From Lake Tahoe to Lake of Menteith

When I first found out that I was going to be doing a month of work experience at Chiene + Tait in Edinburgh I had two very conflicting feelings: firstly, wow, what a fantastic experience it would be to work in Edinburgh for a month! On the other hand, after a hard Junior year in high school in the USA, did I really want to leave the warm and beautiful beaches of Lake Tahoe to come and work in rainy Edinburgh for the summer?! I imagined being in an office full of awkward, quiet, incredibly smart people bent over accounting and tax software all day, and me sitting off to one side, making coffee and doing the photocopying… However, I knew that I wanted to build my career in finance or accounting, so I believed that getting some work experience under my belt would help to focus my university and career choices.

It is now the end of my third week at C+T, and I am delighted to report that my outlook on accounting firms has changed drastically. Every day, I am given proper client work to do or to observe; I am encouraged to ask questions all the time; people joke around with me – and they even make tea and coffee for me (I really thought that it would be the other way around)! In many ways, my work at C+T is similar to what I am used to doing in school – I am expected to do the work that has been assigned to me, I often have to perform difficult calculations that I’m not used to, and, if I’m honest, sometimes it can be a teeny bit boring, e.g. when we have to enter hundreds of numbers into an Excel spreadsheet; although that task has done wonders for my attention to detail! However, I have really loved the variety of work that I have been offered, and that everyone I’ve worked with has given me an insight into their specific role or department – most interestingly, it has shown me that tax and accounting isn’t just for the weird few who love numbers… there’s also an aspect of friendship and camaraderie to working in an accountancy firm, and I have been pleasantly surprised by the great office banter (especially with the Value Added Tax team, who are constantly told that all they have to know for their job is 20%…)!

The main thing that surprised me was just how many departments there are in an accountancy firm. There is VAT (where C+T staff figure out the Value Added Tax that companies need to pay), Payroll (in which C+T calculates what other companies should be paying their employees and the tax they are obliged to pay), Personal Tax (which completes individuals’ tax returns etc.), Entrepreneurial Tax (which completes tax returns and advises on calculations for entrepreneurs), Annual Accounts (where all purchases and sales of a person/company are put together), Management Accounts (which is similar to Annual Accounts, but involves more advisory work), Audit (in which other companies’ accounts are checked to ensure that the company is doing its business legally and that its accounts provide a “true and fair” view of its financial condition), Marketing (which plans events for C+T and helps build its brand/reputation through social media etc.), and, well you get the idea…

There are a lot of different aspects to tax and accounts, and by the end of my work experience, C+T will have showcased them all to me. All of the people I have worked with have given me proper work – not one day have I sat making coffee and photocopying papers. I have also had some fantastic days fishing at the Lake of Menteith in a C+T charity event and attending the Royal Highland Show, and I even had the opportunity to participate in a staff treasure hunt around Edinburgh last week! C+T has given me an amazing experience that I’ll never forget, and for which I am extremely grateful.

So what’s next for me? In August, I start back at school in Lake Tahoe, USA, in my Senior year of high school, where I will be doing another 4 AP courses (they’re like the US equivalent of A-levels – I did 4 in my Junior year too), and I graduate from high school in June next year. Starting this autumn, I’ll be applying to US universities, UK universities and gap-year placements at accounting and consulting firms, with the goal of building my career in finance/accounting. Exciting times ahead! Thanks to all at C+T for helping me on my way!