Article:

Watching client projects come to life in the R&D team: My path at BDO

27 July 2018

Jarrod Martin, Manager, R&D Tax |

The Research and Development team within our tax practice gives professionals from a range of different backgrounds the chance to work with a diverse client base.

As someone with a background in engineering, I've spent a reasonable amount of time working on a range of R&D projects. Now, working in the R&D team at BDO, I'm able to help other people see their projects morph from ideas to reality.

It's a tight-knit team that works with clients of different sizes and across diverse industries to help them meet their development goals. We all have a range of set responsibilities, but no two days are ever the same. This constant engagement with new clients, ideas and products combined with ongoing career opportunities has kept the role challenging and exciting for the three years.

Turning a love of engineering into a long-term career

My early study and career path were both fairly stable. I completed an engineering degree at university, majoring in chemical engineering, which covered a range of different subject matters and skills. This led me to an undergraduate position at an engineering consulting firm where I worked on sustainable energy and water systems, with many projects residing in the agribusiness sector which I still have a passion for in my current role.

As I continued on with the consulting firm as a post-graduate, my projects began to focus on R&D. At this time I started to build the knowledge and skills base that set me up for a career at BDO. Eventually, I applied for and was offered a role as a Senior Consultant in the firm's R&D team in 2015 where I could begin to use my past experience to assist clients with accessing grant and incentive programmes that support their own R&D activities.

A diverse team supports an array of clients

In a typical day, everyone from graduates to managers and partners engage with clients and work together. This sense of collaboration is especially important given the diverse backgrounds we all bring to the team. While I previously worked as an engineer, others in the team have backgrounds in science, IT, accounting and law, meaning clients have access to a wide range of skill sets and areas of expertise.

This sense of diversity carries over to our clients as well, and while we do have underlying structures and roles, it's rare that two days are ever the same. We work across broad range of industries including agribusiness, biotechnology, IT, manufacturing, mining and finance. Because R&D is so integral to success and a real motivator for entrepreneurs and business owners, we're also meeting new clients with ideas and products we haven't encountered before.

For the most part, our respective roles involve us talking extensively to clients, writing up their projects and then identifying the associated expenditure. While this serves as a baseline, the context is always shifting as we engage with new clients and existing clients take on new projects.

Supporting everyone from start-ups to multinationals

Effective R&D is essential to the success of any company, no matter the industry and no matter the size of the business. However, these conditions can change the way we interact with clients. For small start-ups that are likely staffed by just a handful of people, we're often dealing with owners or founders who are usually extremely excited to see their visions come to life.

Within larger companies, we liaise with technical staff - which is where a technical background can come in handy - and members of the finance team to identify the project expenditure. In some cases, especially with multinationals, we would also engage members of the executive team who are involved in managing the client’s R&D projects.

What does a future member of the R&D team look like?

With the team likely to grow over the medium term, it's important for professionals who are interested in working in R&D to think about what they might need to succeed within our team. The good news is that - as you may have guessed from all the talk about diverse skill sets - there's no rigid criteria. Instead, it's more of a rough template.

I'd consider a role in the R&D team one that is trait-based, rather than one that is dependent on specific qualifications. While a technical background and an understanding of the R&D process are valuable, there are other traits that are just as essential. Being able to act confidently and ask questions are two valuable assets for people looking to join the team, especially as they'll likely be engaging with clients at all different levels from day one.

The other main trait future team members really need is curiosity, and the willingness to learn about all sorts of technologies, industries and business types.

Working in the R&D team at BDO means that no two days are ever the same. Because we have a team with diverse backgrounds and work with a range of different clients, there's an opportunity for professionals of all specialisations to join us and find an outlet for their interests and abilities.