Since 2016, Norwich Business School has showcased more than a dozen inspirational alumni from across our degree programmes that have excelled in various career disciplines. No. 14 is Pete Waterman who graduated in 2015 from BSc Accounting and Finance, joined Grant Thornton Norwich and now works for Deloitte in London. In 2019, Pete became a Chartered Accountant with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). Our Director of Employability Dr Graham Manville says that “studying for a degree at Norwich Business School provides an excellent foundation for becoming a chartered professional in any career discipline”. Pete has been a fantastic ambassador for both their organisations and their alma mater UEA Norwich Business School. They have done lots of outreach work in the community and have taken part in Norwich Business School Employability Week.
Hi Pete, could you start off by explaining how your career has developed since graduating in 2015?
It’s been eventful! After graduating, I joined Grant Thornton in Audit in their Norwich office, wanting to stay on in the same city as UEA. My role involved auditing many Norfolk-based businesses as well as other organisations all over the UK which involved staying away in Birmingham, Hull, London and Southampton (to name a few!). Alongside my job, I studied towards and took the ACA exams, becoming a chartered accountant in March 2019. This was a major achievement and a very proud moment, enabling me to take on more complex work and a more senior role on audit engagements, acting as the key contact with both the client and with the partner and rest of team internally.
Due to Grant Thornton closing in Norwich, I decided to join Deloitte in London in April 2020 in the middle of COVID-19 lockdown. Joining remotely presented challenges but I have enjoyed working on clients with greater international activity and higher rates of growth which include some household names. Working with larger entities gives me greater exposure to the increasing scrutiny on audits as well as greater attention to integrated reporting of issues such as gender pay gap and carbon emissions.
What would you say is the most rewarding aspect of your current role or your greatest career achievement so far?
My current role has allowed me to get involved in educating colleagues around diversity and inclusion, especially LGBTQ+ rights. I have led firmwide discussions around Bi+ visibility and sit on the inclusion think tank within audit & assurance. Previously, at Grant Thornton, I was involved in many different national teams which allowed me to explore all the different ways in which I can add value to an organisation such as hosting large onboarding events, running refugee workshops and leading the trainee recruitment social media team, Spilling the Beans.
I would say my greatest career achievement (so far) is attending One Young World, an event which brings c. 2,000 young leaders together each year to discuss the most pressing sustainability issues in group workshops as well as keynote speeches from some incredible people. Attending this week-long event really helped develop my understanding and appreciation of the way in which we can all contribute to help each other as well as the role accountants have in that, including increasing trust in the economy as well as reducing barriers to entry into professional careers.
What steps did you take in finding employment opportunities?
UEA were pivotal in me finding my summer internship at the end of my second year. They were extremely helpful at providing me with current opportunities and also what sort of preparation I needed to do.
For my graduate role at Grant Thornton, having the annual Employability Week as well as networking events throughout the academic year, this provided me with plenty of opportunities to learn more about what exactly I wanted to do post graduation and also to meet people from the industry to understand exactly what to expect from their specific roles on offer.
I’d really recommend you to discuss your plans with UEA’s career advisers as they have tonnes of experience helping students as well as a wealth of connections to introduce you to when you pinpoint areas of interest.
Thinking back to your time as a student at NBS, what are the key skills you learnt as part of your course? Were there any modules you took that were particularly useful?
I think the most important skills to take away from my course are problem solving and communication. Group presentations are something throughout many modules that develop these skills. However, I think that the relationships you build at UEA with your peers and tutors are even more important as you work together in and around seminars and lectures to try to gain a better understanding of the topics you are covering. You learn to appreciate how each person brings their own perspectives and knowledge to the discussion and how working collaboratively leads to you having a much better understanding than just by working alone.
One module I found really helpful was the 3rd year Strategic Management module. Having specialised in accounting and finance, this module allowed me to delve into management studies and to work with lots of different students that had much more knowledge about management studies than myself. This module really tested me and gave me a broader understanding of business, along with the economics and information technology modules.
Have you noticed these skills and knowledge having a real impact and making a difference in your career development?
Having a wider awareness of the business world has definitely helped me explore opportunities beyond audit. Whether that is through external business development or talking about our wider range of service offerings to clients, having the confidence in a broad range of topics allows me to have much more valuable conversations.
Working closely in teams, calmly looking for solutions to problems is the majority of my job. Having met and worked alongside such a wide variety of people from many cultures and showing many different behavioural traits at UEA, I have developed my own behaviours to best match the groups I work with. We work with so many interesting characters in our role; it is vital that we keep an open mind and tailor our approach to get the best out of any situation.
Another large part of my role is presenting ideas to colleagues and clients/targets. All the presentations throughout my degree and running society stands at fairs each year really increased my confidence in public speaking and this has accelerated being asked to be involved in presentations at work.
Obviously you took a lot away from your formal studies at UEA, but did you develop further skills in other ways during your time at UEA?
I took part in lots of clubs and societies at UEA. PAL mentoring developed my organisation and teaching skills, which has fed into me facilitating workshops in my job. My role in Music Society as Treasurer used my finance knowledge to allow me to lead as part of a team on investments to be made and also help organise live events. Becoming a team captain in badminton club was an awesome experience, coaching my team and giving everyone the opportunity to play in matches where others may have only wanted to play their best team.
This inclusive approach made everyone feel included and is a style I have maintained in my job. This inclusivity concept led me to start an international conversation club in the business school to try to open up links between native and foreign students. I also co-founded Enactus at UEA to give students the opportunity to help local community projects and explore other entrepreneurial ideas.
All of these committee or project leadership roles really improved my communication skills. It is these softer skills that often play a large part in your overall ability in work.
You really made the most of your time here by the sounds of it! What was it that made you choose UEA over other universities?
When I came to UEA for the first time, I just instantly felt at home. Even with all that concrete, the energy of the place felt really special. Everyone I met on my campus tour seemed really friendly – a bit weird but super nice. I think coming from being at a school where I felt I didn’t fit in, coming to UEA where there are so many types of people all being themselves and getting along with each other was so refreshing. Whatever you believe or want to do, you can always share your love for UEA with others to have something in common with everyone else!
The Business School is an awesome building and the staff there are all really engaging and love what they do. Being met by such positive energy from the start, I knew that UEA was somewhere where I would thrive. My love for UEA has not dissipated since graduating either – I am often back looking to help the next generation of students because I know that if they are at UEA, they are going to be enthusiastic, energetic and open minded; the kind of people I like to mix with.
It’s been great to hear how well you’re getting on in your career so far Pete. To finish, what top tips and advice do you have for current students or recent graduates?
My greatest piece of advice is to ask yourself the big questions like “what is most important to me?” and “does that organisation’s culture and purpose resonate with my own morals and perceptions of the world?” It is really important that you mutually connect with the organisation you go to work with. Yes, getting a grad job is challenging but make sure you put your energy and efforts into getting roles you really want.
Be yourself in the interview process and focus on all the positives about you and all the amazing things you can do and will bring to the firm. No one else is going to sell you like you can. So practice that elevator pitch and ask your friends and family what your best qualities are, write them down and think about what makes you you. What makes you proud? What amazing things do you want to achieve in the future? Showing this drive and passion is the main thing people look for. All the skills and technical stuff can be taught; personality cannot so easily.