Interview:

From Catering to IT: Peter’s journey at BDO Sydney

11 November 2020

Grant Saxon , Sydney Office Managing Partner
Partner, Audit & Assurance
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There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on business – challenging traditional business models and ways of working. However, it has also given rise to new opportunities to those who can leverage their unique skills and passions to innovate and solve new and complex problems.

For many organisations and businesses, a key challenge was how to effectively and quickly transition their entire workforce from the office to the home environment. While this change in work location may seem simple on the surface – especially for businesses already embracing workplace flexibility like BDO – the large scale of transition highlighted a need for people with expert digital skills and know-how to support our people in a remote work environment.

At BDO Sydney, this challenge of effectively transitioning and supporting staff in a virtual work environment was met by our IT team and its newest member, Peter McKenzie, a Catering Assistant on our Client Level who also holds a passion for all things tech.

Having worked at BDO for the past two years in our Catering team, Peter has a background in hospitality and is a friendly face, well-known by BDO staff and clients, having served coffees and refreshments to countless internal and client meetings.

Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in March, face-to-face meetings became few and far between as BDO’s Sydney staff were asked to transition to working-from-home. At this time, the future for a Catering Assistant did not look bright, but after his enthusiasm and passion for technology became apparent, Peter was able to quickly transition to our IT service desk.

Today, Peter is a full-time Service Desk Technician in BDO Sydney’s Service Desk Team, playing a vital role in supporting our people with all things digital. He is also one of several staff members we support as they transition into new roles to pursue newfound passions and opportunities at BDO.

We wanted to find out what Peter’s experience has been like for the past several months transitioning to working-from-home and into a new role.

Tell us a bit about your overall experience these past six months…

It has definitely been an exciting journey! As a Catering Assistant whose role primarily involves interacting with people face-to-face, I would never have thought it was possible for me to work-from-home. However, when the opportunity came up to use my people skills and passion for tech to work remotely as part of the IT team, I was thrilled.

As a tech enthusiast and an avid gamer in my spare time, it’s great to be able to apply the technical skills I’ve picked up from my hobbies in addition to my customer service skills to support the people I work with, whether I’m at home or in the office.

As one of the things I really liked in my catering role was the social aspect of meeting and connecting with many different and interesting people, being able to continue those interactions in a virtual setting as part of the IT team has made working-from-home the past six months very enjoyable.

Today, I joke that not only do I make great coffees, but I can also fix your computer at the same time.

What was your transition like from Catering to IT?  How are you finding new work?

Overall, it has been great and I am embracing every opportunity to learn new things and challenge myself in the IT team.

For me, the transition to the IT team was quite seamless as I already knew many people in the team quite well and we all share a similar passion for tech. When I first started, I went through a period of training to learn the ins and outs of what we do, but I was also able to get involved immediately whether that was through shadowing others or being involved in key meetings. The IT team has been very supportive and I’m appreciative for all the time, knowledge and assistance they’ve given me. It’s also great that the wider office was supportive of my transition and very patient and willing to lend a hand – especially when I was doing tasks for the first time.

I think some people assume that training and being skilled-up is less effective in a virtual setting, as it’s not as easy as it would be in a face-to-face setting, but the way we way work virtually at BDO Sydney actually made the learning process quite effective. To give an example, from day one, I was able to listen in on support calls and absorb all the information and process around how to best help people. Also, as a considerable amount of tech support is given in a non-face-to-face setting, being able to communicate instructions and troubleshoot problems well in a virtual setting is very important. 

The IT team also communicate quite regularly, with there being lots of team meetings to ensure everyone is informed, on top of new changes as well as troubleshoot challenges. This means I was constantly learning new things and could also share my ideas and solutions in a friendly and supportive environment.

How have you found working-from-home?

My transition to working remotely was quite smooth. Being a gamer, I already have a very well established computer set-up with two monitors at home which I use when gaming with my friends - so technology-wise it was a very easy transition for me.

While it is great being in the office as I am quite a social person, I have to say it I do enjoy the benefits of being able to work from the comfort of my own home. I also have a lovely cat, Latte, who is a great work companion.

At the moment, I choose to balance my time between both the home and the office which is ideal for me as I get the benefits of both seeing people face-to-face in a COVID-19 safe environment but also the perks of being at home. Both BDO Sydney and the IT team are very flexible and supportive when it comes to how we work which I think is vital in time like today and one of the things I’m appreciative of.

While working-from-home has its perks, it can have its challenges – what are you doing to stay healthy and happy during this time?

Personally, I am really into fitness and enjoy going to the gym – which was hard to do while they were closed – but during the ‘lockdown’ time I made sure to take time out of my day to keep active. I borrowed some weights and other equipment and would go to the local park or for a bike ride before work or at lunch. At BDO Sydney, we also had some at-home workout classes and activities we could partake in too.

I think at home, it is especially important that you get outside a few times during the workday as it’s not only a great way to keep fit but look after yourself mentally. I’m also a coffee lover and have a nice coffee machine at home, so even if I’m under the pump, I always try to take a moment to make myself a nice coffee and say hello to the cat.

Another thing I do that I think is important is making sure I’m still catching up with friends. While it was a bit challenging during the lockdown period as we couldn’t go out, we instead started gaming online together to have a laugh.

Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

While the world is very uncertain today and has changed significantly since the beginning of the year, I’m thankful to have this opportunity to pursue a career in IT at BDO Sydney.

If I had to give advice to anyone during this time, it would be to always keep a lookout for new opportunities and fully embrace them. A year ago, I would never have thought I’d be working in IT today and that my tech skills from gaming would benefit me like this career-wise.

Also, while it’s hard not to be anxious about the future holds, I think to try to always keep moving forward in whatever you do with a keen sense of optimism about what is to come as you never know what opportunities could be on the horizon.

Thank you to Peter for your time, and for letting us get to know a little bit more about your experience working-from-home with BDO Sydney and transitioning to your new team!

Interested in working at BDO?

At BDO, we are always on the lookout for passionate people looking to launch, transition or grow their career.

To find out more about opportunities at BDO, please visit our careers website. We also encourage you to follow our social channels to stay up-to-date with the latest insights and opportunities.