What's best about working for the Big 4? Everyone can tell you about that. However, the interview with Olga Sotskaya, our colleague working in the Taxes team of PwC office in Brno, is about something a bit different. It’s about the fact that taxes are not boring at all – on the contrary, they can be hard work, too. What can also help is negative feedback.
Olga, you have been working for PwC for three years. What brought you here at the end of your studies?
My way to PwC was a bit complicated. I studied at Mendel University in Brno and in the follow-up studies I attended the so called Auditor Academy. During the course, we were lectured by people involved in audit, for instance, at PwC and the lectures attracted me to try the initial test. However, I was unsuccessful the first time and didn’t get accepted into the audit department.
Did that not put you off?
No way. I got to the Big 4 in the end, although in a bit different way. I won a tax competition at a competitor’s and got to an internship at the firm where I first shadowed the work of more experienced colleagues.
The crucial point of my future prospect with PwC was meeting a colleague of mine whom I met later on at a different seasonal job. I had already passed the internship then and he recommended me to give it a go with the Big 4 once more. Besides presenting me the job as a great start of my career, he emphasized that there were some amazing people working at PwC – he had worked in the taxes department at PwC himself. So I gave it a go.
So, you had to go through the job interview, initial tests and all that again?
I did. This time it was Tomáš Urbášek, partner at PwC in Brno, who called me and two days later he and his colleague called me to confirm that I got the job. There wasn’t much to think about. What was important to me was the fact that there were some nice people working there.
How could you have known that for sure at that time?
Well, I already knew from the job interview – they wouldn’t put any pressure on me, it all went in a really friendly way. The thing is, I’m a real introvert and an environment of too much competition going on wouldn’t be the right place for me. During the interview, I even admitted to having some doubts about my English, but my colleagues responded in a very positive way that I’d learn everything in time.
So how was your start with PwC? Did your colleague’s recommendation from the past job show to be right?
On the one hand, I can tell that everyone was really very friendly. On the other hand, the start was really terrible.
Beginnings tend to be hard, but terrible? What did that mean to you?
From my own experience, I can confirm that everything told about the Big 4 is true. The positive stuff – for instance, that you work with experienced colleagues who are always ready to help or assist; the first impression of the friendly atmosphere only confirmed that. At the same time, there is an adverse side to the job – the work is really demanding, so the beginnings were a bit hard for me.
It was my own fault at many occasions. Being an introvert, I had to learn to communicate with clients as well as tax offices. Another hard thing was also the fact that I’m a foreigner and, even though it may not be obvious, working in taxes is based on client communication. Despite the fact that I had studied the field of taxes and accounting and won a tax competition and done the internship, the actual work in taxes was completely different. I have no idea how sure my colleagues were about my success there, but I must say that they supported me greatly during the whole time.
When did this change? When did you become sure about what you’re doing? Do you remember a specific moment which was important at the job?
I got quite some harsh feedback from my coach. Everyone who joins PwC gets a senior colleague to supervise them and help them deal with things, what to improve and which way to go. My coach warned me of the mistakes I'd been doing and told me to either do something about it or that it could end up badly for me.
What did you learn from that?
I started paying much more attention to preparing for work. Going to see a client on Tuesday suddenly meant that I had to start preparing on Sunday. I elaborated questions I needed to ask at the meeting. In my second year, I started becoming more sure about my job.
What did you start enjoying about your work at that time?
Gradually, I started enjoying the work itself. We often visit our clients as a big team, which is quite a nice trip, actually. You can get to know the clients better, build a relationship with them, have some coffee, and if there’s any tension at the beginning at all, it all goes away. During one of these conversations, at the time when I didn’t use to be so sure about myself, a client told me “Olinka, don’t worry about being a bit unsure. I remember the way many of your colleagues started their jobs here.”
Do you have any tip how to handle the work?
You should take into account that working in taxes, in particular, the department of Personal Income Tax and Corporate Income Tax, is a seasonal job. The majority of the year involves work with approximately 8% of our clients. However, spring is a very demanding season. If you wish to work for a company such as PwC, you can be sure that you will go through a lot of training and that colleagues with more experience will be happy to help you.
How are you doing in your job now?
I think it has all worked out well. You learn the job, start doing things automatically and faster. Another great thing about working for the Big 4 is that there’s enough space for your development. In the first years, I worked with legal entities and I needed some change. Now I work in the Personal Income Tax team. If you like challenge, consulting offers a lot of it. If your work becomes monotonous, you can always join a different team and become a beginner again.