February 01

Handyman Turned Leading Innovator

As a twelve-year-old boy, John Southcott started mowing lawns so he could buy paintball equipment.  However, before ever firing his hard-earned munition, Southcott habitually took apart each gun he bought, laying out all the pieces in order to understand how the gun worked.

“I don’t know why,” says Southcott, a 2011 School of Accountancy alum. “But, form follows function. So if I could take it apart and look at it, I could figure out how it worked.”

Just as he took apart paintball guns as a youngster, Southcott is now breaking down the traditional methods of performing audits by creating advanced technologies. As a leader on Deloitte’s Boston innovation team, his projects revolutionize the way Deloitte delivers results to clients by simplifying their services to be faster and more efficient.

Nevertheless, Southcott’s own journey to becoming an innovation manager at Deloitte was less than streamlined. After high school, Southcott started his university education at BYU-Idaho and then made his way down to Provo. Southcott paid for his BYU education through a freelance handyman business despite no formal training. He relied on his father, a few Home Depot employees, and the internet to master odd jobs such as fixing appliances and refurbishing motorcycles.

“While I was in school, I was confronted with new problems every day,” Southcott says. “I’d be on the ground and a clothes dryer would be in pieces in the driveway and I’d be watching YouTube videos about how to fix it. I had to learn how to learn, which is really what accounting is all about.”

Those experiences in the driveways of Provo coupled with mentoring from his accounting professors allowed Southcott to graduate from the BYU School of Accountancy MAcc program in 2011.

“BYU and the accounting department gave me the tools I needed to get to where I am now,” says Southcott.

Today, Southcott applies these lessons learned to work with Deloitte by using artificial intelligence and analytics capabilities to simplify auditing processes. Thanks to Southcott and his team, much of the intricate, manual processes of auditing can now be completed by a computer, consolidating weeks of work into a copy and paste function.

Southcott’s contributions have helped Deloitte emerge as a leading innovator in the auditing industry. Last year, he was a finalist in Deloitte’s Audit Innovation Challenge for his idea to explore new assurance service lines. The competition empowers Deloitte accountants to pitch new ideas to the firm’s upper-level management, and as a result, Deloitte executives are currently moving forward with Southcott’s idea.

Clearly, Southcott thrives on his many state-of-the-art projects at Deloitte: “I still think of myself as that handyman when I first started fixing junk around Provo,” says Southcott. “I’m in an arena where I get challenged every day, and it’s really enjoyable to make it through a project that seems like it’s impossible.”