Peter Wang is a fourth-year student at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia (UBC). He recently completed a four-month co-op term with Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), a major professional services firm specializing in audits, in the city of Tainan in southern Taiwan. Peter was responsible for providing audit and assurance services including financial statement audits, annual report preparation and a range of financial information reviews.
Can you describe what kind of work you did for your internship?
I was lucky because my internship happened to fall during the busy auditing season. So even though I started out doing a lot of administrative tasks like data entry and organizing paper files, after just a couple of weeks things really picked up. I was sent out into the field to do different parts of the audit procedure needed to produce clients’ annual financial reports. To understand the analysis our audit team was doing, I had to focus on being part of the team. But I also had to make sure I could do this work independently in case I needed to collect audit evidence on my own.
What did you find most challenging, professionally or emotionally, about the job? What did you find most rewarding?
For me, the challenge was not so much the nature of the work but the wide range of issues I had to deal with in working with a variety of clients. Each had different needs, and as an intern just starting out in the field, I had to absorb a lot of information at once.
One of the challenges for me initially was my language skills. I speak colloquial but not professional-level Mandarin. At first, it took a bit of effort to adjust my communication to a professional setting, whether it was during my first interview with the firm’s partners or reading the annual financial reports, which were written in professional/technical language. For work e-mails, I was fortunate in that there was a standard template that I could learn from and emulate. But oral and face-to-face communication was a little bit harder. I was thankful my colleagues helped answer my questions about what certain words or phrases meant.
This was a welcome challenge because one of the goals I set for myself was strengthening communication skills with clients and co-workers. Audit practice in a public accounting firm is very customer service-oriented with extremely high standards and professional expectations. To create value for clients, you first need to understand their financial information and requests, which of course requires strong communication. I was able to watch and learn from my manager and senior co-workers. I also got the chance to communicate with clients directly, since my internship happened during the high-volume time of the year for auditing firms.
What did you like about living in Taiwan?
Food is much cheaper in Taiwan than in Canada, so even on an intern’s salary you can eat well. My co-workers and I often went to amazing restaurants near our office, especially when we celebrated finishing one of our cases. I loved that.
I noticed how many people in Taiwan are very price conscious. For example, someone doing their family’s grocery shopping might buy rice in one store, vegetables in another, and meat in yet another store, just to get the lowest price for each.
Was there anything you found hard to adjust to?
The hardest thing to adjust to was the weather. Even from January to April it felt warm, especially because of the strict dress code that required me to wear long-sleeved formal dress shirts and a tie. And the air quality in Taiwan is not as good as it is in Canada.
What was the most memorable moment of your internship?
A Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at one of our client companies approached me during one of my audit field visits, and started up a conversation. We exchanged business cards, and he said he was impressed by my performance and eagerness to learn. He said if I ever returned to Taiwan to work full-time, he would be interested in having me join their firm. It caught me by surprise, but in a very good way!