Nicole was close to going to university to study radiotherapy, but at the last minute changed her mind, went through clearing and secured a role on an Accounting and Finance course. Since then, she hasn’t looked back and has been working towards a role in the financial services sector.
Upon finishing her degree, Nicole heard about Graduate Programme Wales, “it was to every other programme I had seen. I liked that industry experience in a field I was interested in could be gained, whilst also gaining an MSc, fast tracking a career in the financial services industry.” She told us.
Since securing a place and starting on the Financial Services Graduate Programme in 2021, Nicole is now coming the end of her second placement and looking ahead to the third and final rotation.
“My first placement was with Principality Building Society in the Commercial sector. My role was a market researcher, which helped develop my understanding of the commercial lending sector. This wasn’t a sector I had previously had an interest in, I didn’t even know what it was! But the more I learned about what they did and how they operated, the more interested I was. This was a big lesson for me, which encouraged me to be open minded about all the roles on offer in future.”
Towards the end of placement one, the graduate programme team hosted a rotation event at The Tramshed, which brought together the graduates and employers and showcased the roles on offer for rotation two.
“I knew I had an interest in Accountancy and the event gave me the opportunity to speak to various managers/teams about accountancy-based roles. Following this, I joined Pepper Money for my second placement, where I am currently an Accounts Assistant in the Revenue team. This has been beneficial in developing my understanding of this sector and applying what I had learned throughout my BSc degree. This experience has also shown me it’s a sector I’d be interested in pursuing in the future.”
The rotational aspect is one of the most unique things about Graduate Programme Wales. Nicole tells us “One of the highlights of the Programme has been experiencing different work cultures and teams. Both placements had different styles, structures, and cultures but both have been enjoyable to experience.
“A similarity between the two has been the strength of the team, with both being welcoming and friendly, with everyone happy to share industry knowledge and support you however they can.
The culture at Pepper Money, where I’m on placement now is collaborative, flexible and engaging. The various teams in Finance are constantly in collaboration, meaning you can get to know the wider team and their importance. This has been my first experience in an office environment, as my first placement was fully remote. I’ve loved meeting everyone face to face, the team come together once a week and this has helped me to settle into the team and find my feet more quickly.”
One of the more challenging aspects of the programme is balancing full time work alongside studying for a fully funded MSc.
“At first, I thought it was going to be challenging to find a work/study balance, let alone a work/life balance, but the structure of the programme allows for both. There are times when work, life and study can become busy simultaneously, so time management is really important, but managers are also very understanding of your work/study balance!
The structure of the programme also means you have a couple of weeks study free in between modules which is nice!
As Nicole nears the end of her second placement, she’s started thinking about her future goals.
“Short-term, I’d like to finish the Programme and complete the ACCA accounting exams to become a chartered accountant. Long-term, I want to have a job that I enjoy but also challenges me. Ideally one where you don’t get the Sunday blues like everyone talks about!
My advice to anyone thinking about applying for the programme would be to go for it! You gain great industry experience as well as growing a network in the Financial Services industry.
It’s really good for easing you into the “real world” from student to working professional, and letting you experience different roles to help you figure out where you want a career long term.”
Thanks for taking part Nicole and good luck with the rest of the Programme.