PwC's Digital Accelerators program looks to future-proof staff

Much has been made in recent years of educating staff members, with firms providing professional development opportunities (in such areas as technology and new business developments) to help employees stay ahead of the curve and work more efficiently. This so-called “future-proofing” of staff is meant to keep up with the ever-changing business landscape, enabling current employees to prepare themselves for what the future holds.

Big Four firm PwC is similarly looking forward with its newly-launched Digital Accelerators program, inviting current staff members for a “firm-led digital career pivot” in which they will be trained on cutting-edge tech developments such as blockchain, automation, AI, digital storytelling and more.

“Digital and tech [aren’t] going away, so we’re continuing to deliver value but do it in a more digital way,” said Sarah McEneaney, PwC's digital talent leader and head of the Accelerators program. “To tech-enable our business, we need to tech-enable our people.”

In its first year, some 3,500 staff members applied to be part of the inaugural class. Open to all PwC staff, the program was originally budgeted for 500 candidates, but due to "overwhelming demand," according to McEneaney, the class size was brought up to 1,000 participants. McEneaney noted that classes run 10 hours per week for the program's 18- to 24-month duration.

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Danielle Alston of Union City, Tennessee, center, talks on her cell phone outside the PricewaterhouseCoopers offices at 300 Madison Avenue in New York, Friday, August 25, 2006. Her mom, Beverly Alston, stands at left. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News.

“At the time of hearing about the Digital Accelerator initiative, I had just completed my MBA program, and I was really thinking about my career, and my future, and this program really highlighted the opportunity to take your career in a new direction, and that was something that I was looking for,” said Patricia Miller, PwC IT project manager and current Digital Accelerators student.

Just as important as technical know-how, said McEneaney, is how Digital Accelerators will be "applying their skills [and] improving the experience for our clients. As long as we're teaching people the right skills, it’ll keep them agile. Gone are the days of being done learning after getting your bachelor’s."

“Through the program, I hope to advance my knowledge of self-service automation tools, while also learning new skills in SQL and Python,” said Scott Grossnickle, PwC tax senior associate and current Digital Accelerator. “I do not have a technology background ... I really want to learn these new skill sets so that I can have the ability to approach a problem or scenario with a broader mindset and larger tool kit. Additionally, I hope to continue to grow my network at PwC and with our clients by bringing our different lines of services together to strategize on teaming and better delivery for our clients.”

For the Digital Accelerators, keeping up with new tech developments doesn't even seem like an option going forward.

"This is also the future of our firm and quite possibly the future of the industries that we service," added Grossnickle. "The number one topic right now is digitization, whether it be blockchain, automation, artificial intelligence, it is all the buzz. If our clients are talking about it, we need to be the first movers.”

"I hope to learn advanced skills in a multitude of technologies, and of course how to train other individuals on how to use and apply these technologies to maximize their efficiency and truly add value in everything that they do," added Miller. "I also hope to really broaden my understanding of how technology can be applied to create amazing outcomes for our clients, and create the space for our people to spend their time doing the things that they truly enjoy and do best."

PwC indicates it is committed to education going forward, and to rely more on its current employees than outside help to tackle future trends.

"We can’t hire our way out of this problem," said McEneaney. "We need to future-proof our existing people because they know our business and we also want to keep them here. What’s changing is what we’re focusing on; what’s changing in the world."

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“I believe this program positions me to have the skill-set to remain relevant throughout my career," said Miller. "Keeping in mind that this program is not simply learning how to use technology or a tool, it truly is about a mindset change, and developing fervor for continuous learning in the most relevant areas that will impact everyone. So really no matter where my career takes me, what I’m learning in this program will help me to have the mindset to lead in that space.”

"When you do align what you do with your passions, not only will you be happier, but you will deliver more value to your teams, and/or clients, all while having fun doing it," Grossnickle advised potential Accelerators. "Take the leap of faith; be a future leader."

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