I'd just landed at Heathrow after being at Ernst & Young's annual intern leadership conference in Florida, and got a call when I was in a taxi on my way home. I'd got a job offer from them! It was a good feeling.
On the look-out for experience
I studied at the University of St Andrews. I started there in 2008 after taking a gap year, during which I worked in South Africa in the marketing department of an insurance company specialising in safari insurance. I then trained as a safari ranger, did a charity bike race, and travelled round the country. Next I did a ski season in France and some InterRailing. Finally, I worked at an insurance company in London. This role was great, and I got offered a permanent job at the end of it, but I wasn't sure if insurance was for me, and I knew I wanted to go to university.
I studied management, but with a sustainability focus - so I'd looked at topics in areas ranging from economics, to geography, to psychology. I like to get involved with lots of other things alongside my studies, and I'm one of the main organisers of our two university balls, both for over 1000 guests. I'd learnt a lot about management by organising these events, probably as much as on my degree. There's financial know-how, as I had to deal with budgets, and I learnt to negotiate through working with suppliers. I also do quite a lot of sport - mainly running and going to the gym, and I play six-a-side football occasionally.
I was also an Ernst & Young brand manager at St Andrews, which is why I got interested in working for the company. Through promoting Ernst & Young, going to their careers evenings, and talking to the people I got to know there, I learnt a lot about them.
Here's the deal
I'd been certain that I wanted to go into banking to work on mergers and acquisitions transactions and restructuring, as I loved the idea of getting involved with big deals, and I like advising people. But then I saw that I could do these things at Ernst & Young too. And as I looked at the volatility of the banking industry, I wasn't sure if I wanted to get involved with this sector. So I applied for an internship at Ernst & Young - even though I was a brand manager for them, I had to go through the same process as everyone else - and I was successful.
Once on the internship, I worked in two different departments. First, real estate restructuring, where I worked on a complex deal which involved looking at both real estate assets and the financial markets, with a deal team spread between London, Frankfurt and the Isle of Man. I was given proper work, was involved in decision-making, and had quite a lot of responsibility. There were some reasonably late nights - until 8pm or so - and also lots of lunches and drinks together, so I really felt part of the team.
My second department was oil and gas mergers and acquisitions. I'm particularly interested in this industry as I studied it as part of my degree. I wasn't put into the oil and gas division originally, but I asked to go into this department so that I could get some experience within the sector. I worked on a few deals where American oil companies were buying oil fields and refineries in West Africa, and got a lot of involvement on them, often finding information for the rest of the team to use.
The social side of the internship was also great. There was a big reception on the first night with food and drinks. Then we had two days of induction with talks from partners and icebreaker events, and later on there was another evening event on HMS Belfast.
At the end of the internship, I went to America for the international intern leadership conference, which was a very useful experience and good fun too! Ernst & Young's CEO, Jim Turley, came along, and I got to meet him and a lot of Ernst & Young's European leaders as well. I also met a lot of interns from other offices, and we're keeping our network going.
One of the elements of the event I liked the most was one called ï¿½the Leaders' Lounge". The Head of Asia Pacific, the Head of Europe, and the Head of the Americas were all in the room, and we were allowed to fire questions at them about anything we wanted. People asked about things like life at Ernst & Young, and possibilities for international transfers between offices.
I made some other graduate scheme applications, but after all my involvement with Ernst & Young, I felt that it was the perfect place for me to be. While I was working as a brand manager, people at the company were very helpful, and I felt they were interested in my ideas and valued me as part of their company rather than seeing me as just a student. On the internship, I liked the fact that I could ask as many questions as I wanted, and was impressed by the enthusiasm the people I was working with had for what they were doing.
I'm now a TAS analyst - that's a transaction advisory services analyst. At Ernst & Young you do rotations during your first three years, and I've expressed a preference to go into the oil and gas team first. I'll then try other areas, and I think it's not a bad thing to be a generalist for a while before I decide where I want to specialise.
I'm particularly looking forward to gaining more financial literacy through the training I'll get - I think it's one of the most useful things you can acquire during your career, whatever you end up doing. I'd love to be a chief executive or chief financial officer of a company one day, perhaps one in technology or energy. That's not to say that I won't stay involved with Ernst & Young. They like people to spend time in industry, get some experience, and then come back into the firm with extra knowledge.