“EU Back to School” is an inter-institutional initiative whereby European Union officials go back to their former secondary school in their hometown and discuss their work and experiences in the EU.
Irini Kyriacou Haller visited her old school, the English School, on April 17. She presented her work during the Year 3 assembly and then had an interview with Year 3 students Irene Eleni Constantinou, Giorgos Christofi, Chara Efstathiou and Andreas Theodotou.
Irini Kyriacou Haller graduated from the English School in 2003. She works as an internal auditor at the European Commission in Brussels. She has worked on audits in areas of high spending and public scrutiny. She loves working in a diverse organisation with colleagues from all over Europe in the service of EU citizens. Before moving to Brussels she studied and worked in London for 10 years, first graduating from Imperial College with a degree in chemistry, and then training with PwC London as a chartered accountant.
Have you always wanted to work in the EU?
It was not my childhood dream, but I am very happy to be working at the European Commission and work in the interest of all European citizens. Something that motivates me every day at work is one piece of statistics which resonates with me; almost one out of four people in the EU experience a form of poverty and social exclusion. Eliminating this is a Europe 2020 strategy target. So, whenever I am in the office and thinking that maybe my work does not make that much of a difference I think back to this piece of statistic and “roll-up my sleeves”. I remind myself that my job plays a part in ensuring that the commission is an efficient, effective and economic organisation and is well placed to work with EU member states and to meet these strategic targets.
What studies do you need to pursue to work in the European Union?
The European Union, and more specifically the European Commission, is a service of experts. We have colleagues from different backgrounds working in their respective fields. There are colleagues with studies in law, economics, forensic science, cyber security and science etc. The European Union and all of its institutions make for a very big and diverse organisation. There is a need for a number of different skill sets, and encouraging diversity is at the heart of how the organisation works. I believe the most important thing anyone who is thinking of pursuing a career in the EU institutions must be convinced of is the European Project and to be open to the opportunity of working with people from different EU member states.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
As an internal auditor, I help colleagues from other departments to improve the way they carry out their work by analysing information in a structured way, identifying issues and weaknesses and making recommendations of what can be improved. Essentially, I help colleagues to do their job better. Through my work I meet colleagues at all levels of the organisation and have a real sense of their priorities, challenges and opportunities. I also enjoy drafting reports, which is a big part of the work of an internal auditor. It’s an intense process, where we have to distil all the key information we have accumulated over a certain period of time and make useful recommendations for our auditees.
Would you encourage a young person to pursue a job in the European Union?
Absolutely, with no hesitation! I think the students at the English School are very well placed for a career in the EU institutions. As students of the English School you are already in a multicultural environment, and you are already working in different languages for most of your lessons. Furthermore, the experiences and opportunities that you get from the English School make for a unique school “career”. I feel that I’ve benefited a lot from my time at the school, not only from an academic point of view, but also from a general culture perspective. When I think back to my time here, after each passing year, I appreciate something new. Not least my French classes, as French is one of the languages spoken in Brussels where most EU institutions are based and where my work is. Also, two years ago I went through an opera-loving phase, and I had to think back to my music classes here at the school. Even though I was never particularly gifted musically, the enthusiasm of our teacher was contagious.