Saturday, July 30, 2011

Three years journey in PwC

On 2nd of June 2008, I embarked my journey within the firm, suffering a pay cut from my previous job. It takes a lot of courage for a person to suffer a pay cut. Neither am I a person who come from a well-off family whom have the benefit of working for interest nor was I a person who hated my previous job utterly that I would rather suffer a pay cut to move on. I was determined to set my foot in financial audit industry and I was determined to be in the firm that I've always wanted to work in while I was a college student.

I had 18 months working experience but I was offered a fresh graduate position. In the previous smaller firm, I was kind of a performer with frequent compliments from bosses. Needless to say, with the "big numbers" of experience in my mind and spoilt with compliments, I wasn't humble. I was an arrogant idiot who thought of herself as a much competent associate as compared to her peers, just because she had 18 months experience. Now that I've grown, learnt and developed with the years within the firm, I thought to myself, "Hell, you are one kind of an idiot back then."

With my head and hopes held high, my journey started with a three-weeks intensive training for a fresh graduate. It was filled with team building activities, sharing session lunches & dinners with peers, career coach, seniors & bosses, classroom training of the firm's administrative tools & practice methodology, tea-break sessions and not to mention a graduation party where the parents are invited. Upon completion of the training, I was overwhelmed and excited with the people representing the firm, the budget allocated to train people and the various system software & applications of the firm.

Thereafter, we were released to the realistic side of the firm. We were like a bunch of GRO-s, sitting at a corner, waiting eagerly for bosses or practice operation (administrative department who assist in allocating resources to client jobs) to book us on job. Among my peers within my own industry, I was the first to be booked. As I remember how a college peer had once told me, in a big firm, it very much depends on whether you set off your right foot in the firm. Being the first to be booked, you would've thought I was the blessed one. No, I wasn't. Or perhaps I was but I screwed up the opportunity given.

On the first client job and on the first day I met my senior, I informed her, "By the way, this is not my first job. I have some experience in audit." What on earth was I thinking back then?!?!?! I would say, arrogant and eager to impress. On the fifth day of the job, I was called to speak in private with her and the conversation goes:
Her: Can you tell me the progress of your work
Me: I've managed to complete one section. Now I'm starting on the second section.
Her: Do you think your progress is a bit slow? (I was supposed to complete five sections in ten days time)
Me: Yeah, I agree I'm kinda slow. 
Her: I would say, you are slightly below average. Our firm is very competitive. You need to put in more effort in your work. I hope you can take this positively. (In the end, she graded me as a "D" grader, performing below average and "E" is the lowest grading)
On the second client job, I was determined to improve. I didn't screw up, performing quite well I would say but some call it "as expected". I would not say I was disciplined though. The senior was strict.
1st day: I arrived at quarter past nine, later than him. I pulled out one of the invoices file and began my vouching work. Scrutinizing the supporting documents for my first sample, he asked, "Why are you scrutinizing the documents for so long? If you take more than 5 minutes to vouch a sample, it means you don't know how to do it."
2nd day: I arrived at half past nine, later than him again. I was partying the night before that and I'm pretty sure my breath smelt of whiskey. Upon arrival, he gave me a disapproving look and said, "Can you please drink some water to freshen up yourself before you talk to the client?"
3rd day: I arrived earlier than him and that was because he took half day off. Upon his arrival, he  checked on my progress for the first half of the day. After reporting to him my tasks completed, he asked, "How long did you take to do this section? If you take more than 30 minutes, it means you don't know how to do it."
4th day: Leaving the client office in the evening, I packed some of the files and documents to catch up on my work from home. He asked, "Why are you packing files home? We want efficient but not hardworking staff. Even I myself don't work after I leave the client office." 
On the third client job with the same strict senior, I was growing and disciplined. On one of the days while we were walking back to the client office after lunch, I excused myself for an after-meal smoke. Later when I was back in the office, he snapped,"We were sharing some information which you were not aware because you went smoking." Subsequent to the client job, he dropped me an email apologizing for his harsh comment on my smoking habit.

Sharing my experience of my first three client jobs, I would say the experience was... unique. Thereafter, I was based in office for some time. Often begging for client jobs, but wasn't allocated much. There were times when I was allocated to assist in paper shredding (what a demoralizing task).

Three months down the road, I was giving up and looking for a new job. But alas, it was late 2008 and it was the global economy crisis. Most companies / firms had freeze recruitment and for those which didn't, I would need to be performing above average in the interview in order to secure the job. I wasn't the chosen one, without doubt, considering that I was looking for a new job when I was only three months old in the firm. It is not a thing appreciated by the corporate recruitment culture in Asian countries.

Twelve months down the road, I tendered hastily and retracted after a long hard thought over the decision. I didn't want to be traveling on frequent basis, bearing in mind that I was dating a guy whom my love for him had grown abundantly ("past-tense').  I was proud to be working in the firm. I was not willing to give up the branding provided by the firm and I was not willing to give up without the acknowledgement that I was performing above average. I was graded as a "C" grader, performing as expected.

Two years down the road, I was promoted to Senior. With my promotion and new role, my opinion of the two seniors mentioned above changed. They were not nasty, harsh or strict. They were just some stressed-out seniors, juggling with various tasks and allocated with an associate (me), whom is 'very young in the firm'.

Three years down the road, I was graded as a "B" grader, performing above average. Feedback received from my career coach, "During the staff review meeting, comments were you are a hardworking and dedicated staff, with strong leadership skills."

Recently, I received an email reading as follow:

Dear all,
Following our Townhall meeting yesterday, I would like to re-present the list of WoW award winners from MMG for the last quarter ! 
Here are the Winners ......YOU ......Why you ?? 
Because we think YOU are AweSome ! We want to recognise YOU who have gone beyond the call of duty and walked the extra mile either demonstrating the PwC Experience behaviours  or/ and contributions to overall efficiency of the assignments. 
Keep up the excellent momentum ! 
You may collect your award certificates and "Delicious Vouchers"  from me directly or through Cindy.
Satisfied? Yes, very. I'm beginning to see the recognition I have in the firm. Do I think I'm competent? No, I'm not. They don't have much choices as most of the experienced seniors have left the firm. Do I think I'm hardworking? No, I'm not. I'm generally a lazy person but when deadlines are pushing, we don't have a choice but to push ourself to unknown limits. Do I still like audit? Yes, I do as the learning curve is still there. I like managing my team and managing my client. I like to be in a revenue generating unit (audit department in an accounting firm) rather than be in a cost centre (finance department in a company). I like the flexibility in the working locations and flexibility in the working commencement hours (I usually arrive work at 10a.m these days and occasionally, I have the privilege to skip work without taking leave provided I'm ahead of my tasks). I like debating on issues and different views of accounting standards (sometimes auditing can be an art rather than just accounting, you will only understand if you are an auditor or you were an auditor).

Few days ago, I received a call from Tesco. They offered me the position. I accepted the offer (myself half heartedly).  

Yesterday morning, I happily went in to HR Avenue (web-based HR tool) to view my latest pay-slip. It was our bonus day and salary increment day. The bonus was as expected but the salary increment was disappointing.

Later in the evening, I met up with A. Reassured him that I'm joining Tesco. (myself determined this time).

No matter how much I like doing audit, I would say at the moment, I like $$$ better.