Grads at work

Click below to read more about what working graduates have to say about their world at work with our featured employers.

Grads at Work_Vincent

Age: 22

Place of Study: University of Pretoria
Qualification: BCom (Investment Management)

My position as a Management Consultant Analyst at Accenture is the perfect job for me. I specialise in communications, media and technology (CMT). I usually work as part of a project team constituted to deliver on a specific brief and I am based at the client’s premises for the duration of the assignment.

The scope of the projects I work on varies considerably and can include anything from situation analysis and strategy development to project implementation and evaluation. The output required is also exceptionally varied and can be anything from change management strategy to new product development. My role on the team is to assist with the research and analysis required on each assignment and to contribute towards conceptualising, developing and implementing the required solutions.

In my final year at university, I researched firms in the management consulting space and applied for a position at Accenture because I felt the organisational culture was such a good fit for me. I am committed to being an agent for change, transformation and empowerment in South Africa and that is very much the corporate ethos at the firm. I also value how committed Accenture is to continuing professional development and to enabling its staff by giving them the opportunities to cultivate both their hard and soft skills. Professional development courses encompass disciplines as diverse as design thinking, innovation in business and public speaking. Trainees and staff also get the opportunity to take advanced courses at universities in Chicago, London and Kuala Lumpur.

In consulting, there is no such thing as a typical working day but, in general, I arrive at work at 07:30, which gives me some time to check e-mails, review my schedule and prioritise any urgent work that may have come up. I then work on my designated tasks and, before going home, I plan for the next day. Each day brings new challenges and, with them, incredible learning opportunities.

In my private time, I am a Social Ambassador for Enactus, a global community of student, academic and business leaders dedicated to enabling individuals and communities through the power of entrepreneurship. I am currently assisting with the establishment of four township start-ups, and manage to fit in some tutoring and motivational speaking. I follow local and global politics closely as I believe in being an active and engaged citizen. International relations and diplomacy are special interests for me and I’m particularly interested in how nations engage in a globalised world.

The advice I would offer to graduates entering the workplace is to keep an open mind and to actively explore all opportunities. Be eager to embrace new experiences, cultivate a professional attitude and develop your emotional intelligence.

Grads at Work_Charne

Age: 26

Place of Study: University of the Witwatersrand Open Window Institute for Arts and Digital Sciences
Qualification: 
BSc (Architecture) (Wits) BA (Visual Communications) (Open Window)

I’ve always been a creative person and my first instinct was to channel this into a career in architecture. However, after practicing as an architect for a year, I realised that the opportunities to work on really creative projects were limited and I decided to try a different direction. I did a lot of research into degree courses in the creative disciplines and found that the Open Window Institute offered a very broad platform; one that would enable me not only to develop my creative skills, but also to use them in the digital environment.

Coming to work for Accenture may not have seemed like an obvious choice after this course of study, but after doing an internship here in 2016, I realised how much scope there was for me to build a challenging and engaging career. The consulting environment offers so much more than an agency environment would and I knew this was where I wanted to be.

As a Digital Business Integration Analyst, I work on projects that involve building a creative and interactive interface between companies and their stakeholders. This can include anything from web development to designing apps and integrating AI (artificial intelligence) into the client’s digital systems. Most importantly, it involves helping to constantly improve the user experience; to make the digital environment intuitive and user-friendly.

I’m an early bird so I get to work early and get straight into the tasks planned for that day. At the end of the day, I evaluate what I’ve done, assess what still needs to be done and plan for the next day.

One of the most exciting things about working at Accenture is the calibre of people I get to work with. There are graduates from many different disciplines here and the teamwork model enables us to work together and learn from one another in a multi-disciplinary way. One of the coolest things in progress at the moment is a project focused on digitising processes for the Department of Justice. This will not only involve making the justice system more efficient, but will help to ensure that people dealing with the justice system have a more positive experience.

In my personal time, I enjoy drawing and painting, which I find relaxing and a good counterpoint to the more technical nature of my work. I also play several musical instruments and am currently learning to play the ukulele. It’s an unusual and quirky instrument and, in many ways, gives expression to my own inner quirkiness.

