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Careers Guide

Student Success Story: Hillary and PwC (Accounting)

We interviewed Uptree Alumni Hillary to find out more about her Flying Start Accounting Degree with PwC. Here, she shares about her journey with Uptree, the setbacks she faced whilst applying for apprenticeships and gives some words of wisdom for us on the whole process!

Tell us a bit about yourself, Hillary

I'm from London and I studied A levels in Art and design, Business Studies and Graphic communication.

Hillary PwC apprentice

I joined Uptree at the beginning of Sixth Form through my school and attended work experience days at PwC, Google, Europa Capital, UBS and Coca Cola (CCEP).

Can you give some more details about your amazing apprenticeship?

I have started a 'Flying Start’ Degree Apprenticeship at PwC/University of Reading (UoR).

How it works is that I have paid work placements integrated into the degree. So I study towards my degree in Accounting and Business and towards my ACA qualification at Henley Business School which is on the UoR campus.

Henley Business School

During my 2nd/3rd and 4th years of study I also have the placements which should last around 3-4 months each.

The University of Reading cohort has around 50-60 people this year.

What was the application process like?

Initially you have to apply through UCAS meaning that you have to have a personal statement ready.

After this I had to complete ‘Career Unlocked’ which was PwCs online game based assessment.

The game was designed to test my numerical and abstract reasoning abilities and natural behavioural preferences. Because this stage was game based, it was particularly hard to prepare for as the test won’t explicitly ask you to calculate this or give your judgement on that.

On top of this, with each game it's not clear what particular thing is being assessed (for example endurance or logical thinking) meaning that in a way it does kind of come down to your natural abilities and strengths.

After this stage was the pre-recorded video interview where I had to answer both standard interview questions like why I'm interested in PwC as well as answers to more situational questions.

PwC-sign-London

The final stage would usually be an assessment day how this was cancelled as we went into lockdown and was replaced by a live video call where I was given a series of tasks to complete under timed conditions.

Some advice I would give is to do as much research as possible about the different stages and about the company.

It's important to know PwCs core values especially because they will be looking to see if you fit these values with the answers you give (for example in the pre recorded video interview).

Try to figure out why specifically you want to work at PwC compared to other accountants and find evidence (specific things that the company does) to back this up.

Lastly in terms of the game-based assessment, I used the website practice aptitude tests to try and prepare for not only this but for all the kinds of tests I had to do for all my applications.

Did you have any setbacks?

PwC was one of the last application processes I had to go through. Before completing it I had already been rejected by 5 other companies.

What was even worse is that I had reached the final stage of the application process for most of these companies so to be rejected at that point is truly saddening after putting a lot of time and effort into the overall application.

Rejection

However, I knew that an apprenticeship was really something I really wanted to do which is why I could justify how hard I was working even if the outcome was unsuccessful.

If you start applying with doubts if you actually want to do an apprenticeship then chances are you won’t be able to justify how hard you are working and might even give up.

Knowing what I really wanted helped me to persevere through the setbacks until my goal became reality.

Keep on working towards your goal and you shall eat the fruit of your labour, remember that nothing worthwhile comes easily.

How has your induction been so far?

I’ll admit it's been quite overwhelming! Theres a lot of information for you to intake all at once but it's all important information which is needed in accountancy. However, there's a lot of support given to accommodate this and there's also no pressure for you to completely understand the concepts fast so you can take your time with it.

Lastly, do you have any final words of wisdom for other students who might be thinking about doing an apprenticeship?

If an apprenticeship is something you really want then apply to quite a few in the specific field you want.

I would advise to apply to a range of firms including the firms you really want to get into and then some other firms which are in the same field but you aren’t as keen on and apply to the firms you aren’t as keen on first.

That way you can use their application process as practise before you go through the application process for companies you really want to get into. Meaning that by the time you get to the application of the company you really want to work at you should have gained feedback from previous applications and know what your weak areas are which you can then work on so that your abilities and confidence becomes stronger.

The Uptree Team is so happy for Hillary for starting a brilliant degree-apprenticeship with PwC and we wish her all the best in the future!