Anderson tells us how having the right mindset can lead to a rewarding experience. He talks about a challenging project he's been tasked with and how he's bridging the gaps between his accounting degree, economics internship, and the future of his field. Get his take on the two important lessons he's internalized based on his internship experience so far.
This week marks the one-month anniversary of my internship at BIS Oxford Economics. I have been extremely satisfied with my time there thus far; I’ve learned so much that it’s reminded me how much I don’t know. A proper reflection of my time there is in order.
Initially, I had no clue what BIS Oxford Economics does (economic consulting, to boil it down into a brief category) or what responsibilities I would be tasked with. As long as I showed up with an open mind and willingness to give my best effort, I figured I would integrate into the workspace and ultimately understand what I can gain from this experience.
Fittingly, the view consists of a construction project—a large focus of BIS’ consulting.
And so I did. The first week was unsurprisingly monotonous. The first task I had was to reference geocodes of large-scale construction projects across Australia. In other words, I found postal codes on Google Maps and copied them into a spreadsheet. Hardly an intellectually stimulating assignment, but it didn’t need to be. It became apparent that this first task itself was irrelevant. It did not matter what I was doing, but how I approached it. Complaining and dragging my feet was not going to get the job done. Putting my head down and getting to work would. If I brought the right mindset to the table, the tedious data entry jobs would evolve into something rewarding.
As much as I dreaded the first week grind, I had the pleasure of commuting past this view twice a day.
My musings proved correct. By the second week, my supervisors told me to forget the postal codes. They wanted me to learn R (their firm-wide programming language of choice) and update their 2017-18 Financial Year Chartbook into the 2018-19 version. I had no clue where to start. Was that such a bad thing? I wanted to learn, and the opportunity had been given to me. All it took was the correct approach to my first responsibility and coming in with the right attitude every day. Once it was clear to my supervisors that I had an intrinsic push to learn, trust piled up.
I still have so much to discover on R, but as an accounting major, this experience is invaluable. The future of the industry is going to be analytics and AI. Whether making journal entries, pure strategy, cost analyses, outsourcing analyses, etc..., there will be an AI element to every niche moving forward. At a certain level, everyone is competent enough to be an accountant. It is having, or having the willingness to learn, analytical and soft skills that will create the skill gaps in accounting moving forward.
Nowadays, nothing gets me hyped like seeing this in the mornings.
I can take away two major life lessons from my time at BIS thus far. One is acknowledge the Dunning-Kruger Effect. In other words, stay humble—you’re not as smart as you think you are. You can always learn something new from anyone you come across.
The other is the curse of the high performer. This is where initial concepts and roles click well with a newcomer. Then they get a tag that they can do anything. Then managers/superiors all fight for the person's time to rescue a project. They fall into this niche, never adding dimensions to their skills as they stay stuck in place. The number one thing leading to this trap is arrogance. It is hard to not let it go to one’s head when one steps in and starts hot. Remembering to stay grounded, that being the dumbest person in the room is not a bad thing, can be a challenge with praise heaped on you early. The true reflection of your quality as an employee is not raw intelligence. It is persistence, the willingness to say natural talent isn’t enough and keep getting better every day.
I’m glad to say the office climate cares just as much about morale as they do results.
That is the true nature of my internship. The hard skills are extremely valuable in their own way, but understanding how to function and succeed in an office climate will leave my more prepared moving forward than any programming language could.
Anderson Wray is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2019, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. An Accountancy major at Arizona State University, he is studying abroad in Sydney this semester.
Anderson's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.