Tax Accountant, Avril Gallagher joined the Coca‑Cola HBC finance team during Covid-19. We caught up with her to hear about her experience so far.
Tell us about yourself
Hi there, my name is Avril. I am based in Dublin by the seaside and I recently started my role in Coca‑Cola HBC, which has been an interesting experience with the current remote-working environment due to Covid-19.
I have various hobbies which have gotten me through lockdown; as a few of my new colleagues will know from my virtual background, I love board games! When I passed my accountancy exams, I filled my bookcase with board games swapping out all my accountancy notes. It was cathartic!
I also have had a passion for knitting for many years. My first job was in a wool shop, knitting teddies for sale. I really loved it.
What is your new job title in Coca‑Cola HBC?
I joined Coca‑Cola HBC as a Tax Accountant for the island of Ireland. It is my dream job as I love working with numbers and Excel. I report directly into our Tax Manager and am learning a lot from her.
What is your background?
I initially trained as a maths and physics secondary school teacher in DCU which helped me develop many transferable skills. In my last year, I realised it wasn’t for me, so I switched to an accounting training contract after chatting to a friend who had also come from a non-traditional path. I chose to go into Tax as it suited my maths background and I was fortunate to complete my training contract one of the 'Big Four' accountancy firms which gave me a great grounding for my future career.
Why did you decide to join Coca‑Cola HBC?
As I approached the end of my training contract, I was considering leaving tax and focusing on becoming a more general financial accountant as I had just completed my ACA exams.
I saw the job posting for Coca‑Cola HBC for the Tax Accountant role and I liked that it would be for both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, helping to expand my experience of another market and learn more about the Fast-Moving-Consumer-Goods industry. It was also encouraged by the fact that the role was clear on expectations. It was exactly the type of work I was looking for and who doesn't want to work with such fantastic brands?
What was your first impressions of Coca‑Cola HBC?
I was initially just relieved that google maps brought me to the right place! The security team and receptionist were so welcoming and set me at ease right away. In the waiting area I was encouraged to take a drink from the fridges. The meeting rooms were spacious and colourful, and there was a general sense that it was a friendly place. It's really the little touches that make the difference!
What is your favourite drink?
Diet Coke is my favourite drink, but when I was leaving the office after my interview I was tempted by a white Monster Ultra. I didn’t drink it straight away as I wanted to keep it for when I knew the outcome from the interview. Once I was made the offer, I celebrated with Monster!
What was the recruitment process like?
The recruitment process started just before lockdown. I had a call with Aimee from the Talent Acquisition team on 2nd March to discuss my experience and motivations and was invited to an interview on 9th March.
The lockdown was announced on 12th March so I was lucky to have had an in-person interview before the restrictions took place.
The interview was held in the Huntstown office in Ballycoolin, where I was met with Claire from the Talent Acquisition team and the Tax Manager, Niamh.
It was nice to get the opportunity to meet face-to-face, albeit without any handshakes (which did feel a bit awkward at the time, as I didn’t want to come across as rude!).
Following the interview, I completed some online assessments, which I found interesting; a customer-orientated quiz and an 'in-tray' exercise with a mock business challenge.
It was a thorough process but it was reassuring to know that Coca‑Cola HBC take recruitment and retention of their employees seriously, and it made it all the more rewarding when I got the call offering me the job! I started with Coca‑Cola HBC at the end of April.
What was it like joining CCH during lockdown?
It was nerve-wracking to begin with, but the team were so welcoming. I had no idea what to expect, so it was great to receive really clear instructions about how to get set-up and also ways to stay connected with the team.
Once again, everyone was so helpful; when I did pick-up my laptop it was covered in sticky notes to help me get set up, and there was even one saying “power cable goes here” which made me laugh.
On my first day, a call was setup to meet the team and get to know everyone. I was nervous to start with; while technology provides a lot of advantages, it can be difficult to have a more natural 'get-to-know-you' conversation.
However, I found the team friendly and inviting. They had organised a hand-over document and training schedule for me as they appreciated the uncertainty that comes from starting a new job, especially in these circumstances.
The tax team is small in Coca‑Cola HBC which also helps. I can check-in with my line manager every day if I wish, and we have weekly calls in place to get to know the other member of the team.
Our team is based in both Dublin and Lisburn so to have established virtual ways-of-working early on, will be beneficial in the long-run.
Has it been easy to adapt to working from home every day?
I found it fairly straight forward; I am lucky to currently live in an apartment with my partner that is spacious enough that we don’t have to share working spaces, so I didn’t have to be concerned about interruptions while on calls.
I previously worked in the city centre so it was a relief to shorten down the hour and a half commute to the 5 minutes roll out of bed!
I appreciate my line manager's management style also. I work through my tasks and check-in when I’m done or have any questions. This flexibility and openness has been very beneficial through my onboarding, particularly as we had to get to know each other virtually.
What has been the biggest challenge for you during lockdown?
I took for granted the office equipment I would normally have and as much of my work is excel based having a second screen is key for flicking back and forth! The biggest challenge was honestly working with just a laptop while waiting for my monitor to arrive.
Another big challenge for me was knowing when to turn off the laptop, and stop working – normally the commute home from my previous job meant there was a definite time when I had to leave the office to catch my train, and the commute itself meant I could process the day and leave it behind by the time I got home.
When you're working-from-home, it's very easy to forget to stop, especially if there is an excel formula that just isn’t working quite right! But I know my productivity overall is better when I take my tea breaks and finish up properly for the evening.
"Remote-Working-Wellbeing" has also been encouraged and promoted across the organisation and a drive to discuss 'What's ok now?" during Covid-19. Everyone is encouraged to prioritise work-life balance and agree the hours and structure that works best for them. This has really helped me to adjust to the new working environment.
That said, I do look forward to the day that I can spend a bit more face-to-face time with my colleagues. We are slowly phasing back to the office from the 10th August and I'm really looking forward to getting to know the wider team a bit better then!