My advice to young people in choosing a career path would be to find a discipline and a way of working that makes you happy; one that is engaging and fulfilling. As the saying goes, if you love what you’re doing, you never do a day’s work in your life.

Grads at Work_Faith Ndlala

Age: 24

Place of Study: University of Cape Town
Qualification: BCom (IT Management), BCom (Hons)  (Information Systems), MCom (Information Systems)

Education has always been a top priority in my life because, from an early age, I knew it would open up doors for me and provide a platform for lifelong growth and development. Studying IT and information systems has been an incredible journey and has brought me from a small, rural community to the very forefront of social, technological and economic change. Since joining Accenture, I have been able to develop my skills in many ways, including my soft skills.

As a student, I was a beneficiary of the Accenture Scholarship Programme, so coming to work for the firm was easy, although it was not a requirement. During the course of my studies, I was assigned a mentor from Accenture and this gave me insight into the firm’s values and culture. I knew it would be a fit because it is an environment in which people matter and in which one can forge one’s own career path.

Choosing a career in IT and information systems was a risk for me as I really could not foresee what would be involved, but it is a risk that has paid off in so many ways. I have been exposed to ideas and ways of thinking that I could never have imagined before. From my very first day at Accenture, I realised that it is not only an innovative organisation, but also a learning organisation, which makes me very excited about my future here.

In my role as a Business & Technology Delivery Analyst, I work as part of a team to deliver on our clients’ requirements. This involves identifying gaps in their information systems, developing a strategy to address these gaps and then implementing appropriate solutions. On a broader level, it also involves conceptualising and developing systems that will enable clients to remain competitive in a fast-changing operating environment.  

I work normal office hours, although I obviously have to be flexible when required. Accenture stresses the importance of a work-life balance, and this is important to me as I am committed to spending quality time with my family. I am also very interested in fashion and, in my leisure time, I follow trends and enjoy putting outfits together. This is an interest that has really helped me to develop my sense of self and my confidence.

My advice to graduates entering the workplace is: keep an open mind and don’t limit yourself in terms of what is possible. There are so many opportunities for growth and development in the workplace and one needs to be alert to those in order to take advantage of them. Seize the opportunities that come your way but, as importantly, be committed to making your own opportunities.

 

Grads at Work_Ikhlaas

Age: 22

Place of Study: University of Cape Town
Qualification: BBusSc (Finance and Accounting)

Joining Accenture has meant a big life change for me. Not only have I moved from an academic environment into the workplace, I’ve also moved from Cape Town to Johannesburg because I felt there were better career opportunities here.

As a Strategy Analyst, my responsibilities include research into various industry sectors, gap analysis, tactical business planning and advising clients on the different business options available to them. I also provide input into business development strategy, participate in the process of defining value propositions and help to develop operating models.

I applied to Accenture because I felt its goals and values were compatible with mine. In particular, Accenture prides itself on its integrity, which is a value that is very close to my heart. As a dual US-South African citizen, I was also attracted by the firm’s global reach, as well as by the fact that it works across a spectrum of over 40 industries. This gives recent graduates like me unprecedented scope for personal and professional growth. The firm also runs a skills outreach programme, which is something I intend to become involved in, and which will give me the opportunity to make a meaningful difference at a community level.

As I work on different projects, no two working days are the same. In general, I like to start my day by checking my e-mails for any new updates or developments. I then review my plan for the day, attend briefing sessions and meetings and work on my specific assignments. I find I am able to be comfortably vulnerable at Accenture. The way in which the firm works gives me the confidence to embark on new challenges, secure in the knowledge that I have its full support.

This is particularly important as we find ourselves at an extraordinary time in history; one in which we are building machines that will extend our human experience immeasurably. The development and application of AI (artificial intelligence) is one of the most exciting things we are involved in here at Accenture. By encouraging and supporting innovation, we are pioneering the process of incorporating AI into both business processes and everyday life.

In my free time, I engage in a number of cultural and social activities. I enjoy everything from my regular workouts at the gym to park runs on Saturday mornings and browsing farmers’ markets on Sundays. I also enjoy watching TED talks and catching up on some comedy or sports programmes on TV. On a more serious note, I’m in the process of completing my CFA charter, which takes up a lot of my time at the moment.

