• Secondment/International Spotlight

Secondment/International Spotlight

BDO INTERNATIONAL

BDO delivers assurance, tax, and advisory services to clients around the globe. We serve publicly traded domestic and international clients through 14 industry-specific practices, world-class resources, and an unparalleled commitment to meeting each of our client’s unique and evolving needs. Our global network extends across more than 160 countries, with over 73,000 people, working out of more than 1,500 offices.

That’s a lot of numbers, but it all boils down to this: BDO is a large, international organization committed to delivering exceptional client service.


EXCEPTIONAL OPPORTUNITIES, ACROSS THE NATION AND AROUND THE WORLD

Our secondment program gives eligible employees the unique opportunity to work at different BDO offices, both in our national locations as well as in foreign countries. Our national placements offer the opportunity to gain experience in different practice lines at other offices. We also have temporary international assignments (usually 3-24 months), which offer the chance to develop your professional skills while deepening your understanding of international business, multinational companies, and the diverse cultures in which they operate.
 

 
 


SECONDMENT Q&A 

Derek VanDunse | Assurance Manager
Nashville, TN / Auckland, New Zealand 


Q: What made you want to pursue a secondment opportunity?

A: Before my secondment, I had never traveled abroad – so I jumped at the chance. I wanted to really step out of my comfort zone, so when it came time to figure out my location preferences, New Zealand really stood out to me. 

Q: What was the initial application process like?

A: The first thing I did was talk to my managing partner, to ask how I could make it happen. He’s always been really supportive, so I wasn’t nervous to ask. He was great – he helped me connect with the right people so I could get the ball rolling.

Q: How did BDO help throughout the visa and relocation process?

A: BDO was endlessly helpful. There’s a dedicated team here to help people with the process, so I had support every step of the way. Of course, there were a few delays, mostly bureaucratic ones involving my visa, but I was never stressed.

Q: How long were you in New Zealand?

A: From May to September. It was the perfect amount of time because I was able to take my time and really experience New Zealand.

Q: Did you get the chance to travel to other parts of the country?

A: Absolutely. New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I got the opportunity to see a lot of the country, from snow-capped glaciers to wonderful rivers and idyllic farms. I even went bungee jumping, which has been on my bucket list forever!
 
Q: How did this secondment help you grow as a professional?

A: In New Zealand, I got the chance to work with a bunch of farms and nonprofits, which I didn’t have a lot of experience with before my trip. I also got the chance to really expand my professional network. I still talk weekly with one of my work buddies from Auckland, which is amazing!

Q: What would you tell someone who asked if they should pursue a secondment opportunity?

A: I would ask them why they wouldn’t do it. If you have a family or obligations at home, a secondment might be difficult. But it really is a great experience. Being able to immerse yourself in another culture while making professional connections is an invaluable opportunity.
 



D.J. Charley | Assurance Manager
Minneapolis, MN / Melbourne, Australia


Q: What made you want to pursue a secondment opportunity?

A: I studied international business in college, and studied abroad as well, so I knew that I wanted to try working abroad as I started my career. I didn’t have a particular country in mind, but when I learned about a secondment opportunity in Australia, I didn’t think twice. I applied right away.

Q: What was the application process like?

A: It’s pretty similar to applying to a job, and it can be a pretty competitive process. I spent a good chunk of time on my application, trying to properly communicate my skills and make sure I stood out. After that, I did a Skype interview with two of the senior managers in the Melbourne office – we talked about what they were looking for, how I would fit in, and what I was looking to get out of the experience.

Q: How did BDO help throughout the visa and relocation process?

A: BDO has people around the world dedicated to helping with all the visa requirements, so it was pretty straightforward. I also had someone who helped with some of the logistics, like my apartment and flight.

They were also really helpful with the small stuff. You don’t really think about things like a new SIM card for your phone or a metro card for public transportation until someone mentions it. I’m glad I didn’t end up in the middle of Melbourne, without a phone or a way to get around!

Q: How long were you in Australia?

A: About four months – I actually left on July 4th and came back on Halloween!

