Deloitte University Is a Cruise Ship Without Swimsuits

By | March 27, 2015

This morning I linked to this Bloomberg piece on Deloitte University, aka DU, aka Deloitte Disneyland, aka Deloitte Delta Chi. If you read it, you can't help the FOMO. You will want to go there. One of the reviews on Yelp states, "I'd live there if I could."

And of course you would. Deloitte University is a fantasy. It's a sprawling cruise ship run aground. After reading this entire article, I couldn't help but think about David Foster Wallace's essay A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. Every facet of DU is eerily like a vacation where every want and need is taken care of for you. Oh sure, you're there to learn some shit but that's not why people love going there. They love going there because it's an escape from their lives. Observe:

The herds of people that arrive don't have to think about where to go:

Airport shuttles are hyper-organized: The goal is to have employees seated and en route within 10 minutes of getting off planes. Since Deloitte already has every employee’s information, there is no check-in process. Assigned key cards and ID badges are handed out as people exit the shuttles. 

Your money is basically worthless:

Since nearly everything here is free (guests pay only for alcohol or personal training), there’s no need to carry cash, keep receipts, file expense reports, or tip anyone. 

The food (well documented here) is decadent and never-ending:

Then there’s the food, which is fairly ridiculous—in variety, quantity, and quality. Former Four Seasons chef Michael Jackson runs the kitchen; a typical lunch spread includes lobster rolls, Scottish salmon, shrimp, mussels, roasted chicken, a chicken wing bar, three kinds of sandwiches, five kinds of burgers, a hummus station, and a long salad bar. Between meals, snack stations offer popcorn, jelly beans, trail mix, and ice cream bars. Spacious pantries located near guest rooms have soft drinks, yogurt, string cheese, and M&Ms. After 5:30 p.m., employees migrate toward the Barn, a hangar-sized sports pub that serves ribs, jumbo shrimp, and hickory-smoked brisket. Deloitters say alcohol-fueled Jenga and karaoke competitions often keep the Barn busy until last call, at 1 a.m.

There are endless activities: spin classes, "an Iron Chef-style celebrity cooking challenge," a bike trail, sand volleyball, basketball, karaoke and 5-k runs. God only knows what other fun is happening that they aren't telling us. I'm sure there's a shuffleboard court tucked away somewhere. 

And without a shred of irony, managing director Pete Sackleh says, “If you look at every element, it may be nice, but it’s not opulent—and that’s on purpose.”

Nope! No opulence here. We spent $300 million to build training facility disguised as an amusement park with an unlimited amount of supply of booze and enough food to feed the entire continent of Africa. Very tasteful. 

However! The best part is this:

Despite the resort-like setting, there’s no pool, hot tub, sauna, or steam room because nobody wants to encounter a boss in a bathing suit or towel. 

The implication of course is that "a boss" is aging or portly or frighteningly hairy or aging and portly and frighteningly hairy. Again, no different than your average 7NC. 

Interestingly, the designers of DU seem to have understood the inevitability that some attendees, like DFW on the cruise ship, would feel anxious about being around other human beings having so much fun and would, in turn, try to avoid the fun for themselves:

There are no pay-per-view movies or room service because managers want employees out of their rooms and interacting with peers. There are no suites, eliminating headaches over who gets upgraded. And in dining areas, there are no two-person tables, forcing employees to sit in large groups and make friends.    

It's like Professional Services Eden with a Texas twist. And Deloitte is gloating their asses off. Look at this food! People are comparing us to Google and Twitter! Way to go, guys!

Really. Nice job, Deloitte. You built a training destination that your people don't dread. In fact, they crave the escape. And that's also a little sad. Using Wallace's own words:  

There is something about an enormous luxury corporate training facility that's unbearably sad. Like most unbearably sad things, it seems incredibly elusive and complex in its causes and simple in its effect: at Deloitte University—especially at night—I felt despair. The word’s overused and banalified now, despair, but it’s a serious word, and I’m using it seriously. For me it denotes a simple admixture — a weird yearning for death combined with a crushing sense of my own smallness and futility that presents as a fear of death. It’s maybe close to what people call dread or angst. But it’s not these things, quite. It’s more like wanting to die in order to escape the unbearable feeling of becoming aware that I’m small and weak and selfish and going without any doubt at all to die. It’s wanting to eat yourself to death. 

I hope you all eat yourselves to death.

[Bloomberg]