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Caroline Dale

BA (2006), French and German

Senior Manager, KPMG

I am a Senior Manager at KPMG. I graduated from Cambridge in German and French, with some wonderful memories, and some great friends. As an A level student, I had no clear life plan so decided to study subjects I'd enjoyed at school. In particular, I was attracted by the variety of the MML course and the ability to mix and match different papers and different languages each year. My studies ranged from the politics of German Reunificiation to Medieval French poetry to writing a press release on a new tractor for the German local press!

Following my graduation in 2006 I joined KPMG's graduate scheme in the Financial Service Audit department in Leeds. This combined work on clients (mainly in the banking sector) with study for an accountancy qualification over the first three years. Since then, colleagues, clients and friends have often asked me why I did a languages degree and then moved into accountancy. My answer is always that, although you do need to be numerate to be an accountant, it's far more important to be able to communicate than to be able to construct complex formulae. A languages degree stands you in excellent stead for this. Being catapulted into a foreign language, and a foreign culture, gave me a far greater awareness of how we communicate, and skills in overcoming barriers. This ability to explain, or indeed look at, a problem from a different angle has subsequently been invaluable when discussing complex issues with my clients, or explaining tricky tasks to my team.

In addition, just 12 months into my job, I was offered the chance to spend 6 months at KPMG in Frankfurt, speaking German with colleagues and clients on a daily basis. As the only native English speaker taking part in this European exchange programme, it was a great privilege and also a fantastic way to build my network of contacts across Europe, many of whom I still see. It also helps me to differentiate myself from the crowd in careers discussions and promotion interviews.

Another really important skill for my working (and non-working) life is the ability and the confidence to act independently, which my year abroad certainly helped me to develop. I spent this as a language assistant in a school in Gera, Germany, where there were very few other English speakers, and where I knew nobody before I arrived. Coping with situations independently where I might ordinarily have turned to friends or family for help was sometimes challenging (trying to negotiate with a German washing machine repairman or a health insurance company) but I got a huge sense of achievement from it. I believe it's also given me much more enthusiasm for and confidence in grasping and just getting on with projects I might otherwise have shied away from. I know I survived presenting at 5 minutes' notice to 30 people in a foreign language, so suddenly other tasks seem less daunting!

I've now been at KPMG for 8 years, and I feel that the MML course gave me many experiences and helped me develop skills I wouldn't have gained elsewhere.