
What did you study in college?
I studied the BSc (Hons) accounting in University College Cork followed by a master’s degree in accounting in the University College of Dublin Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.
With this programme, are you now working in your desired industry?
Yes, I am currently in my third year of the graduate programme working as an external auditor in the Dublin assurance department at EY. It was my goal in university to complete a graduate programme in one of the ‘Big Four’ firms to train as a chartered accountant.
What drew you to EY when you were seeking work as a graduate?
I first became aware of EY when I was in college. They provided the external audit service to the business where I worked part-time. The audit team members were friendly and approachable and I was impressed with their knowledge of the business.
This first impression was in line with my experience as a work placement student in the EY Cork office the following year. Everyone that I worked with was friendly and helpful and I found it very easy to become immersed.
As well as the brilliant people, I was drawn to the interesting clients that the EY assurance department has across Ireland and, as the firm is growing, I felt there would be a lot of opportunities for me there beyond the graduate programme.
What expectations did you have before you began the programme?
Before beginning the programme, I had expected to gain professional work experience, develop the necessary skills to help me progress in my career and to get the support needed to qualify as a chartered accountant.
What duties and responsibilities were you given initially?
In my first three months at EY, I was made part of the audit teams on two large global clients, which feature in the top five brands in the world. These were large teams and I worked as an assistant to audit seniors.
These audit seniors assigned me work, coached me on how to execute it and reviewed it on my completion. Initially, I was responsible for lower-risk sections of the audit. This involved completing work papers and working with the client to understand transactions that took place during the year.
As I developed an understanding of how audits worked, I was assigned more risky sections of the audit to ensure that I was continuously learning and improving.
Did the scope of your work change as the programme progressed?
Yes, as my training contract has progressed, I have taken on more responsibility on audits and have been exposed to more technically challenging sections of the audit. I have moved from assisting on audits to the lead senior role with the responsibility of getting the audit completed from planning through to conclusion phases.
I have also taken on different responsibilities within the EY assurance department, such as providing training to incoming interns.
Can you describe a typical day in your role?
There is no such thing as a typical day in the role of an audit senior – each day brings new challenges to be faced, which makes my job dynamic and interesting.
My general role involves leading the audit and ensuring it is progressing appropriately throughout each stage. I work with the audit executives to determine the approach for the audit, to highlight issues to them and to update them on progress of the audit.
I delegate work to the junior audit team members and coach them to ensure they understand what they are required to do. I work with the client’s team members daily to get support to understand what happened in the business over the financial year.
Finally, I complete work papers to address the risks of the audit and perform procedures to ensure that the audit is completed in line with international auditing standards and international financial reporting standards.
How do your responsibilities compare to more experienced employees’?
More experienced employees that are in a management position or above will be responsible for managing multiple audits and clients at a time.
They are involved in making decisions about how to complete the audit while I am responsible for executing their decisions.
Do you feel more prepared for working life after completing this programme?
Yes. By completing the graduate programme with EY, I will qualify as a chartered accountant. On top of this, through my time working in the external audit department, I have gained a great insight and a better understanding of how businesses are run.
I have improved my technical accounting and audit skills through my work responsibilities. I have also improved my soft skills, such as communication and teamwork, by working as part of large teams and dealing with clients on a daily basis.
I am nearing the end of the programme and I am ready to take on the next challenge, be it within the assurance department, within the EY firm or somewhere new.
Why should someone apply to the graduate programme at EY?
The graduate programme in EY is a great way to start your career. EY provides fantastic exam support to assist graduates in qualifying as chartered accountants through paid study leave and internal EY Faculty lectures.
Working in the assurance department is challenging but rewarding. From the outset, trainees have access to work on many different interesting projects and are given a lot of responsibilities.
Graduates work in a mixture of small and large diverse teams with fun and interesting people. There is constant scope for learning and self-improvement and many opportunities available in EY, which is a well-connected global firm.