PwC NI's Paula Murnin: 'I had no experience in tech, but immediately I felt at home'

  • Paula Murnin joined PwC NI through its school leaver programme and is now leading the tech team's role in developing the company's new headquarters. Here she talks through her career journey.

    "18 years old, contemplating what to do with my life, I applied for university half-heartedly. I thought I better follow the status quo and tick the box employers wanted me to. Then my Business Studies teacher sold me on an opportunity I couldn’t ignore, a Higher Apprenticeship.

    Tax wasn’t the career I had in mind, but when you are offered the chance to earn a salary, a professional qualification and work for the world’s leading professional services firm - you take it! It turned out these two years were a solid foundation for an exciting journey ahead.

    I began to be curious about the array of opportunities within PwC when I took a 12-month secondment into Student Recruitment. My passion to spread the word about alternative routes to a career meant that from day one, I threw my hand up to be involved in any sort of recruitment activity. I wanted to share my story with others who felt like the 18 year-old me in school, in the hope it would give them the same leg up. I enjoyed inspiring and connecting people with opportunities so much that I spent five years with this incredibly hard-working team, got to know our business really well and built many relationships. Within that time I spent a year in London to experience a completely different life and get a taste of independence.

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    After having spent so much time recruiting for Technology Consulting, I put my money where my mouth was and joined the New Ventures and Blockchain team. They focus on building new ventures with startups through to some of the most recognisable brands in the world. The team’s culture, creativity and way of working inspired me to want to be a part of helping our clients realise their potential through technology.

    I had no experience in technology (other than an IT A-Level) and I knew I had a lot to learn, but not once did I feel like ‘the newbie’. Immediately I felt at home, with the simple words ‘your opinion is valued’.

    My first few months were spent testing ‘Smart Credentials powered by PwC’, a digital certification platform. I rolled up my sleeves and put myself in the shoes of a user while also picking up how to test ‘under the hood’ to understand the platform’s architecture. Curious and dedicated to understanding this new world, I constantly asked, “Why?” I often sounded like a toddler wondering why the sky was blue but progress is born out of doubt, and my progress was a testament to the talented, supportive team around me.

    Even though I was a test engineer, I was still exposed to the high-level strategic conversations which allowed me to see the bigger picture. This transparency encouraged me to contribute and have an influence on commercial discussions and decisions. This is when I naturally stepped into my current role as Delivery Lead. My ultimate responsibility now is to collaborate with our clients and our people to ensure the successful delivery of projects. I focus on ensuring the expectations of our clients are achieved while giving our team the best possible opportunity to succeed in varied and challenging environments.

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    I have so far been lucky enough to experience working on a project in its infancy where the priority is drumming up sales as well as an established project where the priority is maintaining the client relationship, while ensuring our team of engineers have a clear direction of what to build and why.

    I have also had the pleasure of leading a fresh project as part of PwC’s office move to Merchant Square. This is a really exciting opportunity for us - as the sole tenant, we get to create a HQ which meets all our needs and ambitions.

    Our mission is to offer a collaborative space for our teams and clients to work together and share expertise in the heart of Belfast. I’m working closely with the design team to ensure we are creating an environment for our visitors and staff where they feel inspired, included and empowered to drive positive change. I love learning how different people work and what type of environment they need to fulfill their potential, while using a Design Thinking mindset to ensure we are creating sustainable value. I still have to pinch myself that I have a job and a team around me that I jump out of bed for every day.

    None of the opportunities I have mentioned were part of a grand plan when I started out; some of them I chased and some have found me, but the main thing I’ve remembered is to not let my fear of failure freeze me. My mantra for change is borrowed from Judy Dench: “Initially you're overwhelmed. But gradually you realise it's like a wave. Resist and you'll be knocked over. Dive into it, and you'll swim out the other side.”

    For more info on PwC's school and college leaver programmes, click here.

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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