For Ryan Loo, an accounting career was practically written in the stars. As a youngster, his role model was his godbrother - a Deloitte accountant who was respected and revered by his colleagues - and it became his dream to one day follow in his footsteps.
As a student on the way to becoming a Chartered Accountant, Ryan was drawn to the Achiever Programme primarily because of the opportunity it presented to discover what it was like to work as an accountant at a large, prestigious firm.
In 2017, the Achiever Programme placed almost 200 Australian and New Zealand tertiary accounting students in paid industry experience working at one of 130 partnering employers. Students went through a typical recruitment process - similar to what they will experience after graduation - and successful candidates were then placed with employers over the summer.
The Achiever Programme struck me as a wonderful opportunity to gain insight into the accounting industry and valuable firsthand experience working for one of these renowned companies, and it turned out to be a great programme for me, especially in terms of getting to know the industry.
During the first step of the recruitment process, Achiever Programme hopefuls aren't told who will be interviewing them or what company they are from. The best way to handle that, Ryan says, is by keeping an open mind, preparing for the unexpected and trying to remain relaxed.
After being assessed and shortlisted, Ryan attended a one-on-one formal interview as well as a second meeting in the office of Pitcher Partners. Once he'd landed the gig, he was assigned a 'buddy' to look out for him during the six-week placement. Pitcher Partners takes this part of the process very seriously to ensure that interns get the most they possibly can out of the programme.
"A buddy typically has around three years' experience. Their job was to look over Ryan's shoulder, and not only aim to expose Ryan to the many facets of the life of a Chartered Accountant but also assist with any queries," Director in the Business Advisory and Assurance division of Pitcher Partners Alex Marchione explains.
"As a management team, my fellow managers and I ensured that Ryan gained a cross section of different work experience during the programme."
"Ryan engaged and worked well with his peers and clients alike," Marchione says. "These are the attributes that we will typically look for in candidates in the internship program - do they display a willingness to learn and are they able to engage and work effectively with their clients and peers?"
Ryan learned a lot during his six-week placement, but one lesson in particular stood out to him as being the most important takeaway.
"Just going through the programme, everyone was really supportive, and no one too intimidating, which was what I really liked," Ryan explains. "I felt comfortable speaking with them, just being who I am, rather than over-preparing and being too nervous about it."
"Don't be afraid to speak up. Everyone's more than happy to help out; lend a hand. And don't be afraid to ask stupid questions because there are none. It's all about a learning curve at the end of the day, so as long as you're progressing, that's all you can ask for."
Ryan mentioned other benefits of the Achiever Programme including boosting his resume, receiving valuable on-the-job experience and learning for the future. He also strongly advises jumping at any chance you get to talk to people outside of your intern group.
Ryan noted that seniors and managers always made time to chat with him during the workday, and it's really no wonder they did. Marchione praised Ryan as a "confident and articulate young man who displayed a consistent eagerness to learn about working in the Chartered Accounting profession."
"He brought to work each day a desire to engage with his peers and clients and learn from his experiences, and would ask intelligent questions on assignments so that he could link the 'why' with the 'how'," says Alex.
Ryan can't speak more highly of the firm, from the friendly office culture to helpful colleagues, and feels that every minute of his experience was valuable.
"Networking with such a wide range of people was amazing," he said. "That was my favourite part of working there. But I learned a lot about myself too - I'm not as shy and reserved as I thought I was, and I was able to get out of my comfort zone and meet new people."
"I've definitely learned more about myself, and participating in the programme helped me get to where I am now."