Picture this. It is the year of the rugby world cup. You arrive at Twickenham Stadium, home to England Rugby. You are guided through the players tunnel picking up a glass of prosecco or two en route. You step out onto the pitch and take in the grandiosity of your surroundings. This can only mean one thing. We have made it to Talent 15.
9,398 applications were made, 2085 digital interviews were conducted, 682 assessment centres were held resulting in 462 offers made to school leavers, graduates, interns and business placements. Talent 15 is this group of promising associates who made it, then descended on Twickenham Stadium in August to be officially welcomed to the firm.
One of those associates was me, Danni, who joined London Public Sector Audit In January and was later joined by the rest of the new PSA peer group in September. I am keen to share my experience of the event which reminded me of why I applied to Grant Thornton.
Day 1 – Networking, ping pong …and overcoming your fears
The event kicked off with a formal dinner .Our table had new joiners from across the country and a variety of service lines. As the wine flowed so did the conversations with like-minded, down to earth colleagues, creating a very relaxed atmosphere. Our guest speaker – in line with our sporting surroundings at Twickenham- was Richard Whitehead, a gold winning Para-Olympian. He reminded us that having fears is ok, and that you can overcome them to achieve any goal. This made me reflect on my nervousness about the qualification I would be undertaking – the integrated ICAS and CIPFA qualification. Coming from a non-accountancy background, my fear was to be ill-prepared for my exams. However, having had my first dose of college, I am well supported by my tutors and the firm, confirming Richard’s key message: I can pass as long as I set it as a goal. After the three scrumptious dinner courses and a couple of rounds of ping pong we headed back to our luxurious hotel, the Sofitel.
Day 2 – Fun and games…and the importance of being yourself
My wake up call went off at 07:00 ready to head back over to Twickenham for 08:30AM! As we entered the conference suit we were given whistles, blow up objects to bang together and items to make as much of a racket as possible (I chuckled at those who had one too many beverages the night before). The day was themed around sports (not the physical kind, thank goodness!) but the sporting mentality. This mentality is similar to the CLEARR values which I’m sure you will have read about.
Split into teams comprising associates from various regional offices and service lines we were introduced to the ‘gym’ and its various activity stations. They mainly focused on what it meant to be a GT employee and the team culture we should strive towards. For example, one activity station tested our puzzle-solving skills and encouraged us to think outside the box. We were given a number of riddles, sequences or optical illusions to solve with no obvious answers. This exercise was to remind us that problem-solving skills can be applied in a fun way to our professional qualifications, exam questions but equally, to how we interact with clients, look at the challenges they face and the factors that make them tick . Furthermore, we could use these to develop more creative and innovative ways of working.
At another station we used our posture and body language to demonstrate confidence. We then discussed what confidence meant to us and how import it is to have confidence in everything you do, especially the kind of confidence that motivates you to ask that question, raise your hand and try something new. In PSA audit we often take on a lot of responsibility from an early stage; associates often ‘in-charge’ jobs, which means leading the team and being the main point of contact for clients. Most importantly, we learnt confidence is not about being the loudest but more about believing in yourself and your ability to learn and develop.
After we were all ‘gym-ed’ out, we had some scrummy Thai green curry for lunch. Re-energised by more whistling we welcomed the leadership team with a couple of rounds of noisy cheer. Our CEO Sacha Romanovitch reminded us to always be ourselves, and as the day drew to a close I left the stadium with the feeling that we are one team and that people stand at the centre of what makes Grant Thornton great.
Events like these confirm what it means to start your career with Grant Thornton. To me, it is a combination of being yourself, thinking differently, and using this individuality to achieve your personal goals but to also take an active part in setting the goals of the firm you are proud to be a part of.