Hello TipStart, I’m Peter Austin. I’m 25 and I joined Deloitte as a tax consultant in November 2019. My intention for this blog is to give you some tips about life at one of the top four accounting firms.
But first, I think it’s important to give you a bit of background on myself and my life so far. I grew up in a mixed raced family (English and black Caribbean decent) and I went to a private school. As you can imagine, I was one of two black people in my year and what I learnt during those years at school, I have used in my career to good effect — I will get on to those points later. From there I went to university in Bristol during which I studied accounting and finance (and probably had one too many Jager bombs!) which set me up very well to apply for interviews in accounting — specifically I chose to go for jobs in tax.
I set my heart on joining one of the ‘Top 4’ accountancy firms. For those that are unaware, the ‘Top 4’ accountancy firms are Deloitte, PWC, EY and KPMG and they are called the ‘top 4’ because they dwarf the other accountancy firms in terms of revenue size and are seen as the gold standard in the business world. I interviewed for EY for a placement role between 2nd and 3rd year and got rejected and applied for all the others and didn’t even get an interview. This can be quite demoralising but the more you apply, the more you realise it is a numbers game and you have to develop a thick skin and keep on applying!
So I started looking further afield and managed to secure job offers from two accountancy firms, RSM and Moore Stephens. I decided to go with Moore Stephens primarily because they trained all of their tax accountants to do the ACA which is the chartered accountancy professional qualification whereas RSM trained all of their tax accountants in the CTA which is the chartered tax professional qualification. My preference was to become a chartered accountant because I didn’t want to limit my options in case I decided to do something else. As it turns out, I’m still work in tax but one tip I have it to keep your options open in terms of career paths as much as possible.
So I completed my ACA with Moore Stephens (who are now BDO following a merger) and got a phone call from a recruiter who had a job opportunity at a mysterious ‘Top 4’ accountants to work as a tax consultant in their M&A team. I was immediately interested as the nature of M&A work is fast paced and I wanted to push myself and see if I could make it at a ‘Top 4’. I went along a for a few interviews and really liked the Director and Partner I met and the rest is history.
Tip 1 — ‘be confident and open on your first day’
When joining a company as big as Deloitte, the first day is never as bad as people say. As an experienced hire, you join hundreds of other people in a firm wide induction, which are usually fairly relaxed in atmosphere. The day is typically very structured — you tend to learn about the firm’s values and receive your company laptop, and that’s basically it. One tip I would give is to make a couple of friends as early as possible. You have to realise that you are all in the same boat and everyone is probably as nervous as you are. So if you have the courage to break the awkward silence and say “hi” and introduce yourself, you’ll often find people are more than willing to chat to you about anything and everything.
Tip 2 — ‘that’s not very social distancy’
Once induction day is done, you will usually be met by one of your colleagues who will be at a similar grade in your department. He or she will usually introduce you to the department, which can be very intimidating, but again, you have to realise that everyone who joins the team probably went through the same thing. During those introductions, make sure you ask people what they specialise in, especially at the senior grades. People like talking about stuff they are passionate about so I often find keeping them talking as much as possible is a good way to get through those introductions without too much hassle.
Tip 3 — ‘ooo fwends’
Once you’re all settled at your desk, a good tip is to start making connections with people at different grades. I think it’s all well and good being friendly with a few people at your grade but in the accountancy world, you are often chosen to work on projects by your more senior colleagues. One good place to start is to speak with the people that interviewed you. I was interviewed by a Director and then by a Partner, so I arranged coffee meetings with both of them early on. Low and behold, I got on my first project because the Partner who I had coffee with signed me up to one of his projects. I can’t stress enough how important it is to build a rapport with people of all grades and most of the time it’s just being friendly with people in the office and introducing yourself to new people where you can.