“Why are the HR interns here?” a sharp voice rang out. I turned around, away from my friends and faced my senior - usually a quirky, upbeat lady with a penchant for worrying. Not today, though. Faced with the pressure of mounting deadlines, she was more stressed than usual. “They offered to give me a ride to the Deloitte movie night,” I replied cautiously, as the other interns inched away. “We got Star Trek tickets.”
Her expression softened considerably. “I didn’t realise that you were attending movie night,” she mused. “After you’re done with the current year report, you can go.” I glanced at my friends quickly, pleading them to wait. They nodded their heads. “Thank you,” I said gratefully, before I continued punching numbers into an Excel sheet. Being part of Deloitte's Audit team - “the breadwinners”, we were called - was no easy task. Today had been more taxing than usual, and through the windows in the distance, the Petronas Twin Towers beckoned, glowing in the evening sun.
It had been two years since I had last set foot in Kuala Lumpur, and five since I had worked in the city as a journalist with The Star, a leading Malaysian newspaper. Deloitte was an unconventional choice for a first-year student. Notoriously picky with their interns, the organisation had high expectations, high stress levels, and was embroiled in the heart of a political scandal... you would think that the air would be taut with tension. But it wasn’t – instead, the atmosphere was one of warmth and welcome. The audit team I was placed with was mostly made up of staff assistants just a few years older than I, and my senior and manager were both young at heart. A team made up of Malay, Chinese and Indian ethnicities, they made me feel welcome in the way that Malaysians do: through constant lunch outings, spending half an hour pondering over what pizza to order on late nights, a shared love of Pokemon Go, and a snarky sense of humour that carried us through the hardest times.
As an intern, I initially struggled to learn on the job, but my teammates were always there to help me through. The first time I worked independently on some financial statements, a teammate looked at me quizzically, “Are you sure you know how to do the cash flow statements?” she asked. “Those are pretty tricky.” And they were, especially when I was still getting used to Deloitte’s internal information management systems, with its endless numbers and acronyms. I shot her an easy smile. “I’ll ask for help if I get stuck,” I said brightly, picking up thick blue folders of company records and legal documents. Everything that I needed was either in the system or in the folders. I still had Business 251 notes in Google Drive. How hard could it be, right?
Wrong. I struggled with one statement for over an hour, until another teammate came along to check on me, and showed me where I was going wrong. Seeing my expression of disappointment, he smiled. “Don’t worry,” he said, passing me some chocolate, “even I still ask my seniors for help, sometimes.” Within three weeks, I was trusted enough to do client reports on my own, only having to send them for a check to ensure they met Deloitte’s standards.
Of course, work wasn’t my favourite part of working at Deloitte. It was the workplace activities that made Deloitte so special. While no special intern events were organised, there were a multitude of other events going on: Toastmaster events with the other Big Four firms, movie nights at specially-booked theatres, inter-department sports championships, Impact Day, blood drives, the annual Dinner & Dance... the list goes on. The Clients & Markets department, which was in charge of hosting most internal and external events, had three interns whom I became friends with. And on slow days in the Audit department, I would be go to the 15th floor, and help C&M with preparations for the annual Impact Day. Whether it was preparing goodie bags for visiting VIPs, or setting up lunch on site.
The fear that many of my friends have about internships is that they’ll be stuck being the coffee boy or girl, but that often isn’t true. Most times, you get real work and real experience. Perhaps I’m just lucky - I got both of those, but I also made friends outside of my own department. I still keep in touch with the intern friends whom I met in Kuala Lumpur and plan to meet them in London in the coming weeks. Sometimes my teammate sends over a funny email out of the blue. Sure, working at Deloitte was exhausting, managing over ten companies’ accounts was daunting, and sometimes, the pressure was plain scary - but the good memories of visiting unique client sites, of unsuccessfully navigating the corridors of KPMG and EY’s offices, of the peals of laughter over lunchtime jokes and a shared camaraderie - those are the memories which outlast the rest. When I think back on my time at Deloitte, it’s defined by the good memories. And I am so grateful that I got the chance to live them.
Beyond the Blog
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