Skip to main content

Five things that made me

How Colin got to where he is now

Five things that made me’ shares stories of senior leaders at Deloitte. This time, we had a chat with Colin Jeffrey, who recently took on the leadership role for Deloitte Digital in the UK. In his time with our firm, he’s been part of great change in the rapidly moving retail, consumer and digital worlds.

Meet Colin

Colin is here for the challenge, always learning and finding new paths to success. He recognises the importance of playing to your strengths, the value of working together, and the power of being there for the team. Hint: bring the pizza. This is his story.

1. A full circle moment

“Growing up, I wanted to be an engineer. I didn’t know anything about Deloitte or professional services. At home on the west coast of Scotland, career advice didn’t cover the City or consulting. As a youngster, I always had a job – a paper round, in an ice-cream café, at a local blacksmith, engineering and welding, which I really enjoyed.

I felt I had to work hard to make money so I could go to concerts and have some independence. I had a love of the sea and got heavily into windsurfing and sailing, which has followed me through my life. I think if I wasn’t doing what I do now, I’d be a sailing instructor. Sailing is mentally and physically challenging, but it’s also great fun - and a refreshing alternative to desk work.

As a child, my favourite toy was LEGO – especially LEGO Technic, with the little motors and gears. My dad was a physics teacher, so we always had computers and tech around the house. We also had a small business making and selling kits for teaching digital skills. It didn’t come as a surprise when I decided to study engineering at the University of Glasgow.”

“LEGO inspired me to go into engineering. It makes me smile that I now get to work directly with LEGO at Deloitte.”

2. Throw yourself into life

“You’re so much more than your degree or specialism. Whenever I interview people, I’m always interested to hear what initiative they’ve taken or what societies they’ve been involved in. I learnt early that throwing yourself into life and getting involved in things you’re passionate about helps you get to know yourself and what you’re good at.

At university, I was elected President of Glasgow University Union, which involved running the restaurants, disco and bars. I became really interested in the commercial side of things, understanding what made a business tick and what I could do to improve it, grow it and make it successful.

When I left university, the UK was in a recession. As many of my engineering friends were made redundant, I changed tack and applied to Marks and Spencer’s graduate scheme. It was amazing.

In stores all around the UK and Ireland, I learnt about commerce, HR, finance, then quickly was responsible for my own store, managing and leading a team of people often older and more experienced than me. I learnt to listen, empathise and understand how a business works. I learnt to pay attention to the detail and adapt quickly because things change fast.”

“I love making a change, measuring the results and seeing if it was positive or negative, and whether we should do more of it or less.”

3. Seeking out opportunity

“I loved my time at M&S, but I didn’t want to be there for the rest of my life. I joined Accenture, looking for a change of industry, but realised very quickly my retail skills were valuable to clients who wanted to transform their business. Retail is very relatable - we’re all shoppers after all.

At Accenture, I worked with Ian Geddes, who I followed to Deloitte when he moved to set up a retail team here. I wanted to be part of it, and he’s the reason I joined the firm in 2009. He taught me so much about being out in the market, focussing on attention to detail and building long-term relationships with clients and celebrating successes - even the little ones.

By 2012, I was the project manager setting up Deloitte Digital UK. Most recently, I was leading our consumer industry in our consulting business, overseeing retail, automotive, consumer goods and travel. I specialise in digital commerce platforms. In June 2022, I took on leadership for our Deloitte Digital business as it celebrated its 10th anniversary, working alongside 1,200 talented specialists in engineering, creative design, research, data and strategy.

I love the culture: we have an incredibly diverse team of people who bring themselves to work every day and do a brilliant job for our clients. We have studios across London, Bristol, Belfast, Manchester, Edinburgh and Stockholm. We’re committed to making it work for our colleagues. One of our team had to go to Spain for family reasons, so we got her a video robot so she could join remotely in London every day!”

“In 2012 I was helping to launch our Deloitte Digital Business. Now I have the opportunity to lead it. It’s amazing what can happen in 10 years.”

4. Comfortably uncomfortable

“The thing I love most about the firm is being challenged every day. I feel uncomfortable every day – and that’s a good thing. If you can overcome that, you build confidence and gain new skills, so it’s very rewarding. And it’s not just the leaders who challenge me - everyone around us has something we can learn from.

Working in digital, there are lot of difficult moments. It’s a tough job. Maybe missing a milestone, dealing with a technical problem, having a performance issue on a website. One of the key things I’ve learnt is that how you respond to a difficult situation with a client is an opportunity to strengthen your relationship.

You can be defensive and confrontational, or you can resolve it by going the extra mile and working together. When I’m not sure how to work through a problem, I remember this: an issue is just a decision that hasn’t been made. Once you’ve made a decision, it’s not an issue anymore.

The other big one for me is to be there for your team as leader. If you have a problem but not the technical skills to solve it, make sure you’re the one getting the pizzas in or supplying the coffee. Be with your team to get through it. When a client succeeds because of something we’ve done, it’s such a great feeling. Seeing the difference our teams have made makes me very proud.”

“It’s being challenged every day that keeps me here.”

5. Finding balance

“I struggle to answer all my emails. My workload can feel intense, so I’m strict about booking a daylight hour. If I’m working at home, I go for a walk with my wife and dog – maybe we get up and get out first thing. Or I’ll take a walk at lunch. The benefits of chatting and walking with someone are huge. Getting outdoors and doing exercise really is the tonic.

I value the flexibility hybrid working has brought us. I used to log on during weekends, but now I do my best not to, unless it’s an emergency. I need peace in my head and time for me and my family.

I’d tell younger me to spend more time with my family and friends. When my children were young, I travelled a lot – and I’ll never get that time back. And last year, my wife was ill, thankfully she recovered but it made me realise I shouldn’t take things for granted.

You have to live for today because you never know what’s round the corner. Life is so precious. Don’t waste it. Make memories and do the things that make your heart beat faster.”

“If you have the choice of doing two things, do the one you’ll always remember.”

Five things we learnt from Colin

1. Throw yourself into life. It’s rewarding and makes you stand out.

2. Be comfortable with the uncomfortable. It builds your confidence.

3. An issue is just a decision that hasn’t been made.

4. Be there for your team. Even if you’re just buying the pizza.

5. Life is so precious. Do what makes your heart beat faster today.

Did you find this useful?

Thanks for your feedback

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