Leaving big 4 - my reflections one year post leaving Deloitte

I leave everything on the table. Here are my reflections one year post leaving Deloitte.

Leaving big 4 - my reflections one year post leaving Deloitte
Time flies when you're having fun

Up until November 2022, I spent my entire professional life at Deloitte, level 19 477 Collins Street Melbourne. After 3 great years of stomping the grounds, cementing myself as one of the greatest consultants Deloitte has ever seen. I have now accepted a new role.

On my first day of my new job, I enter the ground reception - I am given my laptop, and to my dismay, instead of being directed the lift up to the higher floors... I am taken down a set of stairs... exit the building... and head into a separate space further downstairs (which later I find out has been aptly called "the dungeon"). The space seemed dystopian.... no one in the office and there is barely any light (there were no windows, except the side facing the street). As I sit in my allocated seat and absorb my reality, I am embraced by the last breaths of a spluttering old school printer (or is that a fax machine?).

As the clock strikes midday, a subtle yet undeniable urgency courses through the air, guiding me towards the sacred sanctum of domestic serenity – the bathroom. For those who know me, you know I am an avid connoisseur of bathrooms, their lighting and décor. The bathroom in my view, reflects the history, personality of the building. It later becomes evident to me that this building has had less effort put in it than a diet plan during a dessert festival. “It’s not always about the looks” I tell myself. I do my business and I proceed to flush– shock – nothing happens. I try to flush again – nothing happens – turns out its one of those toilets where you need to press the button at a certain angle. I learnt the hard way.

The toilet finally flushes, and the feeling of relief courses through my body. I turn to the sink, the mirror designed in a way that you could not see my disappointed face (no more mirror selfies I tell myself). As I wash my hands, three words came in my mind:

a visual description of me not seeing my disappointed face

what the fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

It all suddenly comes rushing to me, did I make a mistake?

The Big D

My time at Deloitte was defined by unforgettable memories, the work I did was interesting, I had a great team, support system and I felt like I belonged. Sure, I had my fair share of "trial by fires". But like a phoenix, I rose out of the flames, slightly chargrilled but with a strengthened resolve and vigour to jump in the next fire. It’s those times in your professional life that really test you, but you are grateful for what the experience shaped you to be. For example, my second day working at Deloitte I was already up at 9pm, listening to Spanish ladies on YouTube on how to do an index match (ese es loco). On another project, I was up at 8am in the morning in meeting with a South American team and still on at 2am later that day (is it really the same day) to have a call with them after they had left work, had dinner, had an entire life, woke up and I was still there to have a call with them. Or another time where I learnt how to code over the weekend and had to present my findings to an executive team like I knew how to code my entire life (Cheers to you, Lewis Tracey).

All these trials, while tough, made me feel like I could face any future challenge and I genuinely believed that my 3 years at Deloitte was equivalent to 5 years at any other role, after all, my experiences were so diversified, and I was always learning new skills. I am grateful that my work was also recognised, and I was so proud to have broken the sound barrier when I was promoted to senior con in one year (it was rarely heard of, if ever!).

Leaving the big D

So if everything was so great, why leave?

Truthfully, while I enjoyed my time at Deloitte, there was always this lingering feeling inside me that whispered “there’s more out there”. I think for me it boiled down to two factors:

-       Pay:  I think this is a factor you have to talk about as you leave big 4. Everyone tries to talk around it, but the truth is - it is the most practical thing that relates to your life. When I was up working those late nights, one thought always came back… “If I worked hourly at Macca’s, I’d probably make more”.

-       Type of work: While I was constantly learning, the work I did was specialised and I always wanted to try to dabble into projects that was more end-to-end.

Your factors might be different from mine and that is totally fine.

What now

Now that I have been gone for a year, I am glad to say I don’t regret my decision to leave at all. The work I do is totally different from what I imagined, I love what I do, the support I get and the people I work with. Yes, I will always miss Deloitte (and especially its people), but I am glad I made the move.

Although there are certain aspects of luck that have contributed to where I am now, I think my current position is the result of following a few key principles I stuck to as I was leaving. Some peers have reached out to me and have asked me for some advice so I thought it would be good to share these principles.

  1. Don't close doors - be open to every opportunity. When I was originally contacted about my current role, I would be lying if I said I was interested. However, instead of dismissing the idea, I was keen to understand more about the role and to my surprise it turned out to be exactly the opportunity I was looking for.
  2. Don't focus on the money. Isn’t it ironic that I literally told you I left partly for the money but now telling you don’t focus on the money haha - Hear me out!!!

    Clearly, when leaving big 4 you want to be compensated / "paid out" for the hard yards you put in and your subjective market value.

    Nonetheless, I have to emphasise that the financial aspect shouldn't be all and end all. If you are currently at a big 4, chances are you will do fine down the track. The general rule is that the highest paying offer may not always be the best offer. Sometimes I think about the time I had a chat with another recruiter after I declined their very generous offer because I accepted my current role - "we can pay you more if that's the issue" (Damn, you should have told me that in the first place!).

So how do you know what is the best offer? There are a couple of signposts that an offer is worth considering.

  1. The role has great learning opportunities and career progression. Read that again.
  2. Make sure it is the right team. In your interviews, your interviews should be as much as interviewing your potential team, and the workplace as much as it is about interviewing about your capability to handle the responsibility of the role at hand. You will spend at least 8 hours a day with these people, for 5 days a week - I don't know about you but that is more than any other people in my life!!!! So make sure it is with people you genuinely think you can spend time working with.
  3. Think of your career like a story - what story do you want for you career? Make your career choices with the tale you want to tell in mind.

Now you're set on this role, make sure you don't:

  1. Burn bridges. It is so easy to say “thanks for all the good memories, NOT” and walk away. Leaving doesn't mean torching relationships, you never know where you might be in the future!

So what?

It would be amiss of me to not finish this reflection with the “so what?” of this reflection.

For me, I now do work that is completely different from what I would have envisioned leaving Deloitte doing, but for the better, I love what I do.

The truth is leaving your current job is often daunting, you will find yourself often facing into unknowns and you will always be shrouded by the grains of doubt. However, by taking into account the steps above, you are positioning yourself for success.