Challenges are committed to growth. We want to help businesses grow and we want to help people grow. in the second edition of our “Meet the Pro” series we speak to Tom Beckwith, Management Consultant at Accenture.
Name: Tom Beckwith
Current Position: Management Consultant
Did you do anything similar to the CW ICS programme before you were 35?
I haven’t really done anything similar to CW ICS as of yet, unfortunately, which is a shame. It represents an opportunity to not only give something back but to learn the fundamentals of growing a small enterprise and upskilling young people. The closest thing I’ve done was when I was a student when I went to Panama as a volunteer translator for Lawyers without borders. I studied Spanish at the University of Cambridge and one day saw an advert on the faculty noticeboard and thought, ‘why not?, this seems like a worthwhile way to spend my Summer and get out of England’. I didn’t really know what I was getting involved in before going but I’m very glad I did. It was our job to go into remote villages, assisting British lawyers to help farmers understand the process of entitling their land to avoid land which had been in their family for generations being wrongfully taken away from them. In terms of benefits for me, even this limited exposure to life in a developing country helped to make me a more rounded person with a greater awareness of both the benefits and risks which globalisation brings. I also developed a love of Reggaeton music but let’s not talk about that!
What is/was your most recent position, with what organisation and which sector was this in?
I’ve been working at Accenture (management consulting) for the last two years now within the financial services industry. As part of my job, I’ve been working with large banks to better identify fraudulent transactions within the online payments space, by implementing new technology to help them achieve this. As someone from an arts background, this might seem a weird choice but I love and thrive on the people side of the job, coordinating the delivery teams (the technical gurus!) in different global locations. It can be quite stressful; the nature of the beast of working with technology is that implementations go wrong! Nevertheless, my colleagues are fantastic and being part of a project, the primary objective of which is to better protect customers and their money, is something which I find very rewarding.
What was your first job?
My first job was collecting glasses in my local village pub on a Friday evening. I remember it well though I can’t say all too fondly! I was 16 and just recall being shattered at the end of each shift, having spent the last 5 hours on my feet trying not to walk into people. It certainly kept me fit though and I perfected the art of looping around an establishment, spying those finished pints. I didn’t do this job for long and it was just a way for me to make a little extra pocket money, but even now I always take my finished glasses back to the bar and any others I see out of habit!
Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
It’s a difficult question to answer, however, it would probably have to my career counsellor at work. At Accenture, these people act as independent advisors – someone to “offload” on when you have any concerns or questions. He’s just always been there for me, a voice of reason and a good ear when I needed to rant or understand how to get myself onto a project which would suit my skill set.
Advice for Young People
What are the three most important things to ensure your career continues to progress?
Goal-orientation. It’s easy to remain wholly focused on the “now”, however, it’s important to always keep a vision of your future self and how you’re going to get there. It’s something I like to reflect on at least once a week to ensure I always have one eye open as to that next step.
People-skills. Within the corporate world, I’ve found it’s not necessarily the best people who go the furthest, but those are good at getting on with their superiors and making their work visible. This may sound cynical but people hire and promote those whom they like and are aware of – always keep this in mind.
Self-motivation. This may sound quite obvious but it is essential: no one is going to “own” and drive your career except you. Family and friends may be rooting for you and able to offer good advice, but ultimately you have to want to succeed and take the initiative if you want to progress.
What three things do you look for when hiring a young person?
If I were looking for a new analyst to join the team, I would first and foremost be asking myself: “is this someone I could see myself working with?” If the answer is “no” then, unfortunately, I probably wouldn’t hire them unless their skillset was truly unique. If the answer is “yes”, however, my next two considerations would be in terms of enthusiasm and potential. The latter is quite self-explanatory, is this person qualified to do the job already or would they be able to thrive given the training on offer? Enthusiasm though is equally, if not more, important. If the candidate doesn’t seem driven & fully committed to wanting the job, then their potential is irrelevant. An integral part of being a good analyst is wanting to get “stuck in” and proactively help others, once on-boarded, and interviews are usually a good way to assess the likelihood of this in a person. Enthusiasm doesn’t best manifest itself by begging, however, an interviewee telling me they really want the job once is sufficient enough. The key for a candidate is to prove it by demonstrating a good awareness of what the job entails and supporting it in terms of some sound logic why they would be a good fit.
What is the most difficult interview questions you’ve ever been asked? Hopefully, it’s none of these questions!
The most difficult question I’ve had to answer in an interview was “Why shouldn’t we hire you?” It completely took me aback, as whilst I was expecting the classic “what are your strengths and weaknesses?”, I hadn’t quite foreseen this blunt variant. To be truthfully honest, I can’t actually remember what I said, but it must have been a good answer because I didn’t get the role! I suppose the moral of the story is to be yourself but one of the selves which you would want them to see.
Some young people feel frustrated that they cannot get the job they are after or start a business and feel anxious about their future. What would you say to them?
I would say two things: don’t give up and don’t compromise on what is that you want to do. If your dream is to become a lawyer, then always have that in mind as your long-term goal, even if it’s not an immediate option, and you have to work short-term as a legal clerk or in a shop to pay for law school. Very few people, even the top graduates I’ve come across, walk into their dream job. Getting on the first rung of the career ladder is often the hardest part. I was rejected by over a dozen companies, having attended but failed over 30 interviews before I landed my first job at Accenture. I can tell you after the 10th rejection, I was more than a little disheartened! Mine is the story of just about every graduate out there. But stay true to yourself, to what you want to do long-term and it will happen if you try hard enough. As Thomas Edison once said, “genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration”.