Name: Sushma Rao
University: London School of Economics
Degree: BSc (Hons) Economics (2005)
Employer: London Borough of Ealing
Job title: Finance Trainee, currently with the environment and customer services finance division
What do you do in your job?
I’m on a four-year scheme as a finance trainee with the London Borough of Ealing, studying to be a Chartered Public Finance Accountant (CPFA). I’ll be on six-month rotations in different departments of the local authority. At the moment, most of my work is focused on monitoring and budget forecasting. It can be really interesting looking into how the budgets have been spent, what the actual figures are, and what the predictions should be. And it’s vital to be accurate.
What was your motivation in applying?
I’ve done internships both in the public and private sector, and that helped confirm that the work, ethos and altruistic nature of the public sector suit me far more. A friend saw the scheme online, and told me that it was right up my street. It had everything I wanted: a qualification, the public sector ethos, great training and lots of variety.
What did the application process involve?
It is like the typical graduate recruitment process – application, interview, tests and assessment centre – up until the final stages. Then once you pass the assessment centre, you are asked to specify two London councils you’d like to work for. You then have interviews with those councils, and they decide who they will accept. You aren’t guaranteed your choices, but they try to ensure that you get the placement you want.
What do you enjoy about your job?
You can go far in the public sector if you are motivated and intelligent. The public sector has had an undeserved reputation for low wages and inefficiency, but there has been a great turnaround. Wages are comparable with the private sector. I have a great work-life balance. People are friendly – the corporate culture is about working hard as a team to achieve a goal. I prefer to work as part of a unit. Plus you get to move around a lot, which is great for networking. My employer is really supportive.
Most challenging part of your job?
Accountancy can get quite repetitive. Until you get to a managerial level, you need to accept you are at the bottom of the ladder, and that some of the work will be monotonous. Moving every six months does help to keep an element of change in the job, however.
Advice to readers considering a career in your field:
It’s important to have a genuine interest in the public sector. You have to understand the ethos – there won’t be corporate social events every night in the City, and the regulatory and political side of things can be a bit frustrating. And be sure you want to do accountancy. If you drop out you’ll have to repay any tuition fees that your employer has paid towards your CIPFA qualification
Trainees work with a local authority on a full ranges of accountancy and finance within the borough, while studying for a CIPFA qualification. The desire to pursue a career in local government finance and to complete the CIPFA qualification is vital and will be tested as part of the recruitment process. And, the employers warn, trainees must be prepared to devote a considerable amount of their own time to study and examination preparation.