Monday, 16 June 2014

From study to practice

Many students start their career before they even look for a job by identifying the area they wish to enter. Joseph Sahyoun, a recent graduate from the University of Sydney, found a graduate tax position at Grant Thornton, applying both the knowledge he acquired during his degree and on-the-job skills.


What did you study?
I did a Bachelor of Business, majoring in accounting and finance at the University of Sydney. I knew early on that I was passionate about business because of the integral role it plays within our society, and I wanted to understand what makes these businesses survive and evolve in our rapidly-changing society.
During university, my goal was to one day work in the professional services industry, and Grant Thornton has provided me with this opportunity. I’m also currently completing the Chartered Accountants Program. With this qualification, I one day hope to use the skills I’ve learnt to work overseas

When did you start thinking about a job in the tax sector?
 
The first time I seriously considered a role in tax was after completing my first tax subject at university. I enjoyed how it was very practical in nature and it was quite easy to see how relevant tax is in a wider business context.

Tax is also an area that is constantly featured in the news and is often at the top of many political agendas. This made me realise just how important tax is, not only to different companies but also to the wellbeing and prosperity of Australia as a whole. I was drawn to be part of an environment that is constantly changing and requires continuous learning and development.
 
What were your expectations of working in the tax sector?
 
Before working in tax, I expected there to be ‘busy periods’ during different parts of the year, which has so far turned out to be true. I also expected a variety of work, which has ranged from consulting to compliance. This has provided me with exposure to many different areas of tax and broadened by skills and knowledge base.
 
How would you describe your current role?
 
Starting out as a tax consultant, my role is central in driving the right information needed for our projects and collating the research to provide a good base for other team members to undertake their responsibilities to complete a project. This has taught me to be accountable for my work and as a result is often rewarding.

Another highlight of my role is the opportunity to interact with colleagues from our international network within Grant Thornton. So far I’ve worked with colleagues from the London, New York and Shanghai offices. This has been a great experience as it has increased my knowledge about different international tax issues.
 
What are the main differences between what you learnt at university and what you do at work?
 
I found that uni was more theoretical and that it scratched the surface on a wide range of different topics. Working in tax is more practical due to the regular client interaction and in-depth research that is often required.

What skills and knowledge from university have helped most at work?
 
The main skills I learnt from uni that help me day to day are time management, working in groups, critical thinking and the ability to review my own work.

In terms of knowledge, I found that my basic accounting subjects helped me greatly as they laid the foundation for what I do in terms of understanding the nature and operations of the different clients I have.

What advice would you give to students looking at a career in this area?

I would advise students to apply for a vacationer role as it is a great way to compare what you have learnt in your first few years of uni and see how it is applied in the real world. It is also important to speak to as many people in the industry to gain knowledge and insight, especially your lecturers and tutors as many have worked in the private sector before.
 
What are you passionate about outside of work?
 
Aside from spending time with my family and friends, I am obsessed with sport, mainly soccer and rugby league. I play soccer for my local club every Saturday as a central defender.
 
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