Rachel Stevens left a full-time job to take on a new challenge: stepping into a career in auditing. For Rachel, the graduate program has brought many positive outcomes and opportunities, with highlights including the variety and new experiences that every day brings, her time working with graduates from across the Queensland Government on the Graduate Innovation Challenge and seeing just how much progress she has made over the year. We chatted to Rachel about her experiences so far at QAO, and the ins and outs of becoming an auditor.
What were you doing before starting the graduate program?
I had been working full-time for over nine years doing finance and systems administration. During this time, I completed a Bachelor of Accounting part-time. About a year after I finished, I realised I wanted to work in that field; I wanted to use my learnings and challenge myself in a new direction. The QAO Graduate Program was one of the first jobs that piqued my interest on the Queensland Government Graduate Portal and seemed to be a great fit for me, so I applied straight away.
I found starting the program daunting because I had worked full-time with one employer for so long, but it was also a great challenge. The first two weeks involved training and then I began working full-time with my home team. I was surprised at the amount of responsibility I was given from the first day. Although this was nerve-wracking, and I felt like I was thrown in the deep end to an extent, everyone in the office was supportive and always there if I needed someone to talk to. This was the perfect opportunity to be challenged and to grow.
What does being an auditor involve each day?
I don’t think any day is ever the same. It depends on what team you’re working with and what clients you’re working on. There’s no same day—you’re always doing something new, working with different people, and opening yourself up to fresh experiences.
What about day-to-day support, help and training?
Right from the start you are paired with a buddy and a supervisor. Usually your buddy will be fairly fresh out of the graduate program, so they know exactly what you’re going through. When you’re not working directly with them, you’ll likely gravitate towards someone in your team who can support you and walk you through all the procedures and work.
I’ve had no end of help from my managers and supervisors on the job. Many of them have been through the graduate program so they know what support and help you might need. Every time I’ve started with a new client or team they have helped me understand the expectations for that role and how to work through them. I have always had a sense that they wanted to help me develop as an auditor and understand what I was doing before starting.
Right now, I’m working in financial audit; however, QAO provides opportunities to work in other areas within the office and take on new challenges. So far, I’ve worked in the technical treasury products team, and I would eventually like to work in the data analytics team, as data is used more and more as a key part of auditing.
What have you gained from your year in the graduate program?
When I look back to the first lot of work I did, it’s obvious to me that I now approach my work in a different manner. I’m more confident in how to start and where I want to take the testing; whereas initially I was reading from what had been set up and done in the prior year. Now, I tailor the procedure to get the results I am looking for and can therefore set expectations.
This skill has come through working with different teams and from my experiences over the past year. Once I started working across various clients, who had different ways of processing things or had their files set up differently, I was able to see the bigger picture. I could then apply that knowledge when I went back into a procedure, understanding the client better and knowing what the testing is about.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Stepping out of my comfort zone. I had worked in one field with the same team for so long, that it was a huge change for me—going from sitting behind the same desk every day to QAO where I work with different people, at different sites, doing different jobs.
It was a big challenge for me, but the support and comradery here is really great. Everyone in the office is willing to help you in achieving your goals. If you’ve got a question, you can ask anyone and they’re always happy to answer. The community spirit at QAO makes it a great place to work.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The diversity of every day—working with so many people and clients. Everyone is unique—we come from a variety of backgrounds and may have studied completely different courses—but at the end of the day we’re working together to complete audits. I enjoy catching up with colleagues outside of work hours, and getting to know the people I work with better.
I would absolutely recommend the QAO graduate program to anyone thinking of applying. The professional development opportunities are second-to-none, and there is a great sense of community within the office. Additionally the work we do can have a positive impact on everyday Queenslanders.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Don’t be afraid to put your hand up and ask for more responsibility or to do different roles within the organisation. And if you’re offered an opportunity, then take it.
I studied innovation at university and was interested in doing the Graduate Innovation Challenge to investigate the major issues associated with protecting the Great Barrier Reef. I was one of three QAO graduates who participated, and we had the opportunity to work with graduates across the whole of the Queensland Government, coming together to work towards a common goal. And while our group didn’t make the cut to give a final pitch, we were asked to combine our idea with another team and invited to present to the cluster group of senior executives and deputy directors-general. I’m really glad I put my hand up for this experience and would encourage others in the graduate program to tell people what they’re passionate about so they can get involved in experiences like this too.
What advice would you give to someone starting the graduate program?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It doesn’t matter how silly you think the question might be, someone has probably asked it before and someone will ask it again. You need to understand what you’re doing and what the purpose of it is, so you can develop your skills and achieve your goals. Everyone in the office is there to support you and they will expect you to ask questions—if you’re not asking questions, they’ll probably wonder why!
It’s also important to communicate with your fellow graduates and stay in touch with them. The monthly graduate catch-ups are a great opportunity to get to know what everyone has been working on because you will have likely all had different experiences across your clients. Also, remember to use your graduate cohort and buddy as a support network, and lean on them if you need to.