From botany to business: my experience with Deloitte
A huge part of what guides me in life are two simple questions: does it scare me and will I regret it in five years? If I’m scared it means I’m out of my comfort zone, that outer realm where we can develop. If I regret it in 5 years it’s clearly a decision that pushed too far out of the comfort zone. These were the questions I was asking myself as I headed to an interview for an internship at Deloitte. Even before I chose to study botany in college I always had a niggling feeling that I wanted to learn more about business. Studying science was a great choice and I had incredible mentors, but I wanted to see if I could apply the skills I learned outside the lab. Choosing to pursue a consulting internship at Deloitte was the best way to see what was growing in both gardens (pun intended).
I felt out of place in the interview despite the incredibly nice interviewers. And when I was lucky enough to get the internship this feeling hung on for a couple more weeks. Which was good, because it meant I was out of my comfort zone. After spending the last 4 years studying botany, wearing a lab coat most days and learning about the intricacies of photosynthetic pathways (C3, C4, and CAM for the botany nerds) it was rightly weird wearing a suit to work and researching the in’s and out’s of business.
Looking back now after finishing up an incredible internship recently, a few things come to mind.
The first thing that struck me was how trusting and empowering management was. Despite having no experience in the area I was working in, I was thrown head first into assignments. By the end of the internship a lot of my work had been proposed to clients and I even had the opportunity to present to clients. In meetings, my opinion was valued and I felt empowered to speak up and contribute. At the same time everyone was happy to answer all of my questions and provided awesome guidance.
This leads into the second thing that stood out to me: the fact that Deloitte has such a flat structure. I was honestly quite nervous at the start when I was talking with senior management, but after a while I just got used to it. It felt almost like there was less emphasis on who you were and more on what you thought and what you could contribute. This specific part of the Deloitte culture made my team an absolute joy to work with and made me look forward to every day.
Something else that I really didn’t expect was the level of enterprise and agility at a company as large as Deloitte. In one case, I asked a director if he could tell me more about the area he worked in, and within a few weeks it had developed into an insight session that I was helping facilitate so that all the interns could learn more. Coming from a science background it was really comforting to work in an environment that valued such learning and creativity.
After finishing the internship I realised that I had developed skills that not only makes my work better, but also more enjoyable to do. A big part of consulting is about thinking quickly, learning to recognise what a client needs and going about fulfilling this with efficiency and creativity. For great companies, people really are their greatest asset, and the people there are pretty awesome to work with. I think the people at Deloitte can be summed up by a conversation I had with a manager at the annual BBQ: when I asked him what advice he had, he said ‘I value all people equally, everyone has a story and ideas to share regardless of what level they are or who they are. When you respect everyone you make the world a better place’. To me this reasoning sums up everything that Deloitte, and companies like them, represent. It doesn’t matter what degree background you have, it’s the ideas and contribution you make that matters the most.