My degree was a big enabler in me getting my job

Elizabeth Sheppeck
Elizabeth Sheppeck
Finance Leader Development Programme, BAE Systems
Mathematics MMath
Elizabeth did a project on relativity during her maths degree, and is now training to become a finance leader in the aerospace and defence industry.

What did you enjoy most about your degree?

From an academic perspective, I really enjoyed the breadth of modules on the course, and the technical challenge and intricacies of the maths covered. I particularly enjoyed the applied modules that introduced special and general relativity, and this led me to study a level four project in the field.

The people were also a big part of my degree, and I met some of my closest friends on the course. I stay in touch with several of my lecturers too, and the department is a very supportive and inclusive environment.

What are you doing now and how did you get into that role?

After I graduated, I joined the Finance Leader Development Programme at BAE Systems. I spent my first placement working as a Reporting Accountant in the Air Sector in Preston, and I now live in the Lake District working as a Project Accountant in the submarines business. Later this year I will be working in Glasgow for my third placement as a Costbase Accountant in Naval Ships. There is an emphasis on mobility with the scheme, providing the opportunity to experience living and working across the UK in a variety of different businesses within the company.

My analytical background and aptitude for numbers meant that finance was an attractive career path, and this led me down the industry accounting route. The exciting nature of the work at BAE Systems appealed to me, and I had a genuine interest in the products, services and capability that we deliver as a company. My role isn't just about technical accounting principles, but involves partnering with the wider functions to understand the narrative behind the numbers and how we are performing as a business.

What did you do for your masters year project?

My project was on 'Self-Interaction and Motion in Classical Field Theories', working under the supervision of Dr Sam Dolan. It was an exciting topic to be working on at the time, as the first ever image of a black hole, which was captured using the Event Horizon Telescope, had been released only several months before I started the project. I studied various texts and research papers throughout the project to gain an understanding of self-force and the underpinning principles of general relativity, whilst also using Wolfram Mathematica to code and demonstrate my calculations.

How has your degree helped you in your career?

My degree was a big enabler in me getting my job, and the application process at BAE provided a platform for me to demonstrate the skillset that I had developed during my time at Sheffield.

Several modules on the course develop your communication skills through presentations, especially for your level four project at the end of fourth year. Communication is key for my job as it is crucial that I can communicate effectively with various stakeholders across the company to meet our deliverables. My current role in submarines involves a significant interface with various functions, and I need to be able to understand the needs and challenges of the programme. Learning to manage the workload in my degree has also aided my ability to work in a highly dynamic and changing environment, and to deal with challenges constructively. Solving technical maths problems through the application of logic is also analogous to developing forward-looking solutions and innovative thinking to facilitate value creation for the company.

What scientific skills did you develop during your course?

You develop the ability to analyse data, find patterns and solve highly complex problems through well-constructed arguments. I also completed the machine learning course in my fourth year, and gained valuable skills in IT and the Python programming language.

These skills all aid your ability to analyse problems and develop constructive solutions, which is a real asset to future employers.

What do you miss most about Sheffield?

I think the relationship that the university has with the surrounding community is really special. Sheffield always felt like a very friendly and inclusive place, and I liked how integrated the university was into the city and local areas.

Overall Sheffield is a fantastic place, because it has everything – it has amazing restaurants and shops for more of a city feel, but it also has lots of lovely parks and the Peak District being close is a huge bonus!

What would you say to a prospective student currently thinking about choosing the course?

Go for it! I had some of the best years of my life at Sheffield and it helped that I was doing a course I really enjoyed.

The most important thing is that you do a course you enjoy and have a passion for – that is the environment you will thrive in. Don't worry too much about the long-term plan, but just focus on what you want to do for the next three years of your life. When I started at Sheffield I didn’t necessarily know that it would lead me to a job in finance, I just knew that I had a passion for maths and that I would enjoy studying it. You never know what opportunities it will lead you to!

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