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Learning from 11 years in KPMG

It is only when we give up what we have is when we can embrace the new!

I quit my job at KPMG one year ago - 22 January 2016 was my last day with the firm. As I reflect back on that day, it felt more like a graduation day! The eerie mix of nostalgia, excitement, anxiety and blues of missing your friends.

KPMG was not just my first job but also a place where I learnt everything that I represent professionally. KPMG is one of the institutions I deeply respect and love – and relationships I have built here will stay with me for my lifetime. In my entrepreneurial career as well, I am often reminded more of all the great things I have learnt over my 11 years in KPMG.

An year gone by, I realize these learnings have stayed with me and apply equally to the world outside KPMG. Almost all would apply to those working in role of (internal or external) consultants but several are generic and can be applied across professions. I have tried to change the text so that the learnings sound generic.
PS: I also plan to write a series of posts on how I became an entrepreneur and my journey as an entrepreneur until now. But may be it is too early to start writing about this because I am yet to settle and prove myself in the entrepreneurial world - may be some would follow in time.
Here go, my 11 learnings from 11 years in KPMG!

1. Live the values

Most large corporations, especially MNCs have a set of values or priciples estabished by the founders or over a period of time. These values define the organization, its purpose and its 'moral compass'. Living values is the best way to ensure you never go wrong in making decisions, communicating your views and living your professional life as a whole. During my 11 years, there was no better feeling to me than telling a client that we are confident of something because these are KPMG’s values and this is how we work or that we cannot do something for them because it is not in line with our values!

2. One Team

I find it peculiar when I see email signature which says XYZ, Dept-Name, [City Name] Office – without mentioning the name of their company - let’s not forget to put the organization before us!

But it doesn’t end there – yes, we all crib sometimes about problems with Admin, Finance and HR, but in the end we are all one firm – Support teams take as much pride in working for their company as client facing staff does. Over my tenure, one belief which has always stayed with me is that if I am ever stranded, I can just call upon my “KPMG citizenship” to bail me out of any situation. That feeling indeed is something I will have to live without!

3. Take Pride

I cannot stress this one enough! Pride is everything – how you look when you turn up for a meeting, how your document looks when it reaches the client’s mailbox, how you speak, what you do at the client site ... We all need to be extremely conscious that we represent our organizations and everything we do defines them as much as they define us! We are the face of our firm, every report, every document, every email from you carries similar prestige as those from Directors. So take pride and an equal amount of diligence in making them.

4. Remain connected within and without

As we specialize we will get divided into smaller specialized work groups – remember they are work groups not relationship groups for you. And if you plan to rely on networking with clients, your internal networks must be strong and across organizational divisions. Ensure you know others in and outside your department, function, city, even country if you can! Even extend that network to past colleagues.

5. Never say no to work

Not because, you’ll upset that boss who sits in your appraisal, but simply because the more you work, the more you learn. This statement is especially true for consultants. Every engagement I’ve worked on has been a learning and has helped me in future work.

6. Practice Networking

Many of us think that networking is done by sales teams or bosses to get business; a very narrow view of the value of networking. Networking is sitting in the cafeteria with colleagues, often those outside your department, networking is helping someone do their tax submissions, networking is helping a client with finding a restaurant to take his wife/girlfriend to. And it is best done without expectation of returns. Finally, only if you have practiced networking within your organizaion will you be able to do it outside effectively.

I have heard many ‘post-appraisal’ discussions when people feel that others who make themselves ‘visible’ are given undue advantage. While I believe the system is fairer than we imagine, nevertheless, if it does favour those who are better networked, it doesn’t do any injustice. If you can’t network internally with your peers and superiors – how do you expect to do this outside the organization? Internal networking builds a habit which makes external networking natural!

7. Don't ignore life

We have all burnt mid-night oil and that’s not what I am asking you to say no to! But remember if you got to work hard, party harder and live a great life – health is possibly one thing you need. I realized this more as I grew older, and I really wish someone had told me this earlier. I started a regular regimen quite late in my life and trust me the later you start the more difficult it becomes to maintain discipline. Make sure you ‘exercise’ your body and mind equally well on a regular basis along with putting in long hours at work.

While work life balance might be a chimera in consulting, and it's a personal preference to maintain it, ignoring life may be the worst thing for your career. Don’t let the saying “Life is what happens to you when you are busy doing other things” become true for yourself!

8. A consultant is half scientist half celebrity

Note I didn't include salesman, doctor, investment banker, janitor etc in the list. Consulting is an abused term, but rightly o because consultants are manfridays for their clients, but for ourselves we need to think ourselves as scientists – those who seek insights; and celebrities – those who can baulk in limelight gracefully. Making it simple – it is not sufficient to know your subject, it is also important to articulate it well so that the client appreciates your knowledge. Similarly, it's ok to fake knowledge it sometimes, but make sure you utilise the next available opportunity to research enough on your subject so as not to look like a fool in the next meeting. If you do these two, you will never need to “Sell” your services!

9. Turn up at the client site as often as you can

It may be a great feeling to be around friends in office – but nothing in professional life is more rewarding than being at the client site. I inherently am a bad networker – with people and clients – my basic nature is that of a shy reticent individual. But during my consulting days with KPMG, I always preferred being at client sites and this helped me become the opposite.

At the same time, even though I didn’t ‘network’ intentionally with so many clients but just seeing me turn up at their office every day, week, month – made them know me better and helped me build a relationship with them. When there were days I only had office work to do, I still preferred doing it sitting at a client office – being with my project team members and in front of the client rather than sitting in the office.

10. Invest in yourself

Similar to not ignoring life, but related to more to growing as a professional. It may be a great feeling to be called an expert on a particular subject, but in the ever-changing world of today – your status will not stay for long. Make sure you are watchful of whether or not you are growing as a professional and keep investing in yourself. The best part about being a consultant is that the firm will support, reward and even pay you for investing in yourself. And unlike clients who can hire you if they don't have the right skills, you can't hire someone else to do your job!

11. Never bcc

True to one of the values I imbibed in KPMG (we are open and honest in our communications); Bcc is an enemy of this! If you ever feel like ‘I don’t want to clutter his/her mailbox with the replies” – please forward that mail to them separately than doing a Bcc.



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Best wishes to you.
    You rock.

  3. Half Scientist half celebrity . True to every word . All the best with your entrepreneurial journey.

  4. The consultant is psychiatrist too.. As clients begin to respect you and you have established your credibility and competence, they begin to confide in you and share their personal problems too :)

    1. A psychiatrist is a scientist + doctor. While many times clients would want a doctor, I believe consultants should stay away from becoming a doctor. Consultants don't usually understand the 'internals' of their clients organization and hence playing doctor with them is dangerous.

      Internal consultants may want to play that role though.

  5. Congratulations Nikhil! An excellent article and thanks for reflecting and sharing the learnings....i can relate this many of these from my work-ex and its worth every word read.

  6. Thanks Nikhil.This is really helpful!


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