Doing Business in Different Cultures: Life as a Human Capital Consultant was originally published on Firsthand.
Following a successful summer internship, Caitlin Haydon joined Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Human Capital practice in 2015, right out of her MBA program. In the time since, she’s been staffed on projects in China and Latin America, as well as closer to home in the US. When we caught up with her, Caitlin was immersed in a project for a client in Mexico, but she very kindly found the time to tell us about her career journey to date, and her experiences with Deloitte in particular.
Vault: Hi Caitlin, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. To start, can you tell us a little about your background?
Caitlin: I got a BA in International Development Studies from McGill University—I was class of 2009—and spent the first four years of my career working in HR for a full-service online marketing agency in Montreal. I started out as a Coordinator, then a Manager and, while I gained valuable experience in HR, I realized that broadening my business knowledge would help me to reach the next level in my career. I also found that I preferred project-based work to some of the more transactional work of an HR generalist.
I went to business school, and earned my MBA at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management (class of 2015), where I concentrated in two main areas: human and organizational performance, and strategy.
I also did a summer internship with Deloitte Human Capital in Atlanta while I was getting my MBA, and I received a full-time offer at the end of the summer to return after graduation.
Vault: What do you do in your current role at Deloitte?
Caitlin: I’m currently on a global HR transformation project for a client in the Retail sector and I’m part of the Change Management, Training, and Communications workstream. We are helping modernize HR processes, operating model, and technology platform.
We’re focused on Latin America, and my role is the Change Management & Communications Lead for Mexico and Central America. My team consists of three Deloitte and five client resources, spread across three countries. We focus on preparing the business for change through activities related to leadership alignment, stakeholder management, change impact assessment, change readiness assessment, change champion network, and strategic communications.
Vault: Given that you’ve already worked in a number of different countries/cultures—what kind of challenges has that created, and do you have any tips for dealing with them?
Caitlin: I definitely have a much greater appreciation for the differences that exist across cultures when doing business.
People don’t work in the same way in every country and it’s incredibly important to quickly gain an understanding of unique business customs, modes of communication, views on corporate hierarchy, and ways of getting things done when working in another culture. Additionally, there are the challenges of collaborating virtually, across different time zones, and dealing with language barriers.
Having the opportunity to gain global project experience has made me a more adaptable, patient, and creative professional.
My main tip for anyone working in another country is to spend time there in person with your clients and/or team and to not just focus on the task at hand, but to also make an effort to learn about the culture, history, customs, and even sense of humor that exists there. That goes a long way in building relationships and helping you to adjust your approach to be more successful in a different context than you may be used to.
Vault: What does your day to day life look like at Deloitte? (e.g. Are you based in one location, or do you travel? How are the hours? Interaction with colleagues/firm culture, etc.?)
Caitlin: I typically travel to my client site from Monday morning to Thursday evening (working side by side with my clients on our activities and deliverables) and then spend Fridays in the Atlanta office. My trips are occasionally longer when I have to travel internationally (I’ve traveled to China, Mexico, and Costa Rica for my projects), in which case I like to take advantage of being away over the weekends to sightsee.
If I need a remote week in Atlanta instead of traveling to my project (e.g., to go to a doctor’s appointment), I’m able to work that out with my client counterpart and Deloitte project team which makes it easier to balance the travel with personal needs.
Since I am also involved in organizational initiatives, such as the Retail community of practice and advanced degree recruiting, I often work on those efforts in the evenings during the week and on Fridays.
Vault: You mentioned your internship with Deloitte? Can you tell us a little about the experience?
Caitlin: The internship was 10 weeks, and gave me a real sense of what it’s like to be a Senior Consultant in the Deloitte Human Capital practice. I replaced a team member who was leaving the organization to attend business school, so I was put into a ‘real’ role and not one created specifically for an intern, which helped me get a sense for the type of work I could be doing as a Senior Consultant.
I worked on strategic communications during the final phase leading up to a go-live of a new technology for a client in Canada. I got to visit Deloitte University twice for onboarding and for the mid-summer intern conference; Deloitte University is really a state of the art training facility and demonstrated Deloitte’s commitment to the development of their people.
One of the best aspects was the opportunity to network: I was able to meet a number of practitioners and leaders in the Atlanta office and on my project, both through informal networking and formal events (for example, almost every Friday a senior leader in the Atlanta office took all of the MBA interns out to breakfast or lunch).
I also got to spend time in Atlanta, and to gain a sense of the city through activities organized by Deloitte for its interns (e.g. attending sports events, tour of a local brewery, closing dinner at a popular restaurant). That really helped when it came time to make a decision about where to live and work after business school.
Vault: Can you tell us a little about what attracted you to Deloitte in the first place, and what experiences at the organization convinced you that it was the right place to launch your career?
Caitlin: Deloitte was very present on campus during the first couple months of my first year at business school. Two main things appealed to me: the type of work that Deloitte Human Capital does to add value to their clients through helping to design and execute business driven talent, leadership and change programs.
The internship experience confirmed that Deloitte was a good fit for me in terms of the type of work, the culture, and the development opportunities. Furthermore, the Vanderbilt Owen alumni network was instrumental in helping support my transition into Deloitte in terms of finding projects to be staffed on, organizational initiatives to get involved in, sharing knowledge and information, and recommending who I should get to know as part of building my network.
Vault: What kind of opportunities do you see for career development in the future at Deloitte?
Caitlin: There are many opportunities for development at Deloitte, both formal and informal.Formal opportunities include things like milestone training (training for each position level in the organization that you attend as a new hire or when you get promoted) at Deloitte University and virtual or in-person training (in your local office) on a variety of topics, such as our methodologies or industry trends.
There are also informal opportunities, such as learning from your peers based on work they’re doing that’s different from your own or seeking out new project roles that differ from what you’ve done in the past for more experiential learning.
Vault: Do you have any advice for anyone who’s thinking about applying to Deloitte?
Caitlin: Talk to as many Deloitte practitioners as you can during the interview process to gain a better sense of the type of work we do, firm culture, well-being, opportunities, etc. Not only will that help you prepare for the interview process, but also to ensure that Deloitte Human Capital is the right place for you to be successful and that you will be able to strike a balance between the demands of being a consultant with your personal goals and priorities.
This post was sponsored by Deloitte.
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