What happens to students when they leave Erasmus University Rotterdam? In this column, graduates discuss their careers and their private lives: what lessons have they learnt since university? And they have some useful tips about what to do and what not to do when it comes to building up a successful career.

Mohammed Allaoui (27)

Study programme: Fiscal Economics, Bachelor in 2011, Master in 2012

Current job: Tax Lawyer in the US Tax Group at PwC. As a senior consultant, Mohammed mainly advises US multinationals and private equity funds about the best way to invest their money in the Netherlands. Although the Netherlands is getting a reputation as a corporate tax paradise, this doesn’t bother Mohammed: “A critical approach is always healthy, so that everyone stays sharp and we can concentrate on the details. And the taxation system in the Netherlands has its nuances.”

Career path: After graduating, Mohammed travelled through Europe before finally landing in the country of his roots: Morocco. He got a job at PwC thanks to a former colleague intern at Loyens & Loeff, who alerted him when a position opened up in the US Tax Group. After two years in Rotterdam, he spent a year in New York. Since October 2016 he has been back at the Fascinatio Boulevard offices near the A16 motorway.

Extra: In 2015 he was nominated for the Young Professional of the Year award by PwC. “It felt good to get some recognition and it really confirmed that I was on the right track. It also helped to expand my network within PwC.”
Mohammed was the first of four children in his family to go to university, and this story was previously featured in Erasmus Magazine in the article ‘Als eerste op studieavontuur’ (the first one to go to university) in 2012.

“I was sitting there in an oversized pair of trousers I had borrowed from my cousin and a shirt from Zara. Opposite me were the recruiter and employee at Loyens & Loeff. I was 19 and I had never been to a proper interview like this before. ‘So what do you know about our company?’ they asked me. Not a lot actually, because I had randomly chosen a few companies on the form at the business career day. ‘It sounded like a posh name,’ was all I could say.

It was my first contact with the tier-one corporate world. I felt I had nothing to lose, so I talked openly about myself. When I look back now, I was pretty rough and rugged in my younger days. But they called me back after two months anyway, and asked me if I was interested in an internship. Apparently, despite my lack of preparation, I had still managed to make a good impression. ‘You were very open and honest,’ was their explanation. A year later I was working for them.”

Mohammed Allaoui (3)

Pauw & Witteman
“And they not only had a posh name, they had a posh business too. It took me a while to get used to the new social environment. Everyone was so well educated or so incredibly rich. The jokes were less crude as well. And they talked about the serious subjects of the day. The kind of subjects they talk about on Pauw & Witteman (a former Dutch talkshow, ed.). Which I never watched. I occasionally watch talk shows now, but only if it is something that really interests me, and not just so I can keep up with the conversation at work the next day.”

I belong
“Stand tall, because you have something to give. Putting this mantra into practice has been my biggest development since I graduated. It has helped me to say what I think, even to colleagues with more experience and in higher positions. It also makes it clear that I am saying something because I think it is important. For example, as a Muslim I sometimes need to pray at work. That was one of the things we talked about when I had my first job interview at PwC.

Basically, I don’t have to be ashamed about what I think, the way I talk, or my religious beliefs. It’s okay to be yourself. My parents had a completely different approach. Their generation believed in trying to fit in, and not stand out. I was always told to work hard, not complain, and not ask too many questions.”

Dinner with the clients
“I like the mix of studying case history one day, and then solving complex calculations the next. Because I have both legal and economic expertise, I can not only give my clients useful advice, but more importantly I understand what they really need. It helps if you sit down and have a cup of coffee or go out to dinner with them. I like that social aspect of the job.
My year in New York confirmed just how important social contact with clients and colleagues is. To me, it was a simple lesson: people will be prepared to listen to anything you have to say, as soon as they trust you completely.”

Unhealthy working hours
“I usually work 10 or even 11 hours a day. It’s not healthy, and too much, really. Even though my colleagues are always telling me to go home earlier, it’s just one of my weaknesses. The time difference with the US doesn’t help either, because you have to wait until the afternoon before you can start ringing clients.
But I have to find that balance between work and private life soon, because my wife and I are expecting our first child in May. And then I really need to start getting home before eight o’clock at night.”