Stephanie Thomas graduated from BA (Hons) Accounting and Finance in 2011 and is now Senior Financial Planning and Analysis Leader at GE Aviation’s Caerphilly site.
“I joined GE as a finance intern during my placement year which was part of my university degree. At the end of my internship I was offered a position on the finance graduate scheme. The company sponsored my final year of study as a part of the scheme and after graduation I re-joined the company on a 2 year rotational programme.
During the programme I rotated through different areas of finance gaining experience in both Management Accounting and Corporate Reporting. GE also sponsored my ACCA studies during this time. As the BA (Hons) Accounting and Finance degree provides nine ACCA exemptions, I only had five exams remaining after I graduated. After 18 months on the scheme I applied for a role as Supply Chain Finance Lead at another GE site based in Gloucester.
The role was management accounting focused and I was responsible for costing, variance analysis, overhead rate management and the preparation and management of KPIs. Management accounting was always the module I enjoyed best at University as you are taught to produce data and perform analyses which assists with business decisions. The Financial Accounting module from the first year is also vital. It underpins the basics of any accounting role. It was essential that I could interpret the metrics and costings I was producing and understand the double entry impact.
In my current role as Senior Financial Planning and Analysis Leader I am ultimately responsible for the sites P&L and understanding the business reality behind the numbers. I own the preparation of the operating plan for the site, quarterly P&L forecasting, ensure cost targets are achieved and equipping management with data and recommendations for business decisions.
I’d advise all accounting students to do a placement year. It gives you the opportunity to apply your classroom knowledge in a work environment. There are other key skills you gain as well, like office etiquette, how to facilitate meetings and how to use standard business tools such as Outlook. Many employers use an internship as a yearlong interview. Take advantage of all the support around you at Uni such as employability skills workshops and mock interviews.
Finance has many different areas you can transition between which draw on the various modules taught at Uni however any finance role is underpinned by the basics taught in the first year and a fundamental understanding of accounting”.