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Five things that made me

How David 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 David Noon, COO of our North and South Europe firm. Throughout his time with the firm, curiosity has led him to some unexpected opportunities.

Meet David

When David first joined the profession, he didn’t have a grand plan and thought he’d leave upon qualification. But through the variety of topics and the diversity of people, he has found the firm to be a place of constant learning and challenge. He’s always looking for the next opportunity to learn something new - whether that’s tackling Brexit, grasping our sustainability strategy or understanding what it means to be an ally. With a bit of punk music in the background. Here’s his story.

1. Sport was everything

“When I was young, my life began and ended with sport. It was all I ever thought about – at school, lessons were an unnecessary distraction from playing cricket or hockey or basketball or rugby. I come from a family that loves sport – it’s always been a consistent connection point.

At the time, I wanted to be a PE teacher. In a different life I could have been in a tracksuit standing on the side lines watching the under 11s play football. Later, I played both rugby union and rugby league for my university and had big ambitions. But then I got badly injured during my second year, and that was pretty much it. I only played a few games after that.

I studied at the University of Leeds. I was interested in studying history at first but decided to go for economics instead, because I thought it might help in a business career. I was quite an arty person – English literature was my big passion and I love reading. But I found a love for numbers and maths during my degree.

All the way through my sixth form and holidays at university, I worked in the local branch of Waitrose to earn a living. My next career choice was joining the graduate scheme at the supermarket, but I didn’t get on it. So I applied to the accounting firms with a view to doing my exams, getting the qualifications, and moving into the corporate world.”

“Until university, my life began and ended with sport.“

2. If not you, who?

"I soon found the variety and challenge I wanted here at Deloitte, so I stayed. I like that the firm is a place of constant stimulation and learning for me. I’ve worked in three different businesses since joining. I’ve done global and local roles, and my remit is now North and South Europe.

I’ve worked across different areas too. I put my hand up to lead our Brexit work a few years ago, and I’m now sponsoring WorldClimate, our firmwide climate strategy. Just by having a curiosity about the new, I’ve had a ringside seat for two really big issues of the day, of the generation. How cool is that!?

Brexit was difficult. It was complicated. We were in uncharted territory politically, economically and in business and had to contend with as many views as you could possibly get! But someone had to try and make sense of it and develop something for the firm, so I thought, why not? I’m interested in it; I’ll have a go.

We built a team with people from international trade, from politics, tax, supply chain – from all areas. It was like an orchestra. Everyone had their role, and everyone needed each other for it to work – an orchestra with no percussion would sound terrible. You might not like the violin, but an orchestra can’t work without it.

And the same with WorldClimate at the moment. Lots to learn, but it’s important to know what you don’t know – and finding good people. Where you succeed in the firm is when you build a strong, mixed team. I’ve been fortunate in so many roles that I’ve had a great team around me.”

“A good team is like an orchestra. Everyone needs each other for it to work.“

3. People not like me

“The firm I joined was not the most diverse. Very male dominated. Most people came from similar backgrounds: just lots of carbon copies of me. Now, with the changes and developments, it’s a much richer environment to work in. I’d rather work with people who are not me – for the breadth of experience and the diversity of thought.

Many years ago now, I made an awkward mistake that made me quite cross with myself – and it changed a lot for me. I called a female colleague to congratulate her on being promoted to director. I said, ‘hopefully this weekend, you’ll go out and celebrate with your husband.’ She didn’t have a husband – but a girlfriend. It was clumsy of me, and I was curious as to why I had made that embarrassing assumption.

I talked to the team about it and wrote a piece about what I’d learnt for our intranet, which caused some surprise and started some great conversations. People stopped me in reception to talk and admit they’d made similar assumptions, too.

It was the start of our Allies programme, which allows anyone to meaningfully support Proud at Deloitte, our LGBTQ+ network – you can read more about them in Will’s story. Through learning from that clumsy assumption, I’ve met some brilliant people I might not have met otherwise. And while I only played a small part in the programme, I’m very proud of what we did.”

“I’d rather work with people who are not me – for the breadth of experience.“

4. Here for each other

“We all make mistakes. As a relatively new partner, I made a mistake on an engagement and was worried about it. I had a great boss and felt really comfortable talking to him. He pulled the team around me – feeling that team power was quite incredible – and I learnt a strong lesson that the firm is not about individuals.

On another occasion, Kathryn, my wife, was rushed to hospital. I was dragged out of a meeting. I left without even clearing my desk and didn’t come back for three or four weeks. That evening, the partner group met to share out my work and had my back while I was away.

It was 2006 but I remember it like it was yesterday. At a very difficult, low moment for me, the way the partners and broader team supported me made me determined to pay that back in some way. We’re very good at supporting each other when things get difficult – I love that about the firm."

“The way the partners and broader team supported me made me determined to pay that back in some way.“

5. Stay curious

“People close to me know that I work a lot and I am not always the best role model for work-life balance. This is something I continually have to work on. But I do like exercise and music.

I love my vinyl collection and listening to loud music – mainly punk – and the louder the better! My current favourite is The War on Drugs, a Philadelphia band I saw in Birmingham a few weeks ago. Great band.

And this is slightly strange, but I’ve just taken up bowls. The Norfolk village I live in has a bowling green and one of my retired friends asked me if I wanted to play… and I quite enjoyed it. So I’ve joined the bowls club and am in the summer league (I have lost my first three games though…). The mix of people I meet there is fascinating!

I’m in my early 50s and have been a partner for 21 years now, and I’m still learning – maybe at a greater rate of knots than at other points in my career. A final bit of advice I’d give people is to be curious and not be afraid to try something new.

Embrace the variety the firm or wherever you work offers. You’ll have a lot of fun if you do that. It will help you work on different teams with different – and really interesting – people and different clients. Just think of all the things you’ll learn.”

“Don’t be afraid to try something new. Just think of all the things you’ll learn.“

Five things we learnt from Emma

1. If not you, who? Don’t be afraid to give something a go.

2. It’s never about individuals. A good team is everything.

3. It’s okay to make mistakes. Just learn all you can from them.

4. Support people when things are difficult. They’ll do the same for you

5. Stay curious. Embrace variety. You’ll have a lot of fun.

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