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Five things that made me

How Steve got to where he is now

Five things that made me’ shares stories of senior leaders at Deloitte. This month, Steve Xing – our Business Modelling & Analytics lead and sponsor of our Multicultural Network – steps into the spotlight.

Meet Steve

This is Steve. His eternal curiosity and drive to learn has taken him on an adventure from star-gazing child in China to Deloitte UK partner. The delight he finds in his own work motivates and reassures his team, but it’s been a journey to get here. Here’s his story.

1. Reach for the stars

“I was born and raised in a city called Changsha in Hunan province, southern China. I’m a first generation “one-child policy”, so I grew up with no brothers or sisters and had a lot of time to look up into the skies and ponder. I was fascinated by stars and dreamt of being an astrophysicist or astronomer.

Dad was a university lecturer and exposed me to maths and physics very young – he had a huge influence on me albeit I didn’t always love the math exercises he set for me. As I became fascinated by numbers and data, I found myself naturally wanting to understand the patterns and meaning behind the figures.

I moved to the UK to study economics when I was 18. Leaving my parents to start a new chapter in my life in a completely new environment was quite daunting. I was used to spending most of my time in the library and studying, so learning to have a British social life was a bit of a cultural shock. Going clubbing in the UK for the first time was a whole new experience!”

“Starting a new life in a different country was quite daunting, but it taught me to be adaptable and look at things from a different perspective.”

2. A turning tide

“After university, I had three graduate jobs on the table. I picked the trainee accountant route believing this would give me a solid foundation whilst studying towards the ACA. More importantly, the people I met during my interviews really made me feel that I would be part of a team that will support my development.

Being part of a small financial modelling team, I had the great opportunity doing the things I was good at and interested in – becoming a bit of an Excel and Database whizz-kid. I thought it was amazing. I loved that I was earning money playing with spreadsheets and models I’d worked on in my spare time at uni!

One of the highlights during the early stage of my career happened in 2008 when I was seconded to Lehman Brothers’ securitisation team. I had a front-row seat seeing the financial crisis unfolding – long before films like ‘Margin Call’ and ‘The Big Short’ came out. I worked alongside some truly bright and driven people who did their utmost to turn the tide. It wasn’t meant to be, and to this day, it’s probably the project I found most challenging.

“I was earning money doing what I did for fun in my spare time. It was amazing.”

3. The big picture

“When Deloitte approached me in late 2014 to build a modelling & analytics team focused on servicing financial services clients, I felt excited to be given the opportunity and I was confident that I could do it – supported by many inspirational leaders around me. I assumed this team, like the one I co-founded in another ‘Big 4’, would take four years to take shape, but with a clear focus and a talented team, we created a £5m business in just two years. And that earnt me the partnership.

In my journey to becoming a leader, I learnt a lot by making mistakes. In those small early teams, I often went to the nth degree on one project or client, forgetting the bigger picture. I’d get great feedback, but didn’t spend enough time focusing on what was next or strategically think through how to scale. Now, I have learnt the importance of giving myself the space and time to properly think and refine a compelling vision and growth strategy for the group.

Another big lesson was letting go of this idea of needing to be good at everything. I had to recognise my limits and draw on my team’s strengths. Now, I see my role as more of a safety net: when things are going well, I support with a light touch and look for new opportunities, new themes, new markets. And in rough seas, I steady the ship, letting them know I’m there and it’s going to be fine.”

“As I leader, I see it as my role to provide my team with reassurance when things are tough, and give them space to grow when things are going well.”

4. Finding meaning

“Looking around me now, to have built and be able to lead a team of 70 people is hugely gratifying and quite humbling. Having a group of exceptionally talented, driven and collaborative people around me gives work meaning, and working with the team to turn ideas into reality is very exciting.

Outside of the day job, I’m involved in quite a lot of things, and a big driver for that is my heritage. I chair our Chinese Services Group for Deloitte North and South Europe, a dedicated network committed to supporting Chinese companies going global and multinationals doing business in China. And I’m particularly proud to sponsor our Multicultural Network in the UK, which includes our East Asia community.

There aren’t many leaders in our UK firm who look like me and have my background, so it’s both a privilege and a duty to share and celebrate that. It's a natural role for me as I’m bilingual and know both cultures. I wouldn’t brand myself a role model or pretend to have all the answers, but I can definitely empathise with some of the challenges people face and offer my perspectives and support as they shape their own success in the firm.”

“There aren’t many leaders who look like me and have my background, so it’s both a privilege and a duty to celebrate that.”

5. Balance is a moment

“The world is changing. There’s so many new technologies, new challenges, and new ideas coming out every day. For a naturally curious person like me, that’s what excites me and gets me up. I’m proud in what I’ve achieved and look forward to doing a lot more.

I’ve come to accept that, in our line of work, it can be challenging to insist on finding the perfect work-life balance. The pandemic helped me realise that balance tends to be a moment, not a sustainable state. There are times work is going to be hard or life throws ‘curve balls’ and other times when it’s more plain sailing, and gives us time to recuperate and reflect. No one can be on 100 per cent of the time.

I still look at the sky and take photos of the Milky Way and the Northern Lights when I can get to Greenland, Iceland or Norway. I do triathlon, I swim, I ride bikes, I run. I love windsurfing and sailing. And one of my proudest moments was finishing the first Yorkshire marathon in front of my old university. As my family often reminds me: being a Big Four partner is not my whole identity.

My advice to people? Stay curious, have an interest in the things around you and keep learning. Because life isn’t about the end goal.”

“Stay curious and keep learning. Life isn’t about the end goal.”

Five things we learnt from Steve

1.Find what makes you tick and what you’re good at. It’ll guide you.

2.Even in a job you love, take a step back. It doesn’t have to absorb you.

3.Opportunities come to pass, not to pause. Take them with both hands.

4.You’re much more than your job title. Find meaning outside of work.

5.Enjoy the ebb and flow of work and life. Time to recharge is important.

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