Ben Waters – BA (Hons) Accounting and Finance graduate

Year of graduation: 2015

Current employer: PKF Francis Clark

Current job title: Graduate ACA Trainee

Current location: Truro

“The resources available at Plymouth University are fantastic, be it the lecturers and lectures themselves, the supplementary resources such as the employability and careers team and library, or the social element like the societies and Students’ Union.”
Tell us about your career path since graduation.

In terms of getting the job, my path was very simple: I did an internship with Francis Clark between my second and third year – which led me to make this the only graduate job I applied for – and I had secured it by the January of my third year.

Since starting at Francis Clark, I have worked in the Accounts and Audit department, taking on more responsibility and tasks as time has gone on. I am, however, going to venture into different departments before finishing my training for a broader experience in practice.

How has your degree helped/influenced your career path?

It gave me an understanding and knowledge of the area from day one, which meant that I wasn’t coming in cold: I could begin contributing to the firm immediately. It has also helped immensely with my studies, as not only have I covered a lot of the ACA content previously but, because of my combination of core and elective modules, I claimed exemptions from seven of the 15 ACA exams, which was certainly a stress and workload reducer!

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

Working full-time alongside studying and exams can be difficult, especially during busy periods or if I’m away on audit – which means lots of travel and long days. Time planning and time-management come into play to make sure enough time is allocated for study/revision.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

For our ACA studies, students across all of the Francis Clark offices are sent away together to a residential business school in the Cotswolds, which is always great fun and a little déjà vu back to university!

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

Definitely consider applying for placements and internships to get some experience in the field prior to graduating, even if you don’t end up applying to the same firm like I did, the experience on your CV and the ability to talk about it in the interview will be invaluable. Your degree alone won’t make you stand out as all applicants will have a required degree, so it’s everything else that must set you apart.

Following on from that, involvement (and taking responsibilities) in societies is also very beneficial. I was Social Secretary and then Treasurer of the University Cricket Club, which appeared to impress the interviewers and shows depth outside of my studies.

What lessons/skills did you gain from your course?

Beyond the obvious technical and academic skills I use in practice, I think skills such as learning how to present in front of an audience, how to work as part of a team (even if you’re not with people whom you’d choose to work), and managing the life-study balance (before it becomes life-work-study balance) were all vastly improved, even if I didn’t realise or appreciate it at the time.

Did you undertake a placement during your degree and if so, how did this benefit you?

As discussed above, I did a summer internship with Francis Clark between my second and third year, on a six week contract which ended up being extended to nine weeks. It was massive for me because not only did it get my foot in the door with regards to getting the graduate job, but it also gave me valuable industry experience with a big name firm that I could’ve used to apply for any other job.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

My favourite memories of Plymouth have to be my experiences with UPCC, both on and off the field. I couldn’t recommend joining a society highly enough, for the friends, opportunities, nights out, and all-round enjoyment. I should also mention my course trip away to Brussels: big thanks to Kevin Finnegan for organising a fantastic few days including the Atomium, a brewery, a chocolate factory, Hard Rock café, and much more.

Do you stay in touch with other Plymouth University alumni or lecturers?

Yes, I stay in contact with the lecturers as much as I can, and I came back recently to do a careers talk about what I do now and how current students can do the same. I have also been back to attend the careers fair representing Francis Clark.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University, and why?

Definitely. The resources available at Plymouth University are fantastic, be it the lecturers and lectures themselves, the supplementary resources such as the employability and careers team and library, or the social element like the societies and Students’ Union: everyone is helpful and welcoming, and will work tirelessly with you to succeed.