Sarah Aït Ameur graduated from the INSEEC BBA in Lyon in 2013. Since then, she has pursued her career across borders and now works in the United States, in the heart of Silicon Valley, for international clients.
WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT POSITION? IN WHICH COMPANY AND WHICH SECTOR DO YOU WORK?
I am a Senior Financial Auditor at EY (Ernst & Young). I started my career in 2015 in the Brussels office and now work in the San Jose, California office. I audit the financial statements of listed companies. My role is to plan the audit missions, analyze the internal control, define the work program and audit the corporate accounts and consolidate them. My objective is to ensure that the accounts give a true and fair view of the economic reality of the company. I study the balance sheet of the company, its income statement and the different items such as sales, costs, cash flow operations, stocks etc…
I work in different teams of varying sizes depending on the client. As a Senior I supervise the junior auditors who prepare the review of the accounts.
My clients in California are specialized in New Technologies. EY’s Silicon Valley clients include Google, Apple, Netflix, Intel and Facebook. It is an exceptional working environment.
IN WHICH COUNTRY DO YOU WORK AND WHAT MOTIVATED THIS CAREER CHOICE?
I work in the United States in California in San Jose, in the heart of Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area. I traveled a lot during my 4 years of study at INSEEC taking advantage of every internship or exchange opportunity to discover a new country and a new work culture. The United States has always been one of the destinations where I wanted to work because of its job opportunities, and even more so in a region as dynamic as Silicon Valley! The area is also beautiful and the nature unique and immense. It is possible to spend the morning at the beach and be on the ski slopes in the afternoon! The climate is also a major advantage for me who needs sunshine, it is still 25 degrees in early November.
WHAT IS YOUR EDUCATIONAL AND PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY? HOW DID YOU GET THIS JOB?
I did my BBA at INSEEC in Lyon from 2009 to 2013. After my second year I specialized in Finance. I did many internships abroad in very different fields, which allowed me to define my professional project during my 4 years at INSEEC.
In my first year, I had the opportunity to do an internship in communications at Yves Rocher’s North American division in Montreal. During my second year I went to Ho Chi Min City for 3 months to do an internship in customer service in a hotel. I had the opportunity to do an exchange semester in Tampere, Finland during my third year. Finally, for my last internship at INSEEC, I refined my professional preferences and did a 6-month internal audit internship in Singapore. This internship was a determining factor for my choice of master and career. After graduating from INSEEC, I joined the University of Lille 2 in order to complete a Master’s degree in Accounting, Control and Audit and to specialize in external auditing. This master’s degree allowed me to obtain the necessary exemptions to access the auditor’s internship as quickly as possible.
Following my Master’s degree I moved to one of the Big 4 auditing firms. I was looking for a company that was very internationally oriented and had a very strong brand image around the world. I decided to join EY in 2015, in the Brussels office. I already wanted an experience abroad outside of France. I was convinced by the recruitment method (intensive recruitment weekend), American style work culture but very people and communication oriented. The atmosphere within the company is very young and dynamic, which is an essential criteria for me. The work is intense and demanding, especially during the account review periods at the beginning of the year, but the work environment is very motivating!
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT YOUR WORK?
I am never bored, every day of work is different. My clients vary throughout the year (3 clients), and so do the teams. I face new challenges on a daily basis and I have to adapt to new situations. My colleagues are between 25 and 35 years old, the work atmosphere is very pleasant and dynamic!
CAN YOU TELL US AN ANECDOTE FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE IN A COMPANY ABROAD?
During my first few months in California I not only learned new skills in USGAAP, I also learned how to carve a pumpkin for Halloween, drink beer like in the movies and discover unknown candies and snacks. I was completely immersed and integrated into the American culture from the moment I stepped off the plane!
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE ADDED VALUE YOU BRING TO THE COMPANY?
The way of working in Europe is very different from that of the United States. I bring pragmatism to my work approach. A more direct communication with my clients and teams which is appreciated.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR STUDENTS WHO WANT TO WORK ABROAD? AND MORE SPECIFICALLY IN THE UNITED STATES?
Going to work abroad is an exceptional opportunity but it requires time and a lot of investment. The VIE (Volontariat International en Entreprise) offers opportunities immediately after graduation. If you really want to move abroad I would advise (based on my experience) to join a large international company (French or not), gain experience in France for a few years and then negotiate a transfer abroad after a few years. Do not neglect your level of English/other foreign languages depending on the destination. Ideally join a company where you are confronted with English on a daily basis even in France.
Visa requirements for the United States are becoming increasingly strict. VIEs allow you to obtain a visa for the period of the contract but it is impossible to stay in the United States afterwards. In my case I have an intra-company visa which is easier for companies to obtain in order to transfer employees from one country to another. It is much more difficult to apply from abroad for a company in the United States, they will have trouble getting a visa.
WHICH SKILLS ACQUIRED AT THE BBA INSEEC ARE THE MOST USEFUL IN THE PROFESSIONAL WORLD?
Practical experience in internships, a majority of courses given in English, the international dimension, oral presentations before juries. My master’s degree allowed me to refine my technical knowledge in accounting. But my 4 years of experience at INSEEC were decisive in refining my professional orientation and allowing me to integrate an increasingly demanding international work environment! I had the chance to meet people from all over the world with very different cultures and this has built my personality and the way I work today.
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN 5 YEARS?
If my experience in the U.S. continues to go so well, I’m thinking of moving to California permanently. Either by continuing my career at EY or in a Finance function in one of the Tech companies (Apple, Google, Facebook, Tesla, Netflix,..).Updated 24 February 2022