Making connections – starting your apprenticeship during the pandemic | Deloitte UK has been saved
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To mark Apprenticeship Week Wales, Andrew Hughes, who joined the firm in September, reflects on starting his apprenticeship during the pandemic and ways in which he’s been able to connect with colleagues and embrace life at Deloitte.
I’m one of a growing number of a unique demographic of new starters at Deloitte, and also around the rest of the UK, in that I’m a cyberstarter! Meaning that, throughout my entire Deloitte experience so far, I have never met my fellow employees in person nor have I ever seen inside the office where I’m technically based.
Home working has been the norm for most of my colleagues for almost a year now and for some, the workplace of the ‘old days’ is a distant memory – but my experience of working for Deloitte is different. Since I started as an apprentice in September, I’ve been entirely based in my front room.
Working remotely as a new starter has presented its challenges. Like anyone who starts a new career, your immediate objectives are naturally to get to know your team and find your place in the business – but how do you do this when a large part of your early experience is talking to a carousel of voices on Skype?
Thankfully, Deloitte has gone out of their way to make this transition as smooth as possible for me.
A few days before my start date, I received my laptop and headset via courier. Several Zoom induction sessions followed, both local and firm wide. From day one, every effort was made to make me feel welcome and a very clear message came through to me: there would always be somebody available to talk me through the early stages.
I was introduced to my team and again, they all made every effort to reach out to me to make connections. It is telling that, although I may never have left my front room, within days I was made to feel an integral part of my team, department and the firm at large.
However, these early stages were not without some challenges. For example, the first department-wide meeting I attended really brought home that, while the processes in place had allowed me to make lasting connections with my immediate team, I was part of a much larger department of hundreds of people. Meaning, unless I IM’d each person individually to introduce myself, it wouldn’t be a simple undertaking to connect with them.
I didn’t let that put me off. Before I started my apprenticeship I had seen the movie Yes Man with Jim Carrey and, in the spirit of that film, I decided that every opportunity that hit my inbox, regardless of size or impact, I would sign up and put my heart and soul into it.
By doing this, I would surely connect with some colleagues around the business. And as a result of this mindset, I am proud to say that I have been a part of some fantastic extracurricular activities and have met some wonderful people.
Through joining Deloitte’s Gender Balance Network, which helps to promote a more gender-balanced workforce at our firm, I’ve met interesting people from all over the business. The South West & Wales network also organised an online event to mark International Men’s Day in November which I attended. It was open to Deloitte people of all genders and gave us the opportunity to hear from male colleagues about some of the issues and challenges they face both as men and working at Deloitte, as well as share their experiences.
I also signed up for Coffee Club, a way for Deloitte people to meet someone new, share our experiences and discover what an amazingly diverse business we are. Through this online club, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a Tax Analyst who makes incredible short films, someone I would never have met during my day-to-day work. But it is in charity work where I have spent the majority of my time and made the most impact.
Getting involved with Llamau, Deloitte’s charity partner in Cardiff, was a great way to start. One of our fundraising activities for Llamau has been a sponsored ‘Sleep Out’. I’m told the previous year’s event involved sleeping out at Cardiff Castle during a rainy night in December. But the 2020 socially distanced equivalent was a sponsored Stay Up challenge: a team of Deloitte people from the Cardiff office staying up all night between 7am and 7pm on a Friday night in October.
To make the most of the night, the team set up hourly Zoom events and games for us to join. I volunteered to host a game of Scattergories, complete with theme music and a suit! Over the night, I had a lot of fun and made more connections with like-minded colleagues, all for a good cause. We ended up raising over £6,000 for Llamau, which supports homeless young people and vulnerable women in Wales.
That was in October. You must remember, I only joined the firm in September so I thought I was doing rather well in finding ways to integrate my remote working self into life at Deloitte and meet colleagues from all areas of our operations in Cardiff.
This brings us to November. The opportunity to spearhead the department’s Movember campaign, along with my colleague Dan, soon came around. In case you’re not aware, Movember is an annual fundraising event involving the growing of moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of men's health issues, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men's suicide.
The four-week campaign was a fantastic opportunity to get to know more people in my department as it was a more locally focussed activity. Coined the ‘Five O’Clock Shadows’, our team of MoBros did a fantastic job and we ended up raising over £3,000 after Deloitte fund matching. We held a number of virtual events, including quizzes, challenges and a sweepstake, and were overwhelmed by the response and support from the department and company at large.
Next on my agenda is successfully completing my year-long apprenticeship and becoming a permanent Deloitter! I hope that I can get involved in some more fundraising activities and, of course, keep progressing within my role.
I hope one day to progress to a management position within my department, Engagement Support Services, but at the moment I’m taking it one day at a time! I have thoroughly enjoyed my first five months at the firm and I look forward to when we can return to the office, for that’s when I’ll be able to finally meet my new friends and colleagues in person.
Apprenticeship Week Wales celebrates apprenticeships and the value they bring to employers and learners across Wales.
Deloitte is a supporter of Apprenticeship Week Wales and, by sharing our stories, we would like to encourage everyone to consider how apprenticeships can help individuals to develop the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career. We’re one of a number of employers celebrating the apprenticeship community, highlighting the opportunities to earn a wage and gain new skills and qualifications, and showcasing the resilience of apprentices and their employers during the pandemic.
Explore Deloitte’s virtual Spring careers festival, a programme of virtual events that potential applicants can join, as well as parents, teachers and careers advisors. These range from discovery sessions, where people can chat online with our student recruitment team or current apprentices, skills workshops as well as ‘Meet Deloitte’ sessions.