Updating Results

Australian Taxation Office (ATO)

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Stephanie Lekawski

My current rotation has involvement in all business areas of the department. The role also enables cross-government department collaboration on specific projects.

What's your job about?

I’m currently on my first rotation in the External Budgeting team within the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). The ATO is responsible for administering the tax and superannuation systems within Australia. My team is responsible for managing the external budgeting process and provides advice and support to ATO business areas on new policy proposal (NPP) costings. The external budgeting process involves reporting the ATO budget to the Department of Finance which contributes to the Federal Budget. FYI – every government department has a similar team!

Our key stakeholders include Treasury, Department of Finance and the Australian National Audit Office. A recent project of mine involved collaborating with different stakeholders to produce a position paper which will be presented to the Department of Finance on how the ATO decides on their contractor pay rates. There were many more financial factors that had to be considered in determining the rates than I had initially thought! However, my main responsibility in the team is assisting in the NPP costings space where I have gained knowledge of government NPP process requirements. In particular, reviewing submissions and costing justifications which provide the government with the estimated costs of implementing and administering new, or changes to, existing tax and superannuation policies. This is an interesting role as I get to see how potential policies will impact the ATO and the wider community.

What's your background?

I was born and raised in Canberra. After finishing year 12 I took a gap year where I worked 3 jobs, averaging 60 hour work weeks and saved for a trip to Europe. I started university and initially enrolled in Marketing and Public Relations. After my first semester, I realised that the course wasn’t for me and I changed my enrolment to Finance.

At the end of my first year of university, I applied for an internship through the Chartered Accountants Achiever Program which structured its recruitment process similar to many graduate programs; first the testing stage, next to a video interview, an assessment centre and finally a face to face interview. I was the most inexperienced candidate at the assessment centre and had no idea what to expect. I progressed through and secured a position in the Program where I was placed in a Chartered Accounting firm in Canberra.

After the internship, I was offered a permanent position at the firm as an Undergraduate Accountant. I continued the next 2 years working 3 days a week at the firm, 2 days in social work and committing my remaining 2 days to continue my study full time. In my final year of university, I applied for graduate programs and was thankful I had the experience and practice to prepare me for what to expect in the process. By the end of my degree, I had secured a position in the ATO graduate program where I started in January 2019.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Yes! Although it may seem like a Bachelor of Finance and External Budgeting are a good match, what I found the most challenging was learning all about government processes and policies. Coming from the private sector I wasn’t very exposed to these concepts, nor did I have units in my degree which specifically focused on government processes. With the ease of spreadsheets, the actual numbers and maths aren’t as necessary a skill as one might think.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

My current rotation has involvement in all business areas of the department. The role also enables cross-government department collaboration on specific projects. I love the exposure to different business areas and government departments. I also enjoy collaborating with others, whether in my team or external and coming up with a solution to a problem. I find great satisfaction in the start to finish process of recognising a problem, collaborating with others to solve the problem and then presenting these solutions to management for implementation.

What are the limitations of your job?

Participating in a rotation-based graduate program means that you only have a limited time to learn as much of a job as you can. For me, each of my rotations is approximately 6 months long. Although you can learn a lot about a role in 6 months, you don’t have much time to practice, revisit and improve on previous work. My current rotation works around the federal budget cycle, meaning much of their work only happens on an annual basis. Although I’ve learnt a lot in my 6 months, I’m not able to be exposed to the full job requirements for the remaining half of the year.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

  1. Don’t just do electives for the sake of it. If you have to reach the required credit points, make it count and get recognition for it, such as double majors.
  2. Take advantage of new flexible study options to help balance your workload.
  3. Attend as many career fairs and information sessions as possible! It’s better to be over-informed than under-informed.