Eliza Blanch joined QAO in the 2019 Graduate Program and has enjoyed a busy and varied graduate year. She has worked on audits in the local government and energy sectors, and state government departments. The highlight of her year—taking two planes and a boat ride up to Thursday Island with an audit team to audit the council. With a year of experience behind her, Eliza was happy to share her experiences and give some insight into the graduate program.
How did you learn about QAO?
At university, I studied accounting with a minor in forensic accounting. I always knew that I wanted to work in a field like auditing, doing a job where I was looking into things and making sure they were correct. I stumbled across QAO’s graduate program online, and decided to apply after researching the program. During the graduate program, I have been able to bring in what I learned at university and build on it throughout the audits I have done.
What was the graduate program like?
I was excited to get into full‑time work and start that next stage of life. While the first day was daunting, after getting to know everyone and finding out what everything was about, it felt comfortable very quickly.
Every graduate auditor starts with an introductory two weeks of training and, from there, I knew that I was going to get the right support. Those first two weeks were quite intensive, learning everything from ‘what is the government?’, to how parliament works, all the auditing standards, and the Auditor-General Auditing Standards. It’s a lot of information to get at once, but it does really set you up with everything you need to know as a base to work on throughout the graduate year.
During those first two weeks, we were also able to work with a manager for three days on an audit so that we could see what working on an audit would be like. We then went back into training with our graduate group and discussed what we had seen and done.
You’re very well supported throughout the graduate program and in all the work you do. With everything the office does, from training to work events, you always feel like you are part of a team.
What support and training is offered?
I’ve had unprecedented support since I started at QAO. People are always willing and wanting to help you—whether that’s through formal training or from someone you’re working with—and everyone wants to see you improve and succeed.
As graduates, we were given a buddy right from the start as a first point of contact whenever we needed anything. We also had graduate forums each month where we could catch up, see what everyone had been up to, and participate in training. There are also training blocks throughout the year where we were taught how we should be doing everything properly.
I’ve now started my CA studies and already completed one subject. All the training I have done at QAO has helped with studying my CA, and vice versa. I’m putting the theory from my CA into my work every day, and my work is helping me understand all the theory in the CA on why we do things a certain way.
I would definitely recommend working at QAO. You’re very well supported throughout the graduate program and in all the work you do. With everything the office does, from training to work events, you always feel like you are part of a team.
What’s the work like?
Most days I’m out at a client site, interacting with the client, discussing their systems and processes, and getting into my work.
My first big task was recalculating the rates for a council. I was given the areas and how much they should be rated at, and I then checked the variance between what the council charged ratepayers and my calculations. At first, this task was daunting as I wasn’t sure what to do—but I was given a lot of help and guidance, and everything went smoothly. Now that I’ve had a year of experience as an auditor, I am confident starting these types of tasks.
I have a lot more responsibility now as well. In the beginning, I was given a task, someone would explain how I should be doing it, and then someone would check my work once I had finished. Now I can get straight into the work on my own. I’m also taking on bigger tasks a lot more and completing whole audit cycles rather than doing bits and pieces of them.
The people at QAO make it a great place to work—they make you want to come in to work every day.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love the variety of the work we are given. At QAO, we work across different audits and sectors, so you’re not doing the same type of job over and over. In the last year, I’ve worked on councils, the energy sector, and departments, for example. The wide variety of work has made my graduate year highly enjoyable and given me more experience than I imagined one year would.
The people at QAO make it a great place to work—they make you want to come in to work every day. There’s a wide variety of people from all different experiences and backgrounds, and they’re all very nice, supportive and willing to help you.
The biggest challenge I’ve found is balancing full-time work and the extra activities that I like to do outside of work, like sport. Thankfully, QAO is very supportive—both the office in providing flexible work hours and schedules, and the people in checking in with their colleagues.
What has been the best experience so far?
The best experience has been the travel aspect of auditing. For example, this year I was part of the audit team that travelled up to Thursday Island to complete the audit of the council. To get there, we took two plane trips and a boat ride. Completing that audit was something really different to what I had done previously, and it has definitely helped my career. It was also a great opportunity and a lot of fun, and I can’t say that I would ever have the opportunity to travel to Thursday Island if it wasn’t for my job!
I’ve gained a lot of experience over the past year, both professionally and personally. Obviously I’ve gained a lot of audit knowledge, including knowledge about Queensland’s system of government and parliament, but I’ve also personally learned how to work with people 24/7 in a team environment, such as when you’re travelling for an audit, and how to be adaptive to how others work and live.
The wide variety of work has made my graduate year highly enjoyable and given me more experience than I imagined one year would.
What advice would you give to someone starting at QAO?
The best advice that has been given to me is to never be afraid to ask questions, and that you can never ask too many questions. I would add to that and tell anyone starting the graduate program to take every opportunity they can. Ask as many questions as you need to, take on the variety of jobs that are offered, and socialise with your colleagues—doing so will lead you to the best experiences and help build your skills.