Tara Willey

Tara is a senior associate within the corporate tax department of a ‘Big 4’ accountancy firm. She joined their graduate programme after her doctorate.

"I undertook my doctorate at Cambridge University in the Department of Biochemistry. I studied factors affecting the virulence of a human bacterial pathogen (closely related to anthrax).

"Before my doctorate, I read for an undergraduate masters in biochemistry at the University of Bath. This involved two six-month placements – one based in New York. In the summer before starting my doctorate, I undertook a research studentship.

"Following completion of my doctorate, I joined a ‘Big 4’ accountancy firm on their graduate programme. This takes a minimum of three years, and includes training and examinations for the chartered accountancy qualification. I am now qualified and am studying towards my chartered tax advisor exams.

"I provide corporate tax advice to a wide range of clients (large and small). I also specialise in R&D tax relief, which allows me to occasionally apply my scientific knowledge.

"However, the doctorate has other advantages. Key benefits were definitely coming into the job at a more mature age and picking up issues faster than others, having good time and project management skills (useful in delivering work to time and budget) and presentational skills (I have spoken at a number of client facing events, and this was made significantly easier due to the presentations I had made during my doctorate). Analytical skills are also useful, as is the experience communicating well in written format. I attended a GRADschool, and the whole experience was brilliant. Hard work, but it really helped to take a step back and view yourself and your skills base in a different way – which you need to do if you are changing career direction. If you have the opportunity, take it!

"Research your career possibilities thoroughly. I chose to enter accountancy via the tax department because I had researched the various routes available and knew I did not want to be an auditor – and I have not regretted my choice!"