My advice to new graduates entering the workplace is to participate and engage on every level. Cultivate a positive attitude and never forget how important determination and perseverance are in the long run.

ey-logo

Grads at Work_Pieter

Age: 24

Place of Study: University of Cape Town
Qualification: BBusSc (Finance and Accounting)

While I was at school, I researched auditing firms and bursary opportunities carefully. I felt that I could build a rewarding career at EY and applied for a bursary through the firm. I was granted the bursary and given tremendous support throughout my studies. I appreciate EY’s personalised approach to developing staff and am looking forward to a long, successful career here.

My role as a second year Trainee Accountant involves assisting in the auditing process for a variety of different clients. I usually work at the client’s premises and am part of an audit team of between five and 10 people, depending on the project.

Working in an auditing firm gives me unique exposure to many businesses operating across all sectors. This, in turn, enables me to experience different approaches and perspectives, as well as to build relationships inside and outside of the firm. Trainees can later specialise in a specific sector if that is what they would like to do.

I work very closely with my team manager and colleagues and there is also a lot of client liaison involved in the auditing process. Audit teams need to have an in-depth understanding of their clients’ businesses which makes the work very interesting. One of the things I really enjoy about EY is that it supports and endorses entrepreneurs. I am proud to be working for a firm that is enabling and empowering the movers and shakers of the future.

The coolest thing at EY at the moment is Growth Navigator, which is a unique, interactive platform developed by the firm to assist its clients in assessing their company’s ability to deliver on their growth plans. Growth Navigator is the product of years of working with the most dynamic companies and leaders and is available to EY clients worldwide.

I have a good work-life balance, which I value. In my leisure time, I enjoy going to the gym, reading, playing touch rugby, hiking and spending time outdoors. EY also organises socials and sports leagues, as well as a monthly cocktail event. These events not only give all of us a chance to unwind, but also the opportunity to get to know one another better.

My advice to both students applying for bursaries and graduates entering the workplace is to do your research into the firms you are interested in because culture fit in the workplace is essential.

 Grads at Work_Mpume

 

 

 

 

Age: 23

Place of Study: University of Johannesburg
Qualification: BCom (Hons) (Certificate in the Theory of Accounting)

As a Trainee Accountant in my second year at EY, I work on the more complex and high-risk aspects of each project and assist in the process of wrapping up each audit. I also assist third-year trainees where necessary, especially when their workload is particularly intense. In addition, I am responsible for assisting first-year trainees to deliver on their tasks in an optimal way.

I came across EY during a career fair at university, where I spoke to one of the graduate recruiters about opportunities with the firm. There and then I decided this was the place for me and I applied for a training contract. Shortly after that I went through the interview process – and here I am!

In general, I work from 08:00 to 17:00, but this can vary depending on the assignment. Factors such as the specific audit team’s preference and the client’s office hours can affect the working hours on each engagement. Whatever these may be, we usually work an average eight-hour day.

Typically, I begin my day by going through the to-do list I have compiled at the end of the previous day and by dealing with any other issues that may require my immediate attention.

In the mornings, I follow up on outstanding items and respond to e-mails, after which I focus on the specific tasks that have been allocated to me.

I have had to learn so much in a short period of time, especially about how to adapt to change. Clients and teams are constantly changing and this has helped me to learn skills that no textbook could have taught me.

The coolest thing EY is doing right now is incorporating new technology into its audits in order to save time and increase efficiency for both the firm and our clients.

When I’m not working, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, which keeps me balanced. I also enjoy exercising, which is a great way of relaxing and unwinding. But most of all, I love just chilling on the couch and catching up on a bit of TV.

The best advice I can give to graduates entering the workplace is to make informed decisions about your career. Work is a big part of your day, so it is very important to be in an environment in which you are happy and can build a long-term career. Do your research and choose a firm that is the right fit for you. In short, put yourself out there, create your own opportunities and be your own biggest fan.

om-logo

Grads at Work_Faith Saunders

Age: 24

Place of Study: University of Cape Town
Qualification: Bcom (Economics & Finance) & BCom (Hons) (Financial Analysis and Portfolio Management)

I have been a Business Analyst at Old Mutual Investment Group since February 2016 and the past year has been a steep but rewarding learning curve for me. I work on the group’s order management system, which provides support for traders, both within Old Mutual and in other organisations. Different teams working in shifts throughout the trading day conduct data analysis, reconcile information on the Old Mutual order management system with other trading systems, deal with queries and requests from traders, explore and analyse functionality and undertake projects aimed at continuous improvement of the system.

