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Trainee Programs: Are they worth giving up full-time student life for?

What if you could launch your career before you graduate, but it’d eat into your uni lifestyle. Would you do it? Assurance Trainee, Dilani Gunawardena, dishes on her experience as a Trainee and a female in Professional Services.

Despite completing a Commerce degree, like many students Dilani Gunawardena wasn’t aware of the breadth of opportunities available to her. She had a distant idea of joining the corporate or professional worlds post-graduation, but she remained uncertain on what she would do in the interim. Sparked by a friend’s recommendation, she discovered our Trainee Program.

“I wasn’t really aware of the opportunities out there in the professional world, let alone know what I wanted to do. A friend of mine recommended me to apply to some of the Big 4 firms and try it out. When I walked into PwC I instantly saw myself working here.”

But even with the excitement of launching her career, Dilani was still expecting to be assigned basic tasks in line with her junior title. What she hadn’t anticipated was the immense focus placed on Trainees and their development. After all, many of them will go on to be Graduates with us and beyond.

“What I expected to be doing was honestly what I saw on TV shows, the standard of getting everyone’s coffee, printing, and a heap of admin work. But the experience and exposure I have been given during my two years in this role has been incredible. I have worked on so many different clients and have learnt so many different skills that I did not think I would be getting until maybe after I had graduated.”

Speaking of the specific type of work she does as an Assurance Trainee, Dilani finds it hard to narrow it down as “it’s so different every day”, but says she enjoys watching the work she does contribute to a bigger picture – even if it doesn’t appear to at first.

“The work I do in the grand scale of things seems very little, but in fact it contributes to a much larger picture. Sometimes the impact is not seen until the very end.”

In particular, Dilani has been involved in easing regulatory-induced tensions within the insurance market for our clients, learning along the way how we “maintain the trust of reliability of quality in our work to ensure their ease of mind”.

Now nearing the end of the three year program, Dilani is able to reflect on whether the unique experience of undertaking genuine paid work whilst simultaneously completing a degree was worth the added hours. For Dilani, it’s a resounding ‘yes’.  

Even more powerful than the work experience Dilani’s gained, is the exposure to and engagement with our female Leaders – who trailblaze in all areas of our work. Witnessing first-hand the tumbling diversity barriers within our industry has confirmed that she’s made the right choice in career path.

“Seeing so many female Partners and Leaders in PwC that also have families, have travelled, and enjoy their life has really eradicated my fears in coming to such a big firm straight out of high-school.”

“I had always had this fear that being a young, brown woman might be something to push me back from being successful. I could not have been more wrong. Since joining here, I have spoken to and seen so many successful female Leaders who lead this firm with confidence and passion. They’ve motivated me to strive to my full potential.”

Reflecting on any initial hesitations over joining the professional world, Dilani says something she would share with her past-self and fellow young women is that our diversities – visible or not –  should be seen as a unique asset, not a hindrance.

“I would advise fellow young women to never be afraid in taking a step forward because you have nothing to lose. All it will do is shape and influence you as a person. Whether it is the Big 4 Firms they are applying to, or a small boutique organisation, I would tell them to never doubt themselves as a woman because that is an asset that works towards our strengths and brings so much value to all firms.”

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