Why I chose to apply to TJX Europe's finance graduate scheme
When I tell people that I studied aerospace engineering at university they tend to ask me why I didn’t pursue that route and decided to work in finance. I’d thought about the nature of an engineering career and decided I’d prefer to do something which was more customer facing and fast paced. I looked at the sectors in which I could use the analytical skills I’d developed in engineering and thought about finance. It was only after an internship at an asset management firm that I saw that finance wasn’t as rigid as I had previously thought and wasn’t all about carrying out repetitive tasks – I decided then that finance was what I wanted to do.
How I discovered TJX through careers fairs and careers events
I came across TJX Europe at a careers fair while at university. I began to research the employer and was impressed by how its buying model supported sustainability and had an entrepreneurial flair to it. I read how TJX supported a community in Uganda, helping them to produce fair trade cotton, which was then bought back and sold in stores, and how they’d buy in so many different ways – whether directly from brands and brand owners or from other retailers who had excess stock or factories that had spare capacity, to name but a few.
I visited TJX as part of an off-campus careers event and I was struck pretty instantly by the company culture. I’d applied to various companies, but none of them gave me as clear an idea of their culture as TJX Europe did. I was surprised by the number of people from all over the company who were happy to talk to me. I learned how retail could be affected by anything from the weather to major political events. You can’t really know what’s going to be happening in two months’ time. After meeting graduates currently working for the organisation, I knew much more firmly what I wanted to do and where I could do it and so applied for TJX Europe’s graduate scheme the very next day.
Even though I didn’t have a finance or accounting degree, I wasn’t concerned about this as I thought long and hard about how my existing skills would transfer across to finance. I made sure to show off my analytical skills (how I could see the relevance of data to the real world) and my resilience, as when problem solving it can take a number of tries before you get the result that you want. In fact, I think engineering made me stand out. About six weeks after this careers event, I was offered a role.
What the finance graduate scheme involves
The finance scheme is rotational and you spend each year in a team within one of the three main areas of finance. The financial accounts team was a really great place for me to start as it gave me the opportunity to learn all the fundamentals of how to prepare accounts. In my second year I worked in commercial finance, where I helped different functions in the business to manage their budgets and was even able to work with board-level directors. Now I’m working with the buying analysis team, looking at the orders buyers are placing and making sure they’ve got the money available to be able to pursue the best deals. I prepare reports on what they’ve been buying, the margins that we get on the deals and how they are doing year on year.
TJX Europe is still relatively young, compared to the US parent company, and so there’s lots of expansion happening; even in the time since I joined stores have opened in Austria and the Netherlands. While the day-to-day work is fast paced and keeps me on my toes, it’s the promise of where the company is going in the future that really motivates me. I’d like to eventually take advantage of opportunities to move between functions within the business to experience as much of the retail industry as I can, and potentially use this experience to one day move into a leadership position.
I am currently studying towards a professional qualification with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), which is critical to a career in finance. Balancing work and studying across the three years is hard, but once you get into a rhythm it becomes manageable. Everybody else in the finance department is very supportive, as they’ve been through this same process.
Taking up challenges for charity
In 2014 I took part in a graduate challenge where, along with 100 other graduates from all around the organisation, I took part in exercises to raise money for charity. I was lucky enough to be part of the winning team. Recently I organised an abseil down the side of our building for charity and there are often similar opportunities to participate in charity events.
My careers tip: be open to opportunities
My advice to students is to be open to looking for the role you want to do in industries you may not have considered. Make the most of careers events and other opportunities to get experience in all sorts of industries, even if you have to step outside of your comfort zone.