My internship experience at PricewaterhouseCoopers

By Anita Anaama Ayamgha
Class of 2007

It was a week to the end of the semester and I still had no idea what I will be doing with my summer vacation. Then on my birthday I received a call, inviting me for an interview. I was totally elated but also very nervous for my interview was with one of the top accounting firms in the world, PricewaterhouseCoopers. I could not have asked for a more exciting birthday gift. I pictured a tough, stern bunch of professional accountants throwing gruelling questions at me – some intense preparation was definitely needed. I was completely wrong. My interview lasted for about ten minutes only and the interviewers were very pleasant. They made me feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible. In fact, I think that was one of my finest interviews. The next day, I was called and asked to report to work on Monday morning. Needless to say, my excitement was just absolutely overwhelming. “PwC! Wow!” I kept saying to myself.

It was a real pleasure to find a colleague from school seated at the reception when I arrived at work on Monday morning. At least there was someone I could talk to. After our orientation I was asked to join a team that was working on an audit for one of PwC’s biggest clients. I must have done something right at my interview for I had no knowledge of auditing yet I had been thrown into one the company’s biggest jobs on my first day. I was the youngest most inexperienced person on the team and that meant I had to put in extra effort in order to catch up with my team. The job went well and was not as daunting as I thought. We had a formal training session the following week. The theoretical aspect of the session was easy to follow and understand. I felt quite conversant with the information provided until we were given some practical work to do. It definitely was not as easy as it seemed. At that point I was thankful that we would always work in teams and would always have more experienced people coaching us. My duties had not been clearly laid out yet but at least I knew would basically be doing audits for donor funded projects.

In the third week, all interns were assigned to various jobs with other team members as was the practice at PwC. By this time, if I had not learnt anything at all, I had at least learned that teamwork was one of PwC’s most cherished values. I began to understand better what the work was all about on my new assignment. This was due to the fact that, I joined the team at the beginning of the job and also because I had had some training on what was required of me. That week was also ethics week. During ethics week, the firm basically took some time to reinforce all their ethical rules by putting up signs and making presentations about the topic. Unfortunately I missed most of the presentations. Nonetheless, I read the PwC code of conduct in order to enter a raffle draw that was being organised that week. I received a consolation prize for my participation and was extremely glad to be one of two interns who made it through to the raffle.

For about a week after that, there was not much for me to do. I had been assigned to another job but we could not start field week till most of the planning was done. Planning was always done by those who had access to the network so I was not able to help as much as I had wanted. I therefore took to browsing the online Encarta Encyclopaedia. It’s amazing how much you can learn when you are not even trying. At PwC, before any job could start, it was required that teams meet to discuss exactly how they were going to go about the job. This was referred to as a kick-off meeting. I attended my first kick-off meeting that week. I was to write down the minutes for that meeting and I had never thought putting together minutes could be so difficult. I was completely lost most of the time but could not stop the meeting every second to ask “what is this acronym”. I just had to put down what I heard and siphon the important information later. After all, three months was a long enough time to understand all the PwC jargon.

Field work finally started the following week. Until then, I had not faced many challenges with my assignments. The team had set a timeline and was hoping to be done with the field work in roughly three days but so many factors were working against us. There were a few times when we would hit a bump in our work and obtaining a simple explanation for it could hold us for up to an hour. There were times when we would have to manually document our work because there was no power. It was indeed very frustrating but those were the conditions under which we had to work. There were times when I strongly wanted to just quit and spend the rest of the summer sleeping but I knew that apart from the fact that, I would be completely bored in a day, this was just the beginning of great things to come.

On Thursday that week, we celebrated Staff day. I guess the name explains it – a day for the staff – but it was a little more than that. It was a day when the PwC family met to look back on the year’s achievements and set their targets for the coming year. Most of what was being said did not mean much to me because I was not around to help the company achieve the rewards they were celebrating. I would also probably not be around to help them achieve their new goals. It was, however very interesting and enlightening to just sit and listen. The PwC family reminded me very much of my own family – the Ashesi family. It was absolutely wonderful and very inspirational to watch how individual successes were being celebrated and appreciated.

Things were a bit slow in the office after that. I did, however, get assigned to a couple of jobs. My most challenging job however was the European Union Umbrella Projects. Our team leader was unfortunately taken ill on the first day so I was left with my other team mate, a temporary employee, to complete the work by ourselves. Of course we could consult with the team manager from the office from time to time. For all my previous jobs, all I was required to do was vouching or bashing -- gathering relevant financial information from the company’s books or accounts -- as I have come to know it. Senior members of the team would handle the documentation and reporting. This time, however, I had to do the documentation myself as well as prepare the draft report. I asked many questions and looked through some work from other teams in order to complete this task. Although it was quite tough, in the end I felt a huge sense of fulfilment when I finally handed over my report to my team leader. I had completed a whole audit findings report by myself.

Although the EU audit was the most challenging for me, it was not the most exciting. The excitement was yet to begin. I had not worked outside Accra since the start of my internship. The opportunity finally came. A large team was assembled to do some work in the Eastern and Central Regions. I had no idea what to expect. I felt the thrill of visiting new places but also the anxiety of not knowing what to expect. This was definitely something I was looking forward to. Nine days away from home; nine days outside what I was used to; nine days outside Accra! First was our stop at the New Juaben Municipality in Koforidua. New Juaben was the best place my team visited. My team mate often said maybe it was because it was a municipality and not a district. We were cordially received by the management of the Municipal Assembly. We stayed in a cosy little guest house which was comfortable and very relaxing, although it was not exactly like what I was used to. In about two days, we had finished our work in the Eastern Region. The next stop was the Central Region.

Second on our list was Saltpond. It was quite small town with a lot of old buildings which were closely packed. We drove around for almost fifteen minutes looking for a place to stay. There were only two guest houses available and none of them were even close to what we were looking for. We finally had to lodge in Mankessim which was about fifteen minutes from Saltpond. It was no problem getting to the District Assembly in the mornings and after work. Although the reception at Saltpond was not as warm as at New Juaben, it was still worth commendation. Our work there was smooth sailing so, by Wednesday morning, we were off to the last district. Ajumako was even smaller than Saltpond. Once again, we received a warm reception from management and we were sent to the best hotel in town. The accommodation was certainly not as good as New Juaben or Mankessim but we really had no other option. We spent two other days working in Ajumako and were lucky to return home a day before our proposed departure date. I could not have been happier about that. Management in all the three districts were very cooperative and understanding. That made our work easier. It was definitely an experience I will never forget.

It was a relief to be back home in Accra. I had two more weeks left with PwC but by this time I was completely exhausted. I decided to find out if there were anymore jobs coming up soon. Unfortunately, jobs were not that easy to find. That meant I would once again be unoccupied for my last two weeks in PwC. “I might as well end it now so I can work on my thesis for school”, I thought to myself. Permission was granted for me to end my internship a week earlier as soon as I had completed all my “outstandings”. I had learnt a lot by this time. Teamwork was number one on the list because apart from that fact that it was also very important in Ashesi, it was all we ever did at PwC – work in teams. Value adding! Time is something that we never have enough of which was why there was no need to waste it on things that did not add value. Last but not least, I learned time management! Where would we be without time management? Working at PricewaterhouseCoopers will definitely be etched on my mind for a long time to come.

“At PwC we recruit only the best and the brightest” and Ashesi produces only the best and the brightest.