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What do theoretical physics and professional services have in common?

Reflections on the 2020 Launch Your Career Programme

I can’t honestly say that a career with Deloitte in the professional services sector was something I had strongly considered when choosing my degree, which will come as no surprise when you realise that I’m studying Theoretical Physics. On the surface it seems difficult to reconcile ‘learning to understand the mathematical underpinnings of the universe’ and ‘providing business solutions to some of the biggest names in industry’. In fact, as I’ve come to learn, the reality is the exact opposite.

Theoretical Physics - like professional services - is about solving problems by coming up with effective solutions. The problems and challenges might be different, but the mindsets are the same. They require a special kind of drive and passion for what you do, and an intimate knowledge of not only the technical aspects involved, but also the interpersonal skills needed to effectively communicate these ideas to others.

After all, what’s the point in coming up with a brilliant idea if you can’t help others understand what it is? Similarly, we all need to be able to provide others the space to share their own ideas.

I’m sure I speak for most people when I say that 2020 hasn’t exactly gone to plan. At the beginning of this year, like many other students approaching the end of their college life, I was weighing up my options and planning for the future. The year ahead was to be filled with lecture halls, exam venues, the occasional social outing, and of course the all-important summer job.

I can still remember the sense of accomplishment I felt after being offered a summer internship with Deloitte, and the relief that the work and preparation that had gone into my application and my interview had paid off. I was ready and excited to jump into the world of work in between my final years at college, and my experience with Deloitte up to then had only added to those feelings.

Needless to say, a global pandemic has a way of grinding everything to a halt. Everyone had to adapt and change almost every aspect of their lives to cope with such a dramatic shift. Some things worked out; I could keep up with college work and even do exams entirely online. An experience-focused internship, however, is an entirely different story.

Deloitte’s internship and graduate programmes run on a 70-20-10 model where 70% of learning and training is on-the-job, experiential training. Time is spent actively engaging in your work, meeting clients, and working with your team. 20% is building relationships and developing through feedback and social interaction, and 10% is more formal education. When 90% of personal development happens in the office and onsite, it’s rather difficult to move such an experience online. Despite the challenges of closing the doors of Deloitte’s offices and shifting to a ‘new normal’, the Early Careers Team undoubtedly created an experience as close to an in-person summer internship as possible.

Split into four weeks, the programme covered a multitude of relevant topics. The programme’s emphasis was on Deloitte’s business practices, purpose, and their drive to make an impact that matters. The team made it clear that Deloitte is about making an impact not only for their clients, but for the planet and for their employees too. Their focus is very much on their people and making sure to offer as much support for development and personal growth as they can.

The ‘CV and interview tips’ session gave me a great insight into what Deloitte looks for in potential employees and how to maximise my impact in an interview by personalising my experiences and asking plenty of relevant questions. The specific focus on building an online presence on platforms like LinkedIn was especially useful and something I haven’t seen emphasised before. That was definitely a unique learning experience for me.

The professional education session gave a great overview of the different career paths for graduates and how Deloitte promotes further education alongside work. There’s a multitude of initiatives to help their employees gain extra qualifications in management accounting, tax, and chartered accountancy. Deloitte offers in-house training and coaching sessions for exams as well as generous study leave to give employees the best chance of success. It’s no surprise then that they have a qualification rate well above the national average.

Week two focused on the different business lines in Deloitte with presentations from people in each different area. This was supplemented by group-based sessions on Business Chemistry – Deloitte’s behavioural system for offering insights into individual business traits and team interaction – and how to recognise individual strengths and apply it to team-based tasks. This people-focused approach was inspiring and encouraging, helping me to understand my own place within a team and how to get the most out of my own experience whilst giving others the space to contribute their own ideas effectively.

If there’s one thing there was definitely no shortage of throughout the programme, it’s the vast array of different voices and unique perspectives. This was highlighted in the Graduate Heroes Panel, where graduates from all across Deloitte shared their experiences and what making a difference that matters means to them. They spoke enthusiastically about their corporate responsibility through volunteering initiatives both locally and internationally. The IMPACT Days, where employees get involved in helping local communities and offering charities opportunities that they might not have otherwise, resonated with me particularly strongly.

I also received a more formal look at how Deloitte encourages diversity through an interactive session on inclusion. We discussed the importance of encouraging respect, openness, and a sense of belonging in the workplace to empower people to grow into their roles and get actively engaged within their teams. The best ideas and most innovative solutions often come from people with unique points of view, so promoting a wide collection of perspectives and making people feel welcome and included is a huge part of any team’s success.

Of course, it’s hard to talk about the business world and building a better future without addressing the elephant in the room. The ‘Future of Work’ session gave a great insight into how Deloitte plans to progress forward into the future where the option of virtual working is a regular part of life. This was paired with an equally - if not more - important mindfulness session to drive home the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance through structured sessions like yoga and fitness, as well as taking time for yourself to recharge and reset after working, especially when working from home.

It feels like almost as soon as it began, the programme was over. Four weeks of rich insights into Deloitte’s people and business flew past, but that by no means detracts from the vast amount of knowledge and experience I gained from participating. I learned a huge amount about the company and their opportunities, but also about myself, as cliché as that sounds. I’ll no doubt carry what I’ve learned here with me throughout my career, no matter where it might take me. I can’t thank the Early Careers Team enough for putting together such a unique and enriching programme. I’m looking forward to applying to the graduate programme for next year and seeing the opportunities I can have with Deloitte in the future.

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