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27 July 2020
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by Leanne Davy

Starting a new job at ForrestBrown during lockdown

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Locked down but busier than ever – hear from our newest ForrestBrowners in the tax team about how they found starting their roles remotely

New faces. New processes. New responsibilities. Starting a new job is always tough, but doing it remotely throws up a whole host of different challenges. We spoke to three of our newest tax associates, Pippa, Laura and Jim, to get the lowdown on joining ForrestBrown during lockdown.

So, first things first – when did you actually start at ForrestBrown?

Jim: I’ve been at ForrestBrown for just over three months now – I came from working for the NHS, although I’d actually worked as an aircraft mechanic before that. I did my interviews and assessment day pre-lockdown.

Laura: I started about a month after Jim, but we did the assessment day together.

Jim: So we have actually met in real life!

Pippa: I officially started during lockdown, but I also interviewed before it.

You don’t have to be an R&D expert, or even from a tax background, to become an associate at ForrestBrown. Where had you worked before?

Laura: I worked at an accountancy and finance recruitment company – I had nothing to do with tax or R&D. I wanted to do something that would combine the people skills I learnt in recruitment with the numerical skills I learnt during my Maths degree. I also really wanted to continue my education and start working towards a professional qualification. ForrestBrown seemed the perfect place to do it.

Pippa: I worked at a small tax consultancy firm in Bath straight after university. I’d been there for about a year and a half, but I wanted to work at a bigger company with a great culture, social scene and the ability to support me with structured learning. It was important to me to be able to continue my professional studies and to become an expert in one focussed area of tax.

Jim: As well as the NHS and being an aircraft mechanic, I’ve also worked as a historian. All skills that have somehow combined nicely to suit my role at ForrestBrown.

That’s quite the change – especially for you, Laura and Jim. What was it about ForrestBrown that made you want to make the move?

Laura: So many factors! I’d come across ForrestBrown a number of times when recruiting within the tax market in the south-west and when I originally started researching the company, their website really stood out. It was bursting with personality and really caught my eye. I loved that they worked with clients from so many different sectors – I knew I would enjoy the collaborative, fast-paced environment. And, on top of all that, I love Bristol and always wanted to move here.

“I loved that they worked with clients from so many different sectors - I knew I would enjoy the collaborative, fast-paced environment.”

Jim: The location is great for me too (as a Bristolian!), but I think I would have travelled to another city for this opportunity. I came across ForrestBrown on a YouTube advert to start with, but when I did some research I was particularly struck by the emphasis on educating people about R&D tax credits and how they can benefit businesses. I could see the company was sincere about trying to help its clients. It sounded like an interesting branch of accountancy which I hadn’t thought about, so I applied.

Pippa: When I was waiting in the seating area to be seen for my interview, every single person who passed by me smiled and a few different people asked if I was okay and being looked after. There was an energy in the air and it gave me good vibes.

So tell us about the interview process itself. What was it like?

Pippa: The interview was actually in person (pre-lockdown) and the office was buzzing. I had an informal chat and then in-tray exercises and a more formal interview with the senior management team. Everyone who interviewed me was so approachable and easy to talk to.

Laura: I’d also finished the interview process before lockdown, but we did go into lockdown while I was working my notice period. That was a really scary time. I knew of so many people losing their jobs or being furloughed and there was that worry of being last in, first out. I can’t thank ForrestBrown enough for how relaxed they made me feel. They put my mind at ease – even though I was relocating and moving jobs in a pandemic. They called and emailed me to put my mind at ease and let me know that it was still full steam ahead with the onboarding. They even sent a little handwritten card through the post saying that they were looking forward to me joining the team in May, which I thought was such a lovely little touch.

Jim: The interview process consisted of an application and an assessment day. I feel like the assessment day gave me a good sense of the company ethos – it was relaxed and inviting.

Starting a new role in lockdown can’t have been easy. How were you introduced to the company and its different teams?

Jim: The induction process felt like it had been meticulously planned. Plus they gave us all the gear – laptops, screens, keyboards, stationery – so I felt pretty well prepared.

Pippa: And we were all inducted together, which was nice. Good to see the same faces every day! We had a scheduled induction timetable which spanned the whole of the first three weeks. It introduced us to all the different teams and functions, which helped me build up a picture of how everything fits together. It also introduced us to the mechanisms of the R&D claim process, one element at a time. I had check-ins with my manager, my team lead and the people team, who all made me feel like everyone really cared about how we were all settling in.

“I had check-ins with my manager, my team lead and the people team, who all made me feel like everyone really cared about how we were all settling in.”

Laura: I felt so welcome, even remotely. Before I started they gave me Jim’s email address, because he’d been on my assessment day but started at ForrestBrown before me. It was nice to have that contact and reassuring to me to hear everything was going well for you. I also had a buddy – Emily. Actually, the very first hour of my very first day was just a chat with Emily.

Jim: Yes! I had that too, with my buddy.

Pippa: Same. And because it was someone who’d recently joined, it showed that they give people a lot of responsibility early on. I’d definitely like to be a buddy.

Laura: The actual training was good too. It was in-depth. We learnt how to do the job and about R&D tax, but we also had ‘meet the team’ sessions which I thought were great. They each gave presentations on who they were and what they did, so even remotely we were able to meet lots of different people from different teams. Like Pippa said, it really helped me to piece everything together.

Construction to mobility aids, software to stoves – ForrestBrown has innovative clients working in a huge range of different industries. How long was it until you got to do some real work for them?

Jim: Pretty much straight away. We would be shown how to do something on a live project, rather than just a test. It made me feel trusted.

