In search for an opportunity to combine her interests in finance and accounting, Gemma McGinness’ Co-Op internship with Macquarie proved a career in financial services was right for her. Although her first year on the Graduate Program, working across consulting and data teams in Macquarie’s Financial Management Group, has been done in a primarily remote-working setting, it hasn’t stopped her from grasping opportunities; extending her skills in coding and taking part in the first ever remote year end process project.
Gemma McGinness earned a place on the UNSW Co-Op Program while studying for her Bachelor of Commerce degree. As part of this, she completed three different six-month internships, including one at Macquarie. But even before she arrived, Gemma knew enough about Macquarie to know that it was the place she wanted to work when her study ended.
“I was interested in Macquarie because I wanted to experience the investment side of a bank, not just retail. I’d also heard good things – that you’ll be challenged and have great learning opportunities but also that there is a supportive culture.”
After completing her other internships at an accounting firm and a consumer food brand, Gemma was successfully accepted into Macquarie’s 2020 Graduate Program.
For six months during 2018, Gemma’s Co-Op Internship saw her work full time in the Operational Excellence Team, who help teams in Macquarie’s Financial Management Group streamline processes and find efficiencies.
Gemma says she was grateful for the six months that she was able to spend immersing herself in the role, especially when compared to a typical 12-week internship.
“I was considered a member of the team from day one. I received excellent exposure to all the divisions across the Financial Management Group, and working in a small team of five, I got to meet a lot of senior people,” Gemma says.
The hands-on internship proved pivotal in helping her to realise that at a diversified financial services organisation like Macquarie, she could combine both her interests drawing upon her finance and accounting majors.
“There seemed to be so much opportunity at Macquarie, and I was also drawn by working at a global company based in Australia, where maybe one day my career could take me overseas”.
While she remains in the Financial Management Group, Gemma says her experience as a Graduate has been very different to her internship. She is now part of a much larger cohort and has spent time with two separate teams.
“As a Graduate you have structured training and you're part of a group, so you get to know each other and support each other,” Gemma says.
Due to COVID-19, Gemma says being a grad has been slightly different in 2020.
“I appreciated the few weeks we were able to spend in the office getting to know our teams, before we transitioned to work from home in March,” says Gemma.
Starting in a new team for her second rotation while working remotely was a challenge.
“When you’re not sitting next to someone in an office, those 10 second questions have to become a phone call or chat message,” says Gemma. “But Macquarie is very good at adapting, and with plenty of channels for communication I could easily stay in touch with my team. I found that people will always appreciate the fact that you’re learning and take their time to help you.”
Gemma says she was surprised by how much responsibility and trust the Graduates were given from the start. While she has since returned to the office a few days a week, she says the support and encouragement her teams provided remotely, and face-to-face, has been incredible.
Gemma’s first stint in the Financial Management Group was spent with financial consulting, which was accountancy based, and gave her exposure to trades and liquidity with Treasury, which she hadn’t expected.
“I was part of the project completing the end of financial year process from home, during lockdown,” Gemma explains. “I had only been here a few months and it was amazing to be involved in something that had never been done before.”
“I was looking at provisions and hedging for the year and bonuses,” Gemma says. “There was a large drop in the market leading up to our year end in March, and we were trying to close out the market while it was moving so fast, and exchange rates were going crazy with the uncertainty of the pandemic.”
Gemma says that in this first rotation, she often used the accounting and finance skills she acquired at university to perform complex calculations. But her second rotation required different skills altogether, and she relished the opportunity to broaden her skill set by learning coding on the job as part of the data team.
On a typical day, she spends time learning new programs and how to code. She undertakes data profiling, using coding to ensure the data is correct. She has also been involved in user testing for new data products the organisation may adopt, assessing the risks, integration, and investment decisions.
“If you want to get out of your comfort zone and embrace a challenge, people will let you, but they also have your back,” says Gemma. “Macquarie is not hierarchical and the work is not repetitive, you’re encouraged to embrace the possibilities.”
She also believes the internship and grad program have taught her a lot about her goals and her working style.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself,” says Gemma. “I didn’t think I had a clear career path in mind and that it was wide open. But I’ve realised I really did know what I want to do, and I was a lot surer of my interests than I thought.”
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