Our latest event in our alumni series is An Evening with Nicholas Conway. Nicholas studied the Bar Vocational Course at The University of Law and has gone on to become a Partner at Deloitte. He is also a valued member of the ULaw Business Advisory Board. Ahead of this exciting event, we caught up with Nicholas to ask how Covid-19 affected his work and got his advice for business students.
I am a Partner in Deloitte’s Forensic practice. I sit within the Fraud, Data and Disputes team and my primary role is to:
- work with clients
- manage a diverse team of technical experts
- win and deliver work
- act as a custodian of the wider firm.
Broadly speaking, my role hasn’t changed during the pandemic. All my primary functions have remained the same. However, there is definitely a greater emphasis on supporting the team on matters of health and wellbeing.
The idea that entire organisations could operate with a workforce that is almost entirely working from home would have been virtually inconceivable 12 months ago. Collaboration technology, in whatever form (document sharing, video conferences), has demonstrated how effective it can be. Even where individuals are not operating in the same office or even in the same country. This technology has allowed me to prepare client materials, run live demos, or even pitch for large pieces of work in a new way. Previously we would have pulled teams together in one global location. We’d have probably flown to another country to prepare and deliver the pitch. The positives are obvious – environmental and efficiency gains through a lack of having to travel. The negatives are that people are definitely working longer hours. It has become all too convenient to ‘pop back to the computer’ in the evening to finish something off. Many have found that the blurring of home/work life has made switching off harder than it used to be in the pre-Covid-19 world.
Much of my work involves helping organisations manage large volumes of historic data ahead of data disclosure for potential litigation or regulatory investigation. Typically, this sort of work would be manually gathered and might even involve reviewing hardcopy material. These struggles are now met by helping organisations understand how, where, and for how long their electronic data is stored. Businesses are becoming increasingly complex. The way they connect with customers, suppliers, and employees means data complexities and multiple systems around every corner. The upward trend is definitely one of simplification and consolidation. There is a desire to have technology that can integrate with various teams across an organisation. They require comprehensive control over the size and scale of data that is produced, stored, used and defensibly destroyed. This is increasingly important in a world that is only going to continue to see an exponential rise in data volumes.
I have seen a few businesses emerge during the pandemic that I thought were really innovative. Three come to mind:
- London cabbies are working with restaurants to become dedicated delivery drivers for takeaway orders.
- Gin distilleries re-purposing their technology to manufacture hand sanitiser.
- Wholesale butchers who normally only provide meat to restaurants, now supplying to the public directly – at wholesale prices. (I have first-hand experience of benefitting from this.)
Never be put off doing something that you have always wanted to do. Sometimes, as in today’s world, that good idea might need to be tweaked (perhaps temporarily). Do your research and understand your competition. Work out who your target market will be and use contacts to help spread the word about your business. Your big idea needs to have relevance, it needs to be needed, and in today’s world, it ought to be fully sustainable - no chocolate teapots, as lovely as they might look and taste.
It is difficult to pinpoint the most important tech-based skills students need as it depends upon your personal career path. However, for many years, there has been a surge in demand for data scientists and computer programmers. That alone tells you that organisations are demanding that technology works harder for them than ever before. While a lawyer, an accountant or a business professional may not need to have the technical capability a data scientist might have, it can do no harm to have a rudimentary understanding of how technology can improve the delivery of their work. Those individuals should keep up-to-date with potential use cases for technology and remain open-minded about how far-reaching those benefits can be.
At Deloitte, we want everyone to feel they can be themselves and thrive at work - in every country, in everything we do, every day. We are focused on providing a culture characterised by inclusive everyday behaviours. This is built on a foundation of respect and appreciation for diversity in all its forms.
There are lots of resources that budding business professionals can access. However, be picky and choose wisely. Otherwise, you’ll be inundated with helpful hints, tips, newsletters and email groups that will do nothing but tie you up in knots. For example, if it’s broadcast journalism that you’re interested in, look up the support that is available for that path. Speak to the associated professional body that helps students and professionals in that space. Do your homework on firms that are affiliated with that professional body and speak to careers resources at ULaw. The earlier you can kick off this pre-work, the better. Any work experience or internship that you can secure will really help you to understand what life is like in that world. It’ll help you decide whether it is actually something you want to do for the next 40-50 years.
I have three final pieces of advice for business students:
- Be yourself - Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Know what you want out of your career. Potential employers will want you for you,so let your character and skills shine through.
- Be proactive - In my experience, opportunities don’t hunt you down - quite the opposite. Be prepared to put in the hard yards and don’t be put off by polite letters of rejection. Everyone goes through it at some point in their career.
- Be open-minded - Your first work opportunity may not be a perfect fit, but every role is a chance to learn something new that you can take to your next appointment.