Working with heart: my journey through consulting, culture, and creativity

Working with heart: my journey through consulting, culture, and creativity

Working with heart: my journey through consulting, culture, and creativity

Varun Dewan

In this Protiviti Life article Varun Dewan, director at Protiviti UK, lifts the lid on his working life, love of art, and the connection between creativity and clients.


Tell us about your professional background

I have 18 years of work experience now, with large accounting firms and boutique consultancies, and joined Protiviti in 2019. I started in India and, last year, moved to the UK business. The firm is entrepreneurial and there are many opportunities to develop my skills: I’m now leading Managed Business Services for Finance, and the Finance Transformation business in the UK.

How does your personal life influence your professional one?

As you grow in an organisation, your personal and professional lives become more inseparable. You spend so much time with colleagues, sometimes more than with family members, so alignment is important. 

Protiviti is more like an extended family: we are a large organisation, but one that feels small because everyone knows everyone, and we support each other. Recently, I was struggling with a personal deadline because of some family issues. My team stepped up and realised I needed support. We met the deadline, and the client was extremely happy with the work. As part of that process, we still built some exceptional relationships, and I think that’s the fun of consulting.

How have you found the culture of the business?

Every organisation has a different DNA. While there is a lot of focus on people, and relationship building, I think Protiviti has its own way of doing it. The whole idea of giving priority and respect to others is core to its principals.

I think some larger organisations are losing heart, whereas Protiviti is a very large-hearted firm. Clients are important and delivering top quality work is important. But I think people are the most important element; our leadership team takes that very seriously and we take a lot of pride in the way we work.

How important is that approach when looking at diversity and inclusion?

Diversity and inclusion are buzzwords; the real differentiator is not having agendas or programmes but living these values. Companies have to be inclusive and respectful of people’s ideas and work hard to avoid unconscious bias. If you look at Protiviti in the UK, we have people from different backgrounds and ethnic groups, and we celebrate all the festivals; like I said, it’s one large family and they have helped me on my journey to becoming a better, more inclusive leader.

You are a keen artist in your spare time. How does art and creativity influence you at work?

As you mature as a professional, one of the things that helps you succeed is creativity. Those two hours I spend painting every Saturday help me unwind. But they also help me to think differently and take a fresh perspective. One of the biggest learnings from art is that every class starts with a blank canvas and it’s the same with clients: one good engagement, one good painting, doesn’t guarantee success in the future. That motivates me.

What challenges are you overcoming?

Protiviti is in professional services: the biggest asset we have is our people, and the biggest challenge for the sector is managing attrition. People aren’t only motivated by job titles, salary increases or bonuses; the kind of culture we create, the environment we provide, and the amount of respect we give, matters more. Everyone has access to knowledge, and everyone can add value; the main differentiator is how companies do it. Emotional intelligence has never been more important.

What will be important for you to focus on in the next few years?

These are exciting times. First, technology investments are now key for any organisation, and I will continue to learn about new platforms and where clients are finding value. Technology will continue to disrupt every two to three years; I don’t see a period of stabilisation coming. We have to accept that trend and work with it. Secondly, professional partnerships and collaboration with others will become more important. And, thirdly, company stakeholders and regulators want more transparency. There is continuous pressure to meet these expectations through enhanced disclosures and financial reporting. Chief financial officers are looking at alternative operating models to make their finance functions more effective.

What about your leadership journey?

The definition of leadership is changing. People follow leaders of organisations on social media these days. So, I think we’ll all have to look outside at what others are doing, which makes it more challenging but also interesting. The younger generations might be comparing their chief executive with Elon Musk, for example, or others in the public eye. Understanding who you work with, and their drivers, will be more important than being a rainmaker: just winning work won’t decide success anymore.

Protiviti Life with Varun Dewan

In this video, Varun Dewan, director at Protiviti UK, lifts the lid on his working life, love of art, and the connection between creativity and clients.