Work experience with C+T – all the way from the US

As an American high school student, whose only experience with work so far has been on a construction site, I found myself filled with apprehension at the idea of spending a month working at an accountancy firm in Edinburgh.

Although I’m British, I have lived almost my entire life in Lake Tahoe, a small mountain town on the California/Nevada border. As you can imagine, nearly everything I have experienced so far in Edinburgh has been foreign to me: working in an office, taking a bus around town every day, living in a city, being in Britain on my own, etc.

Not having a clue about working in an accountancy firm, I expected to be sitting in an office full of incredibly smart, quiet people, and maybe being let loose on the photocopier every now and then – I certainly didn’t expect ever to be allowed to actually work on proper client files, or talk to actual clients! The reality of my time at Chiene + Tait has differed from my expectations in many ways. On my first day, I was delighted (and relieved) at how welcoming and friendly everyone in the firm was. Because I haven’t ever studied tax, accountancy or anything similar, I needed a great deal of guidance and support to figure things out – but there was always someone there to help me when I got stuck (a lot!), and instead of it seeming like teaching me was a chore, I was struck by how everyone went out of their way to help me and to ensure that I was always doing something interesting or informative.

During my placement at Chiene + Tait, I have experienced five different departments: Personal Tax, Value Added Tax, Marketing, Audit, and Accounts & Business Support. I spent the whole of my first week in Personal Tax, and that week showed me how little I knew about tax in general (especially how many types of tax there are!). I started with data entry for tax returns – and was completely lost! However, the entire Personal Tax team was very welcoming and made my work manageable. Joe McKillion was my supervisor, and he spent hours upon hours responding to my incessant questions and patiently showing me what to do. By the end of my second week, I had seen a tax return through from start to finish (with Joe’s help of course).

Next, I spent a couple of days in the VAT Department – again, this was somewhat intimidating because it meant moving to a different floor and integrating myself into a different team, so I was quite nervous. However, I found that the VAT Department was just as welcoming and friendly as Personal Tax. I completed some research on the process of gaining HMRC’s approval to become an excise goods warehousekeeper, and my work was actually used to advise one of the department’s clients!

I then spent two days the Audit Department. My Dad began his career as an auditor at Deloitte, so it was very interesting to step into his shoes and learn what it was like to work in audit. I learned that the role of an auditor is to check companies’ accounts to ensure that it is doing its business legally and that its accounts provide a “true and fair” view of its financial condition. I was given real audit work to do, and it was very rewarding to see the results of my work.

After my time in Audit & Assurance, I spent a day with the Marketing team, learning about what goes on behind the scenes of all of Chiene + Tait’s events, branding, newsletters etc. I had the chance to look over C+T’s website and give my input on how it could be made better, which I really enjoyed – computer science is one of my passions and this project gave me a chance to think creatively about website design.

Finally, I was assigned to the Accounts and Business Support Department. I had been trying for the entire week to figure out exactly what it is that the ABS department does, and after asking around, I came to the conclusion that, in fact, nobody knows what the ABS department does! Later, however, I learned that this was because they do too many different things to narrow it down (although that didn’t really clear things up for me). By the end of my first day in ABS, I had prepared my first set of accounts (with help, of course), something I never thought I would actually get the opportunity to do during this internship. I also spent time on data entry for client accounts, which allowed me to learn more about Excel – something I’ve wanted to do for a while.

My time at Chiene + Tait has taught me so much about accountancy, but also about working in a professional environment – I really believe that I have learned more in a month than I usually would in an entire school year. More importantly, I loved the office conversation, and I have built many friendships at the firm – I’ll especially never forget the kindness of Moira, Joe and Beth.

As I approach the end of my internship at C+T, my mind is now turning to what’s next for me – I’m heading back at the end of July to spend the rest of the summer in the Tahoe sunshine! I will be working for a friend’s delivery company, spending 3 days at a local college to study for (and hopefully pass) my motorcycle licence test, and then starting my senior year of high school at the end of August, where I am going to be President of the student body. I graduate from high school next June, so this autumn I’ll start applying to US and UK universities and gap-year placements at accounting and consulting firms. Exciting times are ahead!

I’m so grateful to everyone at C+T for making me feel so welcome and for giving me an amazing first experience in an office.