PwC’s Rhyanna Hunter: ‘Be open-minded when it comes to your placement!’

  • Rhyanna Hunter is an associate within the Operate business of PwC’s Belfast office. Prior to joining in July 2018 as a business placement student, she had “never envisioned” working in a big organisation like PwC before. 

    After gaining a wide variety of experience and training throughout the firm, she spoke to Sync NI about why she thinks students from a wide range of degree disciplines should consider PwC for prospective placements.

    What exactly does your role entail Rhyanna?

    I work in the Business Support function of the Operate Commercial Team, where we act as guardians of the firm's profitability and regularly report on KPI's/chargeability to ensure our leadership has the information to make sound commercial decisions. We ensure sustainable growth of our business by positively challenging leadership to seek to increase revenue and appropriately control expenditure to maximise profit and investment opportunities across Operate.

    I originally did a very different role when I first joined, working alongside the People team. When we had jobs that were based in different locations, we would send people out to live and work in the city where the job was taking place.

    I would assist in the logistics of their accommodation and associated elementsduring my placement year. Then in my final year of university I worked part-time in that role. When the coronavirus came round last year there weren't a huge amount of people travelling anywhere! That role changed quite quickly, and I was very lucky that there was a position available within the business and finance team. My degree background is in finance so it all kind of fell into place. 

    I came into this (current) role completely virtually. I had some reservations about transitioning to working from home - we always had the technology to do it in PwC but it would've been something I avoided doing unless I had a doctor’s appointment or something and it made more sense to be at home. The way everyone has adapted has been very smooth. I did all my training for this role virtually and luckily I haven’t struggled with it. 

    Why did you choose PwC for your placement year?

    To be completely honest, when I was at university, I never really envisioned myself working in one of the big four or a big corporate. I couldn't see myself fitting into what I perceived it to be like. I fell into my business placement. 

    Operate (it was Augment when I was second year at university) sponsor professional qualifications for some students in my degree, which was Finance and Investment Management at Ulster University. 

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    I was one of maybe 20 or so people to get sponsored to do these qualifications. Getting that award fast-tracked me through the interview process for business placement. At this stage I didn't even know if I wanted to do a placement, I went to university a few years after my friends and I just thought, ‘everyone is graduating and I’m still going to be a student, am I really going to add another year onto my degree?’ But when the opportunity came up I thought it would be great for my CV and something I’d always have. 

    When I actually came into PwC, it was so far away from my expectations. I thought it would be strict and no fun but it’s not like that at all. I’m very, very glad I did my placement year because it probably wasn’t the kind of company I’d have applied to if I hadn’t, which was wrong of me! My business placement really opened my eyes to the opportunities here. 

    What’s been your favourite memory of working at PwC so far?

    We have a day each year called ‘One Firm One Day’ when everyone in the business is encouraged to spend that day volunteering as opposed to their typical work day. Obviously in 2020 with coronavirus it was virtual and quite different, but the year before I had the opportunity to go out to a Belfast school and we put on a great day for them. 

    It was in quite a disadvantaged area and we sponsor their breakfast club as well. To be a part of it and see that PwC isn’t just people sitting at their laptops all day, the company is having great effects on people’s lives. 

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    It’s something you don’t think about because it’s such a big organisation, but they’re doing so much work supporting people and communities - to be able to see that first hand was really quite humbling. 

    Also our Christmas parties are always brilliant nights out! Of course we didn’t have one recently but they’re one of my big highlights working here, they’re great fun at the end of a busy year. We had a virtual Christmas do this year within our own teams. It was great and everyone went to a great effort to make it special in what are very strange times.

    What advice would you give to any students now thinking about applying to PwC for a placement year?

    Really be open-minded, because I think that’s something that I wasn’t when I was looking for my placement. If you have any preconceived notions of what you think things are going to be like, leave them at the door. Go in with an open mind and take any opportunity that comes your way. Say yes to everything and you will get so much experience over such a wide variety of things.

    Once you’ve had these experiences in such a short amount of time, it will allow you to go and choose what you actually want to pursue. I didn't know when I was studying finance what I really wanted to do. I chose to study it because I was good at maths in school and it seemed logical, but when I got there I realised I really didn’t want to work in a bank the rest of my life!

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    Doing my initial role at PwC was quite far detached from what I was studying and it made me realise there are jobs in this company that I didn’t even consider were real roles. Once you’re in PwC you’re able to move around and be exposed to so much. So be open-minded! That’s the main thing. 

    I’ve had so many training options since coming to PwC too. The firm doesn’t look for specific degree types and I think some people doing arts based degrees often don't consider jobs within PwC. But coming in and having a different background or outlook or mindset, is actually such a great thing. 

    Just because things are new to you, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be thrown into the deep end. All the training is there and the passion they put into the training programmes in PwC is next to none. If there’s anything you’re interested in, you can be sure there’ll be a training or development learning pathway out there for you, which gives you so many more options. 

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    Learn more about placement and graduate role opportunities at PwC here and current opportunities here
    Check out Sync NI’s Jobs page for more. 

    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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