Visal Sethi joined Excelian’s Consultant Academy in January 2013 and is now a Senior Consultant for the company. He has been able to work in multiple offices across the globe, including Paris, Toronto, Montreal and London.

I’ve heard Excelian has given you many opportunities to travel. What has that been like? Could you tell me about your journey?

So I joined Excelian primarily because I had been working in London for about 6-7 years and I wanted a change. I thought: "What's better than to join the company that's going to offer global opportunities?" So I joined the Academy and did a three-month training programme. My first project was at Murex Vendor head office, which was based in Paris, I got my wish. Excelian were very good because they made it very easy for me. Although I didn't know the software at all – it was my first experience and my first role in the software field – I felt like I went there prepared. Excelian had the mobility team: which helped to find a flat, define the relevant areas and generally be in control. With their help I managed to find a lovely flat in Paris, and, because I had my family back in London, I was able to come back on the weekends and visit them and catch up with friends. All thanks to the Eurostar: for me, that was the reason why I traveled back so much because it was so much more convenient than flying. So the initial assignment that was 6 months ended up to be about 18 months. That was my first experience of travel. By then I was still early on in my career, and I was still getting used to things, and Murex was quite a high-pressure environment for work, but being in a new environment and being able to do new things was a nice payoff.

When I finished those 18 months, I still had the travel bug in me. I didn't want to come back to another assignment in London, and, at that time, Excelian was setting up a new practice. So I had this dream of working in New York, so I put my name forward to say that if there is any opportunity in North America, a role came up in Canada, so I accepted the offer. It was in Toronto initially, then I got moved to Montreal because the client was based at two locations. At first, I was a bit apprehensive because of the new locations but then decided to take the opportunity and experience the differences. To be honest, it worked in my favor, because Montreal for me was a much nicer city than Toronto. So I did about nine months over there, and working life in North America was quite an experience. I also got to learn that I actually like the European way of life, London’s in particular. Getting up to almost three years being away from London, I started to become homesick again, so I did my stint there and got back to London two years ago. And that's my traveling with Excelian!

How has traveling via Excelian changed you as a person?

For me, it was the first time I ever lived away from home, independently, in my own place. Paris was a good experience, but I don't think it was a fully independent one because I was still back and forth on the weekends, so it was like a home away from home. However, moving to Canada was a real change: I couldn't just book a flight and go see my family if I miss them, catch up with friends if I needed to because it was thousands of miles away. It really hit me that living on my own was fun, but I realized how family-oriented I am and how important family and friends are in my life. It took a lot of strength to be away from family and miss occasions: that seems normal when you're away. When I came back to London, I realized that this is my true home.

So it changed me a lot: I value people's time and my own time a lot more. I also make an effort to keep in touch with friends abroad because I know how important it is to check with them once in a while.

What made you want to attend Murex Academy and join Excelian?

I was working in finance, so I already had an economic background. I've been working in my current company for about six years, I progressed in a few roles, and then I wanted to get a taste of project management. I thought I would like this since I'm a people's person and I like meeting new people as well as managing projects. I did an external qualification to give me some leverage, but, unfortunately, there was no opportunity at that time in the company, so I thought where else can I get a similar role – that's when Excelian came along. I saw that Excelian was doing a graduate scheme where you would learn everything from scratch – I didn't have any computer programming background or any IT background. It was a perfect opportunity. Although I had to step back and start a graduate role, for me, the longer-term gain was far more important than stepping back for a few roles and taking a salary cut. So that really worked for me, because I was able to learn everything, and three months of training grounded me and gave me the foundation. Going to Murex to learn the platform 'at source' was the best opportunity. I still think I got very lucky and I've been very fortunate, since the support and guidance I've been given by Excelian really have brought me to where I am in my career.

What other opportunities has working at Excelian opened up for you?

This is my fifth year at Excelian, and I'm managing three people, which I never thought I would be doing. I always considered myself a junior as a beginner and always looked at my manager for help and guidance – now I'm doing the same for three other people. It's quite a challenge, because we have different personalities, different people with different needs, and everyone has their own way of processing information. But I've enjoyed the challenge! So that's was the key thing for me: being able to manage people and actually progress my skills in the IT industry. Through Murex and Excelian, I managed to work at several high-profile clients and several investment banks, which I would never have been able to do independently. I'm still constantly learning, developing new skills every day and I like that challenge: every day is not the same for me.

What makes working at Excelian so valuable and special?

I think it's the people and the opportunities that you have. We have an Asia Pacific office, we have practices in Australia and North America, and we have a presence in Germany so that gives us the network of global clients that we can work with. And then there's the wealth of knowledge. If you go to the head office, the CEO is there; he is visible and accessible. For me, the first thing that shocked me was that I was someone who had no experience, but there was a lot of people that had experience and were willing to share that, being very helpful and providing guidance. Also, you're recognized for your work, for your skills and for who you are.

Do you have anything else to add for those aspiring to careers in Excelian?

For me, honestly, it's been a journey. It has its ups and downs, it's been challenging, but at the same time, it's been very rewarding. Hard work certainly pays off: what you put in is what you get out. So if you're willing to put the hard work in and you're willing to take advantage of the opportunities available to you, it's a fantastic place to work.
Visal Sethi