Sunday, 21 November 2010

Reality of the Big Four

The Big Four firms have recruited extensively (here in the UK) within the Computer Forensics/eDiscovery area over the last few months, especially at new graduate level.  Undoubtedly, both the quality of work and opportunities for progression are excellent at these companies for the right people.  However, just in the last week I have been approached by a number of recent graduates who joined a Big Four organisation in 2010 and have already realised that the work isn't for them and they are now looking for a new opportunity in a different forensics enviroment.

Following on from this, I thought it could be useful to readers of this blog to see the piece below about working for a Big Four organisation which was submitted to me by a very strong graduate who spent some time in a Big Four environment before moving to Law Enforcement this summer:

"I enjoyed my time working in computer forensics at a 'Big Four' accountancy firm. The team was great and the people that I worked with were very intelligent, capable individuals from various backgrounds. For the graduate positions no experience or a forensic qualification was required, and in some cases they took those without computer science-related degrees - indeed, the selection process was much more about general aptitude and attitude than specific technical or industry knowledge.

One of the major benefits was the opportunity to visit different clients and work on a wide variety of projects, and I took part in several high-profile national and international assignments for both public and private sector clients. However, for those expecting to be home every night at a reasonable hour, or indeed home during week-nights for months at a time, then this type of role is not for you. Flexibility is by far the largest commitment of the job, with a requirement to be literally anywhere for an unspecified period of time with not a lot of notice, which is to be expected with the spontaneous nature of corporate investigations. This said, the uncertainty can sometimes be exciting, with the pressure to 'hit the ground running' and get on with the job when you get there - and the flights and hotels were always nice!

eDiscovery is the corporate flavour of computer forensics practised by the Big Four firms. It is battery-farm forensics, sucking terabytes of data from a firm's servers and/or a multitude of PCs, getting the e-mails/Word documents/Excel spreadsheets out, and pumping them into a review environment for trainee lawyers or paralegals to run keyword searches over. At a graduate level expect to be working in a team performing one of these roles on one project for long periods of time. Data Analytics is the other major area of the corporate forensic technology world, which at a graduate level is essentially running SQL queries over large sets of structured data - usually financial. As time progresses it gets a bit more interesting, and with some good in-house training you will be able to reconcile financial systems to check for fraudulent activity.

I have recently moved from a Big Four firm to the law enforcement world purely to embark on a different type of work. Whilst I enjoyed the pressure and the variety of projects at the firm, my individual responsibility in these projects was very small, and understandably so due to the volume of data captured. Although I am now only dealing with the examination of one computer, not ten, I am responsible for this from acquisition, to report, and to court if necessary, and this is very fulfilling."

If you have experience working for a Big Four firm in this sector I would be very interested to know whether you agree with these thoughts?

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