• Name: Campbell Russell-Mills
  • Job Title: Audit and Accounts Placement Student
  • Location: Watford
  • University: Reading
  • Degree: BSc Mathematics & Statistics
  • Areas of Specialism: Audit and Assurance

What were you hoping to gain from doing a work placement year?

I had an idea that I wanted to do Accountancy as a profession, but sometimes what you imagine and the reality of actually doing it are two different things. I didn’t want to commit long term to a job I might hate. So by doing a placement year, I was hoping to get solid practical knowledge, be hands on and really find out whether it could be a career for me.

What were your expectations versus reality?

In all honesty, I expected it to be scarier, both the people and the workload. I thought everyone would just treat me as the new guy and I would feel a bit awkward.
The reality was that Hillier Hopkins views the placement year as a period to develop and you are never without help or support around. I have spoken to and made friends with people I wouldn’t normally come across in my university life and I quickly got to know the ACA students in and outside of work. There was a student Quiz Night, where it was good to meet everyone over a beer. I also joined the work football team and was playing with Managers and Principals. It would have taken me a lot longer to get to know them socially just through work. For the first few months I felt that, although I was doing my work well, I wasn’t sure how much was really sinking in.

However, I got to a point when it clicked and I realised I really could do the job and explain it to newer students too! When you experience something for the first time, like having to ask clients questions on Audit, it can be nerve-wracking, but now I speak to clients every week and feel confident in what I am talking about. There are always people around to keep you going and I never felt that I had become stuck.

Visiting a variety of client businesses and experiencing the differences in environment, people and business ideas helps me understand the business world in general.
Employers are looking for reliable, naturally hardworking and genuine people. I worked with a spectrum of clients who ranged from small to huge, relaxed to modern. You have got to fit in with all environments and fit to the clients needs. Adaptability is a big thing I’ve noticed.

How do you feel about returning to studies?

The routine of working a full day and balancing with social activities is one I hope I will carry with me into my final year at university. I have more confidence and drive returning to studies. A bonus is I’ve managed to improve my personal organisation through this placement.

What happens when things don’t go well?

I made a mistake on a job, it went terribly wrong for me and I was disappointed with myself. I felt responsible and felt that I was doing really badly. Luckily, Hillier Hopkins have a no blame culture and the Managers thanked me for communicating clearly which areas were not reliable and they helped me learn how to take control and to make sure that it was just a one off.

What is your key takeaway?

Hillier Hopkins are really friendly and I realise that the environment suits me personally. The placement year has dispelled any doubts I had previously about entering the Accounting profession as a career.

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