It was the start of another year for the consultancy, the normally quiet office turned into a hive of activity, not unlike flowers suddenly blooming around in springtime, as if a clock has been set. The senior partners in their best suits are gearing up, their secretaries busy calling clients to set-up lunches and golf appointments. This always reminded me of the first week in school, where everyone is excited to see each other, new hairdo, new hobbies and catching up on the latest happenings after the long semester break.
Among the tide of new faces, are the graduate trainees or newbies whom you can easily recognise afar from their glowing eager faces. Young and exuberant, some of them were in pretty casual wear with their sling bags. Over the years, I too, have dropped my colourful attire and started to wear a black suit, white shirt with a red tie. Never mind, I will soon straighten them out, in no time, they will be acting and dressing like one of us.
During the induction sessions, some of which I conducted, I welcomed these trainees and gave them some briefings on what they could expect to learn and gave them some forms to fill in. I thought it odd that some of these graduate trainees brought out their colourful school pencil cases, something inherited from their school days? My only accessories were my watch and my Mont Blanc pen that I had in my shirt pocket. I had made up my mind that I will stop this ‘thumb sucking’ and they would not bring this habit along when they are working on the client sites.
My first assignment back was to implement SAP R/3. On this project I worked with Mary (Mei Li) a graduate trainee, who aspired to be an SAP FI/CO consultant. During the project, she was to learn from the senior consultants and to help in the project management office, ready to tackle the ‘surprises’ that would come our way. When we needed urgently, a last minute Powerpoint slide that was to be presented to stakeholders Mary would quickly make copies of it and it would be ready in the board room for the team to present. When my consultants conducted a workshop and extra participants pop in unexpectedly, Mary would be there with the notes, paper, pencils sharpeners, and the workshop would go on without a hiccup. She made sure that nothing was in the way and that the workshops happened smoothly.
One day I had a bad headache and was due to present to the steering committee when Mary came over and offered me some painkillers. I was only too glad as she is always around to save the day. She gave me a glass of water and whipped out a kid’s pencil case from her backpack and took out some Panadol. I thought of that ‘thumb sucking’ habit that I was so disapproving of. ‘Oh, by the way,you don’t have an extra USB in that pencil case as I need to transfer a file to the PC in the boardroom’, I half jested. She did have one. Arriving at the boardroom, we found two consultants struggling with the projector, the connector screws from the PC to the projector were loose and they were struggling to tighten them with a spoon. Mary dug into her pencil case and took out a multi device pocket screwdriver! What a big lesson about being well prepared from a graduate trainee and her pencil case! The steering committee meeting went without a hitch and I had a chat with Mary about what she kept in her pencil case. I now know I needed a pencil case immediately to keep some painkillers and to stop me from losing my USB thumb drive!
Years later, whenever someone commented on how smooth a meeting went, I will glance at my black coloured pencil case and with a cheesy grin think of Mary.