Laura: I’ve been on lots of client calls and worked on some really interesting claims already. To begin with, it was never something with too much time pressure – it wasn’t too stressful. That said, I’ve also had my first experience of working a quarter-end, and I loved the ‘all hands on deck’, fast-paced finish. It’s because I’ve come from recruitment – that target-driven environment really excites me. I can’t wait to experience even more of that buzz when we get back into the office.

Jim: For me, I’d say the best thing is the variety of industries you get to learn about. Every project is very different, the first narratives I worked on were for a new type of wood-burning stove, the development of a vegan pie and problems faced building skyscrapers.

Pippa: I’ve done a lot of construction projects, but there’s a huge variety. You switch between them and spin lots of plates at the same time. It’s very different to how I’ve worked before.

Laura: Same here – you manage your own time but aren’t overloaded. You’ll be asked about your capacity in daily check-ins rather than have more work piled on.

Lockdown aside, is working at ForrestBrown what you expected it to be like?

Jim: The biggest surprise is that it is exactly what I expected based on everything I read and heard. So many companies aren’t like what they say they are like but ForrestBrown really is.

Laura: I love it! I have learnt so much in the past couple of months. Each week I work on R&D claims in different sectors and learn about all the exciting, innovative projects our clients are working on.

Pippa: There’s definitely lots to learn, but I find that once you’ve been here a few months you look back and realise how much you’ve already soaked up. It means you look forward to learning new things every day. You also have a lot of security. The company supports you in anything you want to learn more about or have more exposure to.

“...once you’ve been here a few months you look back and realise how much you’ve already soaked up.”

Laura: Like Excel, for me! I knew nothing about Excel before I started and I asked for some support. The very next day I was given a one-to-one training session and learnt so much so quickly. It turns out Excel is actually very useful (when you know how to use it!).

ForrestBrown is proud of its culture – it’s one of the things that really defines the business. Has it been hard to get a sense of what it’s like since you’re working remotely?

Jim: Because of all the different communication tools, I have a good feel for the culture in the company. It feels like an ethos of positivity and inclusion, which all feeds into doing a good job for our clients.

“It feels like an ethos of positivity and inclusion, which all feeds into doing a good job for our clients.”

Pippa: Personally, I wasn’t prepared for the extent of kindness I’ve experienced at ForrestBrown. The frequent celebration of individual and collective achievement is motivating and really instils the shared purpose.

Laura: Yes, you can really get a feel for the culture – even remotely! There’s such a collaborative, ‘all for one and one for all’ feel.  Everyone works as a team to deliver excellent work on behalf of our clients. They also really look after their employees, we have regular wellbeing newsletters, pub quizzes and an hour off work on Wednesdays for ‘Work out Wednesdays’.

Pippa: It’s different workouts like yoga or bootcamp hosted by an external person. I’ve done them all.

Laura: They even sent out personalised lockdown care packages to every single employee’s home – which is crazy. Mine had a face mask, candles, nail files, sweets and even personalised chocolates with my initials on. It’s the little things like that that really make ForrestBrown stand out. I couldn’t be happier that I filled out that initial application form back in November – best decision ever.

Starting a new job at ForrestBrown during lockdown

People are a big part of a company’s culture. What about the people you work with? How would you describe them?

Jim: Everyone I’ve come into contact with at ForrestBrown so far is very generous. Generous with their time, enthusiasm, positive feedback and willingness to help. Whenever I ask someone a question, I don’t feel like I’m given a hurried answer or that they’re thinking ‘oh no, not this guy again!’

Pippa: They’re so warm, friendly and willing to help you out. I really couldn’t speak higher of the people at ForrestBrown, they make it the wonderful place it is.

Laura: Definitely. Everyone is so friendly and willing to help, which has been even more appreciated when joining a new company and learning a new role in lockdown. There’s a real feeling that the only silly question is the one you don’t ask, so I’ve never been worried about asking for additional help or support if I’ve needed it.

The ForrestBrown office is quite something. What are you most looking forward to doing when you get to go in?

Pippa: I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone in person.

Jim: And seeing if people look the same in 3D as they do on a screen! The joining process under lockdown has been as easy as it could be, but I’m ready to try out the office environment. I’m looking forward to being able to socialise more freely. It’ll be nice to meet other teams in the office who I wouldn’t necessarily contact remotely on a regular basis.

Laura: I can’t wait to walk into work from my new flat. It’s only a 20-minute walk and I’ve been itching to go in ever since we moved to Bristol at the end of March. Most of all, I can’t wait to go in and meet my team. I feel like I’ve really got to know my sub-team pretty well from our daily meetings and catch-ups and it feels weird that we haven’t actually met in person yet.

Last but not least – as a new starter, what would you say to someone thinking about joining ForrestBrown?

Laura: Go for it. I know it’s a strange and worrying time, and it may feel safer to stay where you are rather than to change jobs, but if you’re considering applying then go for it. Take the leap. I promise you won’t regret it.

Jim: Practically speaking, the assessment day is tough, so do lots of research and preparation. The people team goes to great lengths to make it as easy as it can be to perform well but they want the best people, so they expect a lot. I would say, though, that any effort you put towards getting a place at ForrestBrown is well worth it.

Pippa: I just couldn’t imagine a nicer place to work. If culture and acceptance is important to you, look no further.

Sound like your perfect fit?

We’re looking for more talented people like Pippa, Laura and Jim to join our buzzing tax team and are holding interviews remotely. Apply for a role today or get in touch to discuss how you could be our perfect fit.

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