BY ERIN SILVER
Jahlae Outerbridge is a senior tax accountant at KPMG in Bermuda.
When she received a huge academic scholarship from the multinational professional services network in 2016, she had no idea just how much it would change her life.
In fact, that scholarship set her on a path to securing her dream job when she graduated. Now 27, she’s excited to let others know that dream opportunities such as the one she had, do exist.
“Receiving that scholarship was crucial in my life,” Ms Outerbridge said. “It alleviated the financial burden of going to Georgia State University in the United States and it allowed me to study at the undergraduate level. I’m grateful to KPMG for their investment in my education and my career.”
The KPMG Scholarship is awarded annually by the managing directors of KPMG in Bermuda and is given to a Bermudian student committed to a career as a chartered professional accountant (Canada) or certified public accountant (USA).
Not only did the scholarship award her with $20,000, renewable for three years, it also gave her paid summer internships and enabled her to enter the firm’s graduate programme after university.
“The graduate programme is designed to help new graduates gain work experience and complete their accounting qualification,” Ms Outerbridge said. “They’re offered financial assistance to complete their qualification, paid study leave and the opportunity to rotate into other departments, i.e. audit to advisory.”
Ms Outerbridge earned her CPA in November 2020 and was promoted within the company in October 2021. “KMPG gave me the knowledge, skills and experience to further my career in accounting, which is what I’ve wanted to do since high school.”
A graduate of CedarBridge Academy, she also received an ABIC Scholarship and the Hamilton Parish Council Scholarship for the benefit of students who reside in that area. Both of these were also essential in enabling her to complete her studies in the United States.
“I’ve always liked math, accounting and numbers,” she said. “I enjoy the challenge and contributing to an organisation. Being recognised for my hard work was meaningful and gave me extra push to commit to this career path.”
Indeed, when Ms Outerbridge was awarded the scholarship in 2016, the announcement came with some publicity. In an article written at the time, Steve Woodward, managing director of KPMG in Bermuda, said, “The managing directors of KPMG in Bermuda are proud to award this year’s scholarship to Jahlae Outerbridge. She has shown her commitment to her academics and her future career goals.”
The article continued to sing her praises: “Jahlae has a keen interest in accounting and a passion for volunteering and supporting communities. She believes that it is imperative to be active in community activities and she strives to continue to volunteer and give back to the community.”
Finally, the article noted, “The committee was impressed by her work ethic and her commitments to achieving her certified public accounting designation upon her graduating from university.”
For her part, Ms Outerbridge was thrilled to have been chosen. “I am truly honoured and thankful to be the recipient of the 2016 KPMG Scholarship. When [it was] announced that I had received the award, I was genuinely surprised and immediately started to cry,” she said. “To me, receiving the KPMG Scholarship symbolises what one can achieve with hard work and determination. During my first year at Georgia State University, I really put every effort into maintaining a high level of academic achievement, and it is an honour to be recognised by KPMG for my academic performance.”
KMPG gave me the knowledge, skills and experience to further my career in accounting, which is what I’ve wanted to do since high school.
All her experience applying and interviewing for scholarships has given Ms Outerbridge some pearls of wisdom she’d like to share with others currently beginning the process: “There are scholarships for everything. Some are based on financial need, on personal interests, volunteerism or academics. Find the scholarships that fit your individual skills and qualities so you can emphasise what makes you a unique candidate.”
Many scholarships require an in-person interview for those candidates selected to proceed to the next round. “I practised typical types of questions about my aspirations, interests and background. When I applied for the KPMG scholarship, I was shortlisted for an interview along with 11 other candidates. When I came for the interview, it was one of the best interviews I ever had. It was both professional and personable, and I was able to let my personality shine through, which I believed helped me differentiate myself from the other candidates.”
At the time, Ms Outerbridge didn’t know there were scholarships that could take her from university to a career. She suggests that all applicants look at the BermudaScholarships.com website, which is where she found the KPMG scholarship. “I went through each scholarship listing. I looked at all the requirements and found ones that were right for me. Since I’d always wanted to be an accountant, it was great knowing that once I received the KPMG scholarship I would secure a full-time position there. It’s a rare, unique opportunity if you know what you want to do.”
Ms Outerbridge strongly recommends that students apply for many scholarships, including lower-value ones, because they all add up. Also, there are many scholarships which offer employment opportunities attached to the award. Some other industries that offer similar opportunities include re/ insurance, healthcare and legal.
With university behind her she is now giving back as a mentor to another KPMG scholarship recipient. “I have taken the initiative to give her ideas that would have been helpful for me during my studies,” Ms Outerbridge said. “I have assisted her with her CPA process. I have specifically worked with her to prepare a study schedule for the upcoming year, and I have been guiding her with her transition from the classroom to the workplace.” Without a doubt, Ms Outerbridge’s mentee is lucky to have her in her corner.