Skip to main content

Five things that made me

How Ben got to where he is now

‘Five things that made me’ shares stories of senior leaders at Deloitte. Checking in with Ben Newton, the very first of our Brightstart apprentices to be promoted to partner, we met the beginning of a new generation of leaders – and the future is looking bright.

Meet Ben

Growing up in rural Dorset, Ben was the first in his family to get a place at university. But his curiosity and innate drive (okay, maybe a touch of impatience too) took him on another path: into our Brightstart programme within our Audit and Assurance business. His story shows us there is another way – and here we share it with you.

1. At a crossroads

“I was born in Germany and moved to Dorset when I was two. I grew up near the beach and had a semi-rural upbringing. My dad left school at 16 and was a soldier in the army. He gave me a healthy sense of discipline and has always supported me, pushing me forward. I still remember him setting maths tests for me before bed each night.

My mum was a high-street travel agent. She’s outgoing, extroverted and always willing to push herself outside of her comfort zone, which is probably where I get my sociable and inquisitive nature from. When I look at my career, I can clearly see their influence: my current role is half mathematical problem solving, half people management.

Growing up, I was a bit of an all-rounder and wanted to do everything – from playing football and sports journalism to being a pilot and running my own business. I performed well in my exams and so there was an expectation that I’d go to a top university, which not many at my school did. But there was also the feeling of the unknown, as no one in my family had been to uni before.

I got a place at Warwick University to study maths, which I was looking forward to. But that summer, I was working a couple of jobs to save money and decided to research grad schemes to work out what I might want to do after uni. I came across the option of school-leaver schemes and decided, for good practice, to apply to some of them – with no intention of deviating from my path.

I got a few interviews and a couple of them offered me a role, one of them being Deloitte. I knew I wanted a similar role after university and I’m a bit impatient, so I took the job. I love learning and I know I’d have loved the social side of university, and I do wonder what would have happened if I had taken that route. But on balance, when I look back, it still feels like the right decision.”

“I went back and forth on it for a few weeks, deciding between university or moving to London to start my career – a daunting decision when you’re 18!”

2. Take the reins

“Moving to London from rural Dorset at 18 was a bit of a culture shock. They are the two places I love most in the world but are complete polarities in so many ways. Most of my friends stayed back or went to university. I didn’t have much of a network, so I put a lot of focus, time and energy into work and my exams. A few of us on the Brightstart scheme got a flat together, which felt like a bit of a community, as we worked through our ACA qualification together.

I’ve always had a plan and am quite deliberate with my career – I don’t sit back and just let things happen. Work is a big part of my life, and I loved the idea of progressing through the firm from the start. However, I wanted to do it on my terms without compromising who I am and how I want to spend my time.

A few years into my career, I spent some time identifying what makes me happy. I realised I loved the entrepreneurial side of business and being exposed to senior leaders to see how they think, which is why I’ve taken up a number of operational roles in the firm to understand how we run our business. I also identified that another must-have was flexibility. I want to fit work alongside life commitments, so I appreciate being able to work from Dorset for a couple weeks a year or starting the working day early to keep my evenings free.

And finally, I like being able to help people. I really want the role I do to impact people’s careers. I get the most joy when I coach or mentor somebody. Seeing their development, growth and happiness in their roles gives me energy. So, whenever I change roles or get a promotion, I go back to these non-negotiables to help decide if it’s right for me.”

“I’ll always seek flexibility in whatever role I’m doing – it empowers me to be my best self.”

3. The power of perspective

“After I qualified as a chartered accountant, I took some time off to reset. I decided to go to South America for four months – and the firm was great in supporting me to take that time off. I had an unforgettable time with some amazing experiences, but towards the end of my trip I realised I wanted to get back to work. It was a guiding point in my career that I was on the right track doing what I loved.

But I’ve had to learn the hard way too. When things get difficult, I tend to put my head down and just get through it alone. I had a situation a while ago now where I was preparing for a promotion panel. I spent so much time preparing, researching, drafting and redrafting – but all of this was done alone. And the panel was an absolute car crash. Because I hadn’t reached out or spoken to anyone, I didn’t have the benefit of other perspectives.

Luckily, I had a partner who really supported me and gave me a second chance to do it again. Now, I’ve found a much better balance. I love the firm’s entrepreneurial side, but I also appreciate there’s a wider network of people who are always ready to support and share advice.”

“When things get hard, I used to put my head down and work through things alone. Now, I’m much more comfortable not knowing all the answers and reaching out for support.”

4. The challenge within

“I remember the first time one of the partners told me that I had the potential to become a partner myself. That gave me a lot of self-belief and helped me build my confidence. The support I’ve received from other around me made me realise I was I’m in the right place.

I’m really proud that I’m the first Brightstart to become partner as of 1 June 2023. But it’s been a journey to get here. The biggest barrier was me – it was internal. I’m normally a lot younger than the external management teams and boards I’m interacting with as well as the people I’m managing, so I did have times where I wondered if there was something missing in my skillset because I hadn’t done a four-year master’s degree. But I’ve been fortunate that others have pushed me forward for challenging roles, managing complex clients and tricky relationships.

I definitely get imposter syndrome when I look at the leaders around me and the partners I’m succeeding. You do have those moments where you wonder – am I ready for this? In those instances, I think of the people who have supported me and who I look up to, and I realise if they think I’m ready, then I’m ready.

We have so many Brightstarts in the firm and are adding over 120 a year in Audit & Assurance alone. Being the first one to make partner shows there is a clear, tangible pathway for others to follow. Being a partner isn’t just a role for those who have gone through the graduate scheme. Me being on the Brightstart scheme didn’t hold me back at all – in fact, I think it’s boosted me.”

“Without exception, everyone I work with judges me on my ability to perform my role, rather than perceived years of experience.”

5. Enjoying the journey

“Getting promoted to partner feels like an important milestone in my career – the start of a new beginning. But as proud as I feel, success (I think for most people) is about finding happiness. That means different things to different people, but for me it’s being content with what you have in the moment.

The world we live in drives us to want more. It’s hard-wired into us, especially with the influence of the internet on my generation through our formative years. I probably used to have the tendency to “live for tomorrow”, thinking I’ll be happy once I achieved XYZ. But tomorrow isn’t really guaranteed to any of us, so being happy today, for me, is the real barometer of success.

My partner, Emma, gives me a lot of context to life and reminds me of what’s important. I certainly know I need time to switch off – those that work with me know that working on my holidays is an absolute no-no! I love being outside, exploring a country I haven’t been to or spending some time with friends who never fail to keep me grounded. Finding that difference from my day to day and being able to immerse myself in unfamiliar surroundings helps me to relax and disconnect.

My main piece of advice is to find out what makes you tick. I found self-reflection really difficult at first, but reading a few books and spending a few days with a pen and paper gave me a better understanding of the things I value in my career. They can act as your guiding principles – and help you make decisions, recognise when things are going well and give you resilience when things get difficult. Rather than drifting, you have a clear narrative of what you’re doing and why you are doing it.”

“Spending time discovering what you want out of your career and what makes you happy is the best investment you’ll ever make.”

Five things we learnt from Ben

1. Roll the dice. Life is about experiences.

2. Figure out what makes you tick. It’s the best investment you’ll ever make.

3. You’re not an island. Talk to others and don’t be afraid to ask for support.

4. The biggest barrier is you. Believe others when they say you can do it.

5. Success is feeling content. Don’t obsess about the next step – enjoy the journey.

Did you find this useful?

Thanks for your feedback

If you would like to help improve further, please complete a 3-minute survey