Cai England is a third year BA Accounting and Finance with a Year in Industry student at Kent Business School, University of Kent. He’s currently on his Year in Industry placement as a Finance Assistant for Inspira UK, based in Northwood, London. In our recent interview Cai shared some of his thoughts on his placement so far.
1. Introduce yourself
My name is Cai England and I come from the small town of Llandeilo in South Wales.
2. What are you studying?
I’ve always had the idea of being surrounded by money, who doesn’t? This led me to choosing Accounting & Finance as my degree which has exceeded my expectations. I’ve still not decided whether this is the path I want to follow, which is why my placement is a great opportunity for me to experience the working life of an accountant and help me with my decision. Either way, the degree will open many doors for me when searching for a job in the finance sector.
3. Why did you choose the University of Kent?
My intentions were always to be close to London. Living in the countryside growing up meant I never really experienced city life. Although Canterbury isn’t what you’d describe as a booming city, I felt it was a suitable transition from Llandeilo to hopefully prepare myself for the London life. I was thoroughly impressed with the University when I visited for an Open Day. I felt the campus had a great community vibe and I actually preferred it to other city centre universities that I visited.
4. Where are you working on your Year in Industry?
For my Year in Industry, I’m working at Inspira UK, a management accountants firm in Northwood, London. The reason I chose Inspira and not a large-scale London firm was because I wanted to be somewhere where I wasn’t forgotten about. My thoughts were that at a smaller firm, I’d get more exposure to the different types of day-to-day accounting. I am already working directly with Inspira’s owner Sue which means I’m able to easily move between projects. The last thing I wanted was to be overlooked and stuck doing the same work every day. That is not the case at Inspira. The placement is only for a year so I wanted to gain as much experience as I possibly could in that time.
5. What was the application process like? Did you seek any advice?
The application process involved a telephone interview followed by a trip to the office for an interview face-to-face. I made sure I was prepared for both interviews by having answers to all the typical interview questions ready in front of me, a list of questions to ask the interviewer and a well-fitted suit. I wanted to make an impression and didn’t want to leave the interviews feeling I hadn’t properly expressed myself. My advice to anyone would be to make sure you have questions ready to ask and that you’ve researched the company you’re applying to. It shows you’ve thought about more than just yourself and most interviewers prefer interviews to be a ‘two-way street’.
6. What is your role?
In a day at Inspira, there are many different roles that I fulfill. I provide a point of contact for clients and provide them with timely information about their accounts to aid with their decision-making. Bookkeeping and data entry is a significant part of my day to day work and for each client there are different processes and systems in place to deal with their financial data. I assist Senior Managers by providing them with accurate financial information so they can deliver quality service and truthful management accounts to our clients. We hold regular meetings with clients to discuss their accounts and smooth out any issues with the aim to improve efficiency of work.
Time management is a common problem with students and I admit there have been occasions when my time management could have been better. At Inspira, we charge our clients based on the time we’ve spent working on their accounts. I have budgets which I must stick to and every day I must record my time allocated to each client. This has considerably improved my time management and planning skills so I can work more effectively.
Aside from the accounting, web design has always been an interest of mine. We’re currently in the process of our website refresh and I’m heading up this project alongside my Director, Sue. My job here is to be the contact point for our Website Developers and make content choices. They provide me with draft versions of each page and I respond back with any changes I have.
I have recently become a lot more involved with initial sales calls and meetings. I perform background research on new leads and then follow them up with a call to gather a bit more information about the business. As my knowledge for accounting and Inspira increases, I hope to become even more involved with the sales process.
7. Have you been supported by Kent Business School throughout your placement?
I haven’t needed to contact KBS too much whilst on my placement. I’m pleased to say that when I did need to get in contact, they were very quick to respond to my emails and they were able to help me with my queries. If I ever have any problems I have every confidence they can help me.
8. Is there anything you hope to achieve by the close of your placement?
Every month I hold a meeting with Sue to go through my objectives and review my progress so far. This is a great opportunity for me to voice my thoughts about what I want to gain from my placement.
Xero is a cloud based accounting software that we use for many of our clients here at Inspira. My aim is to become a certified advisor and be completely competent with Xero by the end of my placement. I want to be able to set up new clients, tailor Xero to any client needs and provide accurate reports of their accounts without any assistance from my superiors.
Networking is essential for job hunters, having the right contacts can be incredibly beneficial when searching or applying for jobs. A placement allows me to widen my contacts as I’m constantly meeting more and more working professionals. I have clients in many different sectors of work including HR Consultancy, Mentoring, Advertisement and Retail, so it’s not only accountancy contacts I’m gaining. As I follow their progress, they follow mine which in time I hope will build strong relationships. This will open up a lot more opportunities for work once I complete my degree.
9. What do you enjoy most about your placement?
The culture at Inspira is friendly and hardworking, I feel as if it’s a big family. At the start, everyone was very welcoming and showed an interest in my student history. I think a worry for a lot of students is that they won’t be taken seriously in a professional environment by those around them. I feel as if I’m treated like anybody else in the office and my work expectations are the same. There’s no easy path because I’m a student and in my opinion, that’s the best way for having a worthwhile and successful placement.
At the start, everything will be new to you. There will be many things you are unsure of and you will often find your self stuck in situations, this is inevitable. At Inspira, there is always someone to talk to or ask for advice on how to do something, I never feel left in dark. I feel completely independent. I must manage all my own bills and I pay for all my own luxuries. Earning money is an incredible feeling and I’m able to make purchases that I’d never normally be able to make.
The location is also ideal, it’s not too close to the centre of London that traffic is chaos but close enough to feel like I’m in London. Growing up in the countryside in Wales, I would only ever visit London when travelling abroad. This year is a perfect opportunity for me to really get a feel for what’s it like to live in England’s capital. London is where it is all happening and I now feel apart of it with only a 30 minute tube to the centre.
10. Would you recommend a Year in Industry?
The experience you gain from a year’s worth of work is incredibly valuable to employers and will give you a major advantage over graduates without it. Competition for graduate jobs is immensely high so you should do whatever it takes to stand out. A placement looks impressive on a CV and I’m always hearing stories of graduates who struggle to find jobs because they lack the experience that employers are after.
A common question when studying a theory or idea is ‘when will I ever use this in a real-life situation?’. A placement shows you how to do exactly this. You can’t really tell what a job entails without actually experiencing it. I now have a better understanding of the way accountancy works and I am able to utilise what I’ve learnt in my first two years at Kent Business School and apply it to a real job.
Even after choosing a degree, a student may still be unsure whether that is the career they wish to follow. A Year in Industry will help you make up your mind and you’ll have a better idea of the types of jobs to apply for after graduation. Statistics show that students who opt for a Year in Industry also receive on average higher starting salaries at their first job. I have no doubt that with the right attitude and performance; anyone can have a successful Year in Industry which they won’t regret.
Many thanks for Cai for sharing his thoughts, we wish him luck for the remainder of his placement and look forward to seeing him return to Kent for his final year in September.