Dion knew that he wanted to be an auditor way back when he was still at school. It wasn’t easy, coming from a family of modest means living in Mamelodi, but his parents supported his dreams and he worked really hard, graduating from Pretoria University and then continuing his studies through Unisa.
Doing his articles at PwC opened his eyes to the fascinating world of professional services, confirming that he’d made the right career choice. “People think auditing is boring,” says Dion. “But the fact that it’s very interesting is probably one of the profession’s best kept secrets! The nature of the work is dynamic and you gain insights into a wide range of industries and clients.”
Many people leave the Big four firms after completing their articles to go into careers in the private sector, like banking or business. Not Dion. “I knew that PwC was where I wanted to be,” he says. “The firm has a great combination of young people and experienced people keen to share their knowledge and wisdom. It’s a great place to build a career.”
Dion is a living example of what’s possible at PwC. He was the first black person to be appointed Southern Africa CEO of PwC in July 2015, at the young age of 39.
“Bright people often don’t know how gifted they are.”
When Dion was admitted to the PwC partnership in 2008, he felt very strongly that he had a responsibility to develop others. “Bright people often don’t know how gifted they are,” Dion marvels. “I like to think of myself as a teacher and a guide in helping people to be more sure of themselves. It helps them cope with difficult situations. Our culture of persevering in adversity, never giving up — is what makes PwC the great firm it is today.”
Dion points out that giving back safeguards the future and sustainability of the business. “Our studies at university lay the foundation for being an auditor. We then do our articles to learn how to apply our book learning in a practical sense. Throughout the process of qualifying and even beyond, we rely on sharing the collective knowledge that we hold within PwC. It’s passed on from generation to generation, always incorporating the latest developments within the industry.”
Of vital importance is the ability to balance one’s technical capability and people skills. “PwC invests significantly in the training and development of its people,” Dion says. “It’s important to note though, that while it’s easy to gain skills through training, attitude isn’t something that can be learned. You can be the brightest person, with all the technical knowledge in the world, but if you have a bad attitude, your development will be limited.”
Dion admits that PwC is a high pressure, high performance environment.
“We do, however, always remember to have fun too. And, of course, many of us think of our work as fun,” he chuckles. “No two days are the same, and solving problems for our clients is enormously satisfying.”
PwC’s newly crafted values point to its dynamic and action-oriented culture and help the firm realise its purpose of building trust in society and solving important problems: act with integrity; make a difference; care; work together; reimagine the possible. “These values define our culture and say everything about who we are,” says Dion.