Judith Johnston

Manager, Restructuring and Forensic, KPMG

Degree subject BComm, UCD
Job title Manager, Restructuring and Forensic
Employer KPMG

During one of my summer vacations, I undertook an internship with KPMG. This provided me with brilliant experience and allowed me to explore the opportunities available in the accounting industry. It was during this time that I decided that I wanted a career in restructuring and forensic. In the final year of my commerce degree, I majored in accounting, which helped broaden my business knowledge and came in handy for when I took the professional accounting exams.

I’d like to think my colleagues would nominate my interpersonal and networking skills, which are vital in proactively developing and maintaining existing relationships and opportunities. My confidence has grown as I have become more knowledgeable about what I do through courses and on-the-job experience. It’s therefore easier to talk about the services my organisation can provide; a good knowledge base and understanding of the industry you operate in is obviously a must.

Additionally, great conversational skills – such as the ability to initiate conversations, listen attentively, and share your own opinion – are invaluable in networking. Luckily, I’m naturally a chatty person and would talk to anyone about anything.

Passing my professional accounting exams first time stands out as both a milestone but more importantly a relief. I sat my exams at a time when trainees were given little leeway to fail due to the financial constraints placed on the industry. I thrive when I’m under pressure so I really think that the added pressure got me over the line.

My greatest professional achievement was being promoted to manager nine months after completing my training contract. I’m grateful that I work in an industry that has allowed me to progress so rapidly. Restructuring and forensic has ensured a steady flow of work and challenging cases during the recession, as well as exposure to a wide variety of clients. It’s definitely a steep learning curve but, provided you enjoy a challenge, are confident, hard-working and willing to learn, you will progress up the ranks.

Everyone who works with clients is the public face of my company, so we all need to ensure that our good image is maintained by acting responsibly, professionally and with integrity. I strive to keep up to date with industry developments so I can match our services to the ever-changing requirements of companies or individuals.

Networking is one of the keys to success but you also need to work hard, be passionate about what you do, lead by example, and motivate others to ensure you get the best out of them. Adaptability comes into this as it helps with resolving issues and identifying opportunities for business as well as enabling you to understand your colleagues in a rapidly changing workplace.

Advice for graduates

Never lose focus on the end prize and never believe something isn’t achievable. You may have to put in long hours, and there may seem like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, but all the hard work is worth it in the end. Research the career you wish to pursue by talking to people in the industry: gain knowledge about their experiences and what it took to get them where they are. Commit yourself to learning constantly, quickly and accordingly as the economic environment becomes more challenging. Finally, choose a career that you are going to be passionate about; it makes getting up in the morning easier.

Judith was interviewed for Ireland's 100 leading graduate employers 2012/13