Success Stories

Success Stories

Katja Knox

KPMG Graduate Scheme, London

Could you please tell us a bit about your job and what it entails?

I work for KPMG in the London office. They are a leading professional services firm with a large range of products which help companies to grow financially. The services we provide aim to be end to end which may involve a combination of channels, for example IT services, risk assurance and data analytics. I am a graduate within the IARCS (Internal Audit Risk Compliance Services) department- we essentially provide assurance to companies by auditing their internal controls. Audits are performed on a wide range of processes, both financial and non-financial, such as management tools. We gain an ACA qualification after the 3 years and have the opportunity to work directly with clients.

How did the Women in Finance society help you to be successful, going into your role?

During my 3rd year, I attended a pizza making event that the Woman in Finance Society had set up with some of the Bristol KPMG team. This was a great opportunity since I hadn't previously considered the Big 4 before. I met a number of lovely people, who gave me truly honest opinions about working at the firm and I received some helpful interview tips from the recruiter.

I highly recommend going along to informal events because they enable you to gain a better understanding of the people who work for the company and establish whether or not it may be for you. Meeting recruiters is always beneficial to your application and often offers a much better understanding of recruitment process, and there is normally free food!

What is it like being a woman in finance?

I have been extremely impressed by the number of woman in my intake; specifically within my department- we have a 50:50 ratio of men to women across the country! I think the push for greater diversity in the workplace has created a safer space for not only females in Finance, but other minorities. My female seniors have gained the huge respect they deserve and have been promoted as a result. However, a gender gap still exists at higher levels, but we are working to change this! My female colleagues have been incredibly supportive to all the new joiners and have been at the forefront of creating a progressive environment.

What advice would you offer younger students with ambitions of working in finance, and to those unsure about whether finance is for them?

I would encourage younger students to continue pursuing their hobbies and not to focus all their time on Finance, as recruiters are encouraging diversity and are keen to employ people with a broad range of perspectives. If you are unsure, try to gain experience in a range of areas you think you might want to join because every firm, location and department will be different. It's a fast-paced, profit motivated industry which can be tough, but your work life will depend on the company you work for and the culture it sets. Consider if a graduate scheme is what you want for 3 years, it’s a great way to gain experience however they can be challenging when trying to balance exams and work. There are many other great options within smaller firms as well which may suit you better.

What is the biggest misconception of a career in finance that you’d like to tackle?

I think it’s really important to stress that the people are nice! I've met some really lovely people who are down to earth and share similar outlooks. It's a competitive industry to get into, however everyone is very supportive of one another.

You don't need a finance related degree to do well - people who didn't do one often are doing better in their exams! Employers are increasingly keen to employ students from a range of degree backgrounds as it creates a much broader range of perspectives within the company.

Megan Lessani

Amazon Finance Graduate Scheme, London

Former Vice-President, 2017/18

Could you please tell us a bit about your job and what it entails?

I am on the Amazon Finance Graduate Scheme in London, UK. It is a 3-year scheme and every year you rotate to a new area of Accounting/Finance. I am currently in the Accounting department where I book expenses for EU Transportation and get involved in lots of exciting projects. Next year I will most likely rotate to a Finance team for a department in retail. After my graduate scheme finishes, I can transfer on to any open job role in any of the office locations around the world – which is awesome!

How did the Women in Finance society help you to be successful, going into your role?

The lessons I learnt from speakers at events held by the Women in Finance society greatly improved my confidence going into a currently male-dominated environment. Receiving advice from women in the financial sector in positions of power instilled determination in me to succeed in my career in finance. I was also able to gain more of an insight into what interests me as there are so many different career paths in finance and it can feel overwhelming when first looking into careers.

What is it like being a woman in finance?

It can be challenging, however what has really helped me is finding some amazing female role-models. Women in Finance societies don’t just exist in universities, they also exist in companies. Amazon has a Women in Finance committee which host weekly events, allowing me to network with other women in the company. I am therefore part of a community of women at the company, so I never feel alone. In fact, being a woman in finance is extremely empowering!

What advice would you offer younger students with ambitions of working in finance, and to those unsure about whether finance is for them?

I would say to get as much work experience as possible, both inside the financial sector and outside. Try your hardest not to be too disheartened by rejections – everyone gets them, and they are a massive contributor to learning and growing as an individual (in a good way)! Also, I’d advise not putting too much pressure on yourself to know exactly what you want to do now. I strongly believe that the world is changing to a time where it is common to change roles every 2/3 years, particularly within finance. You may not start off doing exactly what you want to do, but the experience you gain in any role will be invaluable and nothing is permanent.

 

What is the biggest misconception of a career in finance that you’d like to tackle?

I believe the biggest misconception is that you will have to sacrifice family-life for a career if you want to succeed. I have met so many women in the financial sector with senior roles and multiple children who have a great work-life harmony. The misconception that you will have ‘no-life’ outside of work simply isn’t true. The most important thing is to manage your time well, prioritising the most important things. Please do not be put off from applying for a position in finance because you’re worried about this!