The work is time sensitive, as reconciliations and analyses need to comply with regulatory requirements. We work in three shifts a day, the first one starting at 07:15 and ending at 16:00, the second one starting at 08:30 and ending at 16:45 and the third one starting at 10:00 and ending at 18:00. I work the early shift and am usually in the office by 07:00, which gives me time to settle in and check e-mails before the analysis process begins.

Each person on the team, which includes a lead analyst, senior analysts and junior analysts, is tasked with analysing a set of data from the previous day’s trade. This usually involves reconciling cash and/or holdings to ensure that securities information and transaction records match. If there are any deviations, we have to investigate these and rectify them. We then do cash forecasts for the day and these have to be completed by 09:00 when trading begins.

This is the time of day when we usually have a high volume of queries from traders, which need to be handled expertly and efficiently. In between responding to queries we work on specific projects. These projects are aimed at enhancing the systems functionality and this is achieved through reviewing, documenting and examining the various existing business processes.

I am a very organised person and this structured way of working suits me well. It’s also exciting to be able to work with a wide variety of people, including traders, portfolio managers and other analysts, as well as to have a finger on the pulse of the daily economy.

The coolest thing about Old Mutual is that it invests in the development of its people. It offers a wide range of advanced training courses, as well as access to mentors. I recently passed my CFA level 1 board exam, and I wouldn’t have achieved this without the continuous support from the business.

In my free time, I use the on-site gym and enjoy spending time with friends. We’re working through a list of interesting things to do in Cape Town, from visiting wine farms to going on hikes.

My advice to new recruits is to research employers thoroughly while you’re still studying and get a feel for their corporate cultures. Once on board, engage with your colleagues and actively build relationships. They will see you through good times and bad.

Grads at Work_Nozipho

Age: 25
Place of Study: University of Cape Town
Qualification: BCom (Accounting)
BCom (Hons) (Tax)

As a Graduate Tax Trainee, I work in a team that includes a manager and two senior colleagues. We do individual, group and corporate tax reviews, provide advice on tax-related matters, handle queries about tax compliance, analyse information and also provide interpretations of new regulations and the latest binding rulings from SARS. We handle a high volume of ad hoc queries on a daily basis.

I work in different departments throughout the year, spending three months at a time in tax advisory services, tax compliance services and international tax services. This gives me exposure to a broad base of issues and challenges and enables me to work with many different people. I am proud that I was the first-ever trainee to work in tax advisory services, which was a fantastic opportunity.

I decided to apply for a position at Old Mutual after I attended one of the company’s Careers Expos, where I had the opportunity to have an in-depth discussion with the Graduate Programme Manager. After I had submitted an application, I went through a series of interviews before being offered the position.

We have some flexibility in terms of working hours. Our normal hours are 09:00 to 17:00, but we may come earlier and leave later depending on the workload and time-sensitivity of the work. This allows me to have a good work-life balance.

When I arrive at work, I take some time to go through my e-mails and review what is on the agenda for the day. Mornings are particularly busy and this is usually when I attend meetings or consult with my colleagues. The afternoons are devoted to research and to drafting, refining and revising reports and other documents.

The best part of my job is that I get to work with such highly experienced professionals in such a well-respected company. My work is interesting and engaging, and I have really learnt a lot since joining Old Mutual.

In my leisure time, I enjoy hiking and exploring the Cape coast. I am also on a journey of discovery when it comes to wine and whisky. I attend wine and whisky paring dinners, visit wine farms and whisky distilleries, and am building up a good wine collection.

My advice to accounting and tax students is to be clear about the direction you want to go in while you are still at university. Take advantage of holiday internship programmes and networking opportunities so that you can get a sense of what different firms have to offer. Choose the firm you want to work in with both your personal and professional goals in mind so that you can find the right fit. After you enter the workplace, manage perceptions carefully and build relationships. They’re the foundation stone of a long and fulfilling career.