Emma's story

Emma Coakley graduated from Sussex with an undergraduate degree in Chemistry, she is now training to become a chartered accountant. Emma spoke to us about her time at Sussex and how her degree prepared her for her future career.

Emma Coakley

How chemistry helped Emma's career in accountancy

Emma Coakley works at PwC and is training to become a chartered accountant. She said although it sounds like a change from chemistry, her degree has given her the technical knowledge needed when auditing firms such as pharmaceutical companies. 

What made you choose chemistry at Sussex?

"I first heard about Sussex when I was in year 12 because my friend's older sister had gone to study there. She seemed to be loving it and so when it came for me to start looking at universities I was keen to go and have a look around.

"Aside from that I had been looking at the league tables because I wanted to go to a university that had a good reputation for my chosen subject. This was definitely my main reason for choosing Sussex, but when I went to see the campus I loved it. I loved the green surroundings, the fact everything was there for you in one place, and that it was in Brighton and by the sea, so really it was the obvious option for me."

What was your standout memory of your time on the course?

"There isn't really one thing that stands out from my time on my course, every day was honestly fantastic. I think because we were such a small cohort, we knew everyone on our course and we all became such good friends. Be it hanging out in the chemistry library in between lectures or working together in our lab experiments, we were always having such a laugh and these are the times that I will always remember." 

What were you proudest of?

"Whilst there are individual pieces of work or other achievements that I am proud of, I think I am most proud of how hard I worked over the four years I was at Sussex to achieve the overall grade that I got. I wasn't the most hard working at school and sixth form, and so I really peaked at university. Again it was because of the close group of friends I had on the course that I was able to work hard without it feeling like hard work, because we were always together and having fun."

What experiments/modules were your favourite?

"I really loved my fourth year Masters project. I loved the independence that I had being in control of my own research project. I felt particularly motivated knowing that I was the first person to be carrying out the particular research I was doing, and my supervisor was so supportive and enthusiastic that it made me see research in a whole different light. I then went on to do a PhD because I had enjoyed it so much. My project was in Computational Chemistry but studying inorganic metal complexes. It was definitely the Inorganic Chemistry application that I was interested in but I also liked the maths stuff involving numbers, so Physical Chemistry too."

What are you doing now?

"Immediately following my degree I moved to Imperial College London to do a PhD in Biomedical Inorganic Chemistry. It was a bit of a change from my fourth year Computational Chemistry project, but I missed being in the synthetic labs making things. I got my PhD in February 2018 - a year ago now and since then I have had another change. I now work for PwC and am training to become a Chartered Accountant. Whilst it sounds like quite a big change, I am currently working on auditing AstraZeneca, a FTSE 100 pharmaceutical company. So even though I am doing accounting, quite a bit of technical knowledge is needed so my background in Chemistry really helps day to day."

How did your degree at Sussex help you in your career?

"It's no secret that it is the transferable skills that you get studying chemistry that set you up for any career path, and it really is true.

"When I had my job interview although they take on people from any degree they were really impressed that I had done Chemistry. I think perhaps there are less people that do degrees in Chemistry over other subjects and people always value a diverse range of backgrounds going into financial careers.

"I had to go through a very rigorous application process to get my job, which people have commented on how I tackled this with a problem solving approach, thoroughly researching in advance what I was going to have to do, working out how I was going to do it (as there are a lot of tests involved), and then putting my plan into action, rather than adopting a scattergun approach. I really think this helped me to get the job as I was fully prepared.

"Then as I mentioned before, I am auditing a global pharmaceutical company and this requires a lot of technical knowledge on pharmaceuticals and the patent process, so being able to understand this has enabled me to get down to the audit work quickly without having to get up to speed on the industry specifics first."




You might also be interested in: