I’m leaving KPMG. This could be a chance to rant about things I don’t like but instead I’m left wanting to rave. KPMG was my third company in three years, yet I’ve now been here for eight years – longer than at secondary school. What kept me here? KPMG has soul – in its external impact as a firm, and in the way it develops people. I want to share my experience of the latter here.
As a Gen Y with the associated angst of ‘who am I, what do I want to do and be?’ KPMG helped me grow and experiment with all these questions. I don’t just mean moving function. I moved from Economics consulting, via CSR, to Talent, Learning & Coaching. That’s the journey you’ll see on my CV and that is the work I am passionate about – probably detail for another post. But there are parts of this journey which will have a lifelong impact on me – and KPMG played a unique role in these. How did KPMG do this? A combination of forward thinking policies, made real by passionate & inspiring people, and a willingness to entertain the unusual. Of course, none of it will be handed to you on a plate, you’ve got to ask…
My ‘abstract’ career experimentation – In 2009 after 5 years in banking & economics consulting, I was convinced I wanted to be an artist – yes, the painting sort. KPMG’s Flexible Futures (3 months off, being paid 1/3 of your normal salary) enabled me to do a foundation at the Slade School of Art. I had continued with art after graduating, but here I immersed myself in art for 3 months, and experienced whether it was for me. When I returned, I didn’t have to keep this intense experience distinct from KPMG. KPMG let me hold my first solo art exhibition in the Canada Square lobby which sold out – even hosting a private view evening for friends and family. The experience of exhibiting at KPMG with thousands of people walking past your art on a daily basis is more than many artists can hope for – what a brilliant platform.
I needed this immersive experience to realise art wasn’t how I wanted to spend my life. There wasn’t much team work and I found it exhausting being creative with infinite choice and no boundaries! Since doing the foundation, my painting is more experimental, but the best bit is I can enjoy it for what it is rather than worrying it is some unexplored life calling! What did KPMG get out of this? Apart from an art exhibition, a refreshed, creative employee who had a renewed appreciation for her work – who wasn’t spending her energy thinking she should be in an art studio. It could have gone a different way though, and KPMG was open to that.
Once in a lifetime experiences… Experiences & time are highly valued by us Gen Ys. KPMG’s volunteering policy during the Olympics enabled me to sign up to dancing in the Olympics opening ceremony – one of the most incredible experiences in my life. I felt truly connected to London 2012 and so happy to have been able to give my time. I had friends who had to withdraw because it wasn’t compatible with a full time job. It required some 250 hours of rehearsing, and I couldn’t have made this commitment without the support of additional KPMG 2012 volunteer time.
..and the more ordinary ones. I shared above how KPMG’s appetite for the unusual has had a lifelong impact on me because I don’t think people expect this of a Big Four firm. But there are more normal aspects which have also been special. Returning to work after having a baby, I was able to have a frank conversation with a very senior mentor at KPMG. I had always been myself with her – she showed me how some of my thinking traits were causing me anxiety – I needed her directness, her knowledge of me before maternity leave, but also the confidence that if something wasn’t right, she would do something about it. I needed all these things. And she is just one of the many wonderful coaches, sponsors and friends I’ve had here. I wasn’t sure if I’d manage to write this, because there is so much more I want to say: about transitioning career (not easy, but it has happened); being put in such stretching consulting situations here & abroad that I still feel quite fearless; and the wonderful women (and men!) I met through running KNOW – as well as being introduced to Bahama-Mamas in their country of origin!
Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t all been plain sailing. You can’t keep everyone happy all the time. But if you’re willing to reflect on what you really want, have some tricky conversations, not be perfect; and seek out people & opportunity to give the best of who you are, KPMG is an enlightening place. I grew up at KPMG on many fronts, and I am grateful for the brilliant opportunities and people who were part of my journey – and will continue to be in my life. The motto of my new organisation is ‘To profoundly influence the way the world does business.’ I will be proudly citing KPMG’s example at every opportunity. P.S. Huge thanks to the Economics Team, the CSR Team and the KNOW, Talent & Advisory L&D teams. You’re the people that I’m talking about!