Meet Thula, a vibrant Audit professional from KZN, South Africa who took the plunge and moved to the Netherlands with the assistance of Kula, he was placed with one of Kula’s esteemed clients, Deloitte. In this conversation, we will explore the insights and wisdom Thula gained during his time at Deloitte in the Netherlands. Guided by his experiences, resilience, and thirst for professional excellence – he has a lot to share.
Tell us about where you come from, what propelled you to make a move to the Netherlands and what were your expectations.
I hail from KwaZulu-Natal and made my way to Johannesburg for studies. My time at BDO fuelled a craving for something more, something beyond borders. Then, like a stroke of luck, I stumbled upon Kula— a team that connects South African finance professionals with Dutch firms. With their help, I secured a position with Deloitte in the Netherlands, which completely changed my career trajectory.
When arrived I vividly recall my first icy welcome to the Netherlands during the peak of winter. It was freezing! I remember how unprepared I was for the cold. There’s a Dutch saying: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!”
But beyond that first frost, I found warmth in the diversity of Dutch traditions and a community of fellow expats Introduced to me by Kula in the Netherlands.
Why do you believe an international transition is valuable for accounting professionals, especially in a country like the Netherlands?
Coming from a medium-sized audit firm lays the groundwork, akin to mastering the fundamentals. Yet, here at Deloitte Netherlands, it’s about expanding that foundation. Exposure to international assignments and diverse industries has broadened my skill set.
How do you think global exposure and specifically working for the Big 4 impacts one’s career trajectory?
At Deloitte, we worked in a dynamic and bustling environment. In this environment, I had the opportunity to interact with numerous clients gaining exposure to new ways of working, using new methodology and advanced software. Our work was constantly evolving, and I got to work with cutting-edge technology that enabled me to dive deep into innovations available in Europe. Overall, working in the Netherlands was an exciting experience that allowed me to grow both personally and professionally.
What were the opportunities and challenges for expats working in the Netherlands?
The diverse clientele in the Netherlands has been a game-changer, broadening my skills and experiences in such an effective way. The work environment is known for being inclusive and culturally rich, making it an incredible place to grow professionally. Jumping on board with Kula isn’t just a job—it’s a ticket to a global connection, expanding networks, and gaining new perspectives.
Living in the Netherlands had its challenges. While English serves well in business settings, integrating into Dutch social circles initially posed difficulties. The adjustment to driving on the left side of the road was notably tricky. I embraced the Dutch cycling culture for commuting. Moreover, Kula’s Dutch language classes have been instrumental in aiding my social integration. Thankfully, the efficient public transport system makes commuting and visiting other countries in the EU a breeze.
How crucial is adaptability when working in a different country?
It’s vital to be adaptable in such a diverse environment. Cultural adaptability and resilience are crucial in diverse environments. Understanding and respecting diverse cultures, learning Dutch and being open-minded are essential elements for thriving here.
What are the key skills and experiences crucial for a successful transition to a Big 4 firm in a new country?
Deloitte has operations around the world, and you’re likely to work with both international and local clients, making a comprehensive understanding of IFRS an essential skill. This knowledge not only facilitates comprehension of Dutch GAAP principles but also ensures compliance with ISA standards, crucial for all audits conducted. In addition, proficiency in IT skills was extremely important. A lot of the audit work I performed required extensive data analysis. A firm grip on the firm’s data analytics systems and proficient Excel skills are invaluable.
How has the experience changed your life and looking back what were the biggest highlights?
This journey to the Netherlands has been a rollercoaster of experiences. My contract might be over, but my heart still longs to return to the vibrant Dutch life. The biggest culture shock was just the directness of the people there, if something is not working it’s addressed at that moment and it may feel like an attack at first but you later realise people mean well and problems actually get to be solved quickly.
‘To all the South African auditors hesitant about taking the plunge, go for it! Embrace the unknown, and you’ll grow in ways you could not have imagined.’
What is next for Thula?
I am currently in the process of interviewing with Dutch firms as I aim to return to the Netherlands. My goal is to immerse myself in their work culture, absorbing as much as I can. The Dutch approach to addressing issues directly stands out. There’s a refreshing directness in their communication. When something isn’t functioning as it should, they tackle it head-on, which might initially feel confrontational. But it’s an effective solution. I believe there’s a great deal South Africa can learn from this approach.
The goal is to bring back these insights and skills to enhance our audit processes and technological advancements in my home country.
Join our team and let Kula guide you to a rewarding audit career on a global scale.