Q: What was Melbourne like?

A: It was fantastic. The people there are extremely nice and just as laid-back as you’d expect. The city itself is super multicultural, so it has a really good food scene – you could probably go out and try a different cuisine every night of the week.

Q: Did you get the chance to travel to other parts of the country?

A: Yes, definitely – I took several weekend trips. I loved visiting the Apostle Islands, which are stunning, and seeing the Great Barrier Reef. I wasn’t sure I would be able to really see the reef, because I have an irrational fear of drowning, so snorkeling isn’t really my thing. But my instructor was patient and really encouraging, and I was able to do it! I’m so glad I did, because it was such an awesome experience.

Q: How did you apply what you learned in Australia to your work back home?

A: I worked in several different industries during my secondment – my clients included everything from software development to mining. Back at the office in Minnesota, we recently acquired a mining company, so I was a natural fit because I’ve had exposure to that particular industry.

In general, though, I feel like just having the international business experience – and extending my network – will come in handy throughout my career. More and more, we’re working with international clients, and just having my secondment experience helps.

Q: What advice would you give to someone thinking about pursuing a secondment opportunity during their career?

A: Do it! It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you won’t regret it. I would also suggest reaching out to somebody who has done a secondment to get their personal perspective, if you can – especially if they went to the office you’re hoping to join. They can give you a deep level of insight, including what it’s like to work and live in a new city and how to navigate being so far from your friends and family. Secondments can be challenging in that way, but for me, it was worth it.

Q: Last question. What was your favorite part of life in Melbourne?

A: I’m a huge sports fan, and the sports culture over there is phenomenal. The office had tickets to Australian Rules Football, which is like a mixture of soccer, football, and rugby – but with no pads. It’s by far the most physical sport I’ve ever seen! I would go to a game nearly every weekend, and now I have the AFL cable package so I can keep up with my team, the North Melbourne Kangaroos!
 

Masimba Zengeni | Assurance Senior Associate
Zambia / New York, NY


Q: What was the process like, pursuing a secondment opportunity?

A: A few years ago, I told one of my partners that I was interested in working at another BDO firm. I was connected a woman from BDO U.K. was working in the BDO Zambia office, and told me she would reach out to see what the opportunities were like. A few months later, a professional from BDO U.S. contacted me to ask if I was interested in an opportunity in New York, and the official application and interview process began!

Q: What kind of support did BDO offer?

A: After I was accepted as a secondment participant, the New York partners reached out and set me up with local agents around here. I had to interview with the U.S. embassy in Zambia, but that was the only thing I really had to handle myself. My local firm paid for my flight coming here and BDO U.S. covered my accommodations when I arrived in January. For me, coming from Zambia was a huge culture shock. My country is very small. But living in Brooklyn, I was able to find a couple of Nigerian restaurants that served my favorite foods from back home. It was really nice to be able to have some familiar tastes when everything else was so different.

Q: You came in the middle of winter, too. What was that like?

A: So cold! Back home, there is no snow. I definitely wasn’t prepared, because I didn’t understand what people here meant when they said “winter.” Almost immediately, I went out and bought a coat and some thermals. I didn’t think I would like the winter, but I actually ended up enjoying it – once I got the right clothes.

Q: How do you feel pursuing this secondment opportunity has helped your career?

A: BDO Zambia is a very small office. I enjoyed what I was doing and the people I worked with, but I’m gaining exposure to a lot of different opportunities here. I get to apply my knowledge of IFRS standards in my engagements with both private and public companies here. I feel like just seeing how different countries handle processes has made me a better accountant.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: My time here was supposed to last 23 months. Adjusting was a bit hard at first, but then I started making friends – and met my wife! Once I realized I wanted to make a life here, I talked with the partners and began the process of becoming a permanent BDO U.S. employee. I’m excited to put down roots here. My wife and I recently moved out of the city and into the suburbs, which I’m excited about – even though New York can be fun, it’s also really loud!
 
BDO USA, LLP, a Delaware limited liability partnership, is the U.S. member of BDO International Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, and forms part of the international BDO network of independent member firms.