Growing up in Dubai, Youssef Silwanis often heard the names of the world’s largest companies in adult conversations. The city is home to the regional headquarters of many firms including Facebook, Lockheed Martin, and Chinese oil giant China National Petroleum Corporation.
“I would always hear the names of big firms being thrown around,” Silwanis recalls. “Whether that would be because a friend’s parent worked there, or because that company was sponsoring a certain event, one way or another I would come to know about many of these global firms that are based in the U.S. or Europe.”
He first heard about Deloitte when the firm sponsored a baseball league that he volunteered at throughout high school. They had banners around the fields, and Silwanis remembers seeing them frequently, though he had little knowledge of their business. “I was aware that they were part of ‘The Big 4,’ and that was enough to spike my interest in the company,” he says.
The Egyptian student who grew up in Dubai, UAE, left his parent’s home for Babson College when he received the global scholarship, a needs-based scholarship program for international students that started in 2014. The program covers four years of tuition fees for scholars, with potential additional grants available to help cover expenses like lodging, supplies, health insurance, and travel expenses. Silwanis says the scholarship made it possible for him to travel to the U.S. to attend Babson.
Silwanis — now a Senior at Babson — will join the audit team at the Deloitte office in Boston in September 2019 after graduating this spring.
REACHING OUT TO DELOITTE
In September 2017, Silwanis applied for an internship at Deloitte through Handshake, an online recruiting platform at Babson’s Center for Career Development. As part of the application, he submitted his resume and personal information.
Just two weeks after his initial application, Silwanis received an email inviting him to an on-campus interview with a partner from Deloitte and he agreed. “This went very smoothly, with the interview consisting of questions mostly about my background, why I chose this position, and why Deloitte,” Silwanis reveals. “In total, I went through three interviews, which were all behavioral.”
The day after his first interview, he was notified that he could join two final-round virtual interviews the following week if he was still interested. The first virtual interview was a video-chat with a partner from the Boston office, who asked questions directed towards finding out about him and his interests as well as why he had applied to Deloitte. And just 15 minutes after this interview, Silwanis spoke with a manager from the Boston office.
“I expected to have to wait for at least a few days before hearing back from the recruiters, however as I walked out of soccer practice that same day I received a call informing me that I would be extended an offer,” Silwanis, who was also invited to visit the Boston office to meet and speak with the staff, says. “I was obviously overjoyed with this news and immediately called my parents back home to let them know that I had landed the internship with Deloitte. Until now I still can’t believe just how well everything worked out.”
Last summer, Silwanis spent seven weeks with Deloitte in Boston, after a training week, and was exposed to engagement with different clients. Working with three different teams for a few weeks at a time, Silwanis says he got an idea of what the different engagements were like, and now has a better idea of what to expect when he joins them as a full-time employee.
“Since the summer is normally a quieter season for audit than the winter, a typical day was normally around eight hours long, though this definitely varies depending on the client and the time of year,” he explains. On the first few days of each engagement, seniors at the firm would catch him up on how the engagement was supposed to run and the characteristics of the client. As an intern, Silwanis says he was guided through the engagement process first, and then by the third day was expected to take on more responsibility. “These tasks would vary from client to client but often times would include different types of account testing and closing of financial statements,” Silwanis adds.
During his time at Deloitte, Silwanis got to travel to Deloitte University, a training facility in Westlake, Texas, where he attended the Deloitte 3-day East Meets West Intern Conference, where hundreds of interns from all over the country gathered to connect and take part in a variety of leadership and team-building activities. The opportunity allowed him to not only network and meet fellow interns, but also attend speeches from distinguished guest speakers such as Danielle Umstead, the American Alpine Skier and Paralympian. “Though this conference did not necessarily teach me technical skills to use in the internship, what it did prove to me is just how much Deloitte is willing to invest in its people, starting with the interns,” Silwanis says.
PREPARED TO LEARN
Interning at Deloitte wasn’t all glitz and glam though. Along with other staff members, Silwanis says that even though summer was a far less busy time, 40-hour work weeks were still the norm. With that, the last few days on each engagement were particularly hectic and challenging as his superiors in the firm would treat him as a trusted employee and assign him multiple tasks to manage and complete simultaneously.
“What this (experience) taught me was to take notes on anything I am told, even if it seems basic, to avoid asking about something that has already been explained,” Silwanis admits. “Those days were undoubtedly my favorite ones, however, as I enjoyed being given more and more responsibility and felt that I was having more of an impact in the respective engagements.”
Even before setting foot into Deloitte, Silwanis is clear that the Babson culture had prepared him well for what would be expected of him. In almost every class he took at Babson, Silwanis says group projects were assigned, and students had to practice working in teams and on their communication skills. The experience made it easy to work with the teams at Deloitte.
Students at Babson are also encouraged to practice making valuable connections in every environment, and before he knew it, Silwanis says he found himself writing emails to anyone in the firm who caught his eye as a source of insight and knowledge and asking for a time they could grab coffee together.
“The guidance and mentorship at Deloitte was something that caught me completely off-guard,” Silwanis says. “I recall being told by plenty of Deloitte professionals that the firm’s main differentiator was the culture that it had, however, I admittedly was quite skeptical at first I was surprised to find that the culture of guidance and mentorship within the firm was extremely strong and extended to everybody at every level.”
Interns at Deloitte are assigned an onboarding advisor, usually someone who has been at the firm for about two years, to assist them with everyday questions. They are also assigned a “coach” who is usually a partner at the firm who would check in on the interns periodically throughout their internship. Coaches also provided advice on career development and direction, over phone calls and lunches.
Despite the long hours, Silwanis says he wished the internship was 12-weeks long. However, that didn’t stop him from accepting a full-time offer at the end of his internship. Silwanis says he has no idea where he could be in five years as it all depends on his time with Deloitte and navigating the increasingly complicated U.S. visa lottery. But without any immigration issues, he hopes to become an audit manager at Deloitte.
“I never would have imagined that someone who has spent 10 or more years at the firm would take the time out to help me whenever I needed it,” Silwanis says. “In all the engagements I took part in, I was always encouraged to ask questions and also found that nobody would hesitate to take the time to help me out and explain anything I may be stuck on.”
Despite having a job locked down, Silwanis says he won’t be taking it easier in his senior year. He has plans to overload on classes in both his fall and spring semesters in order to meet the 150 credits required to work on his CPA.
“This will be very beneficial…as I will be taking plenty of relevant accounting and finance courses that will only help me to prepare for my role once I start full-time,” he says. “I aim to prepare for this job as well as I can, using the resources that Babson will provide me with as well as any others I can find.”
When summer comes around, he hopes to visit family in Dubai and Cairo after his graduation, while preparing himself for work in order to shorten his integration into the firm by studying for the CPA.
For other business students aiming to take a similar path to secure a job offer before senior year, Silwanis says the key is to be as resourceful as possible when conducting a job search and be proactive in figuring out what that they want to do. He recommends that networking as much as possible to get an insider perspective on work inside the industries, and to get a friendly face as a point of recommendation with opportunities.
“Though networking may seem like a daunting task at times, I’d recommend that one uses their own personal networks, as well as school networks and resources — like an alumni database — and even cold-emails and LinkedIn invites,” Silwanis says. “Business students must remember to always do their homework before speaking to a professional, even if it is an extremely casual conversation or phone call. At the end of the day, as college graduates we have a 30 plus year career ahead of us, so we must realize that no decision at this age will make or break our careers, as long as we do our part and put the effort in.”