EY’s Tradition of Help Helps Ladies of Shade Succeed By means of Significant Connections
1. What important benefits or programs (mentor, sponsorship, or ERG, for example) did you owe your progress to at EY? To what extent was this program particularly helpful for you as a woman of color?
We host an annual strategy and transactional event that brings together women and leaders (both men and women) from different offices to network, listen to inspiring guest speakers, and have group discussions on topics such as work-life inclusion management and the value of To lead sponsorship. This is what I have always attached great importance to during my entire time at EY and I try to take part in it every year.
What appeals to me a lot is the storytelling aspect of the event – hearing the career and life experiences of others in the company. I’ve learned that not all careers look like a straight line that ends with a partner, and success is not defined by who gets there first. Executives often talk about taking detours in their career that led to incredible opportunities that led to bigger, more impactful roles.
This event encourages networking and helps me maintain relationships with leaders who have invested in my development. I’ve found executives to be even more accessible in smaller forums, and they become more relatable when you find that they have struggled with challenges very similar to yours. By participating, I also learned to leave my comfort zone; requesting meetings with senior executives and dealing with my feelings of impostor syndrome.
2. To what extent has the support from your colleagues / company helped you to grow in your career?
I grew most when my co-workers, friends, and family believed in me more than I believed in myself. There have been moments in my career when I’ve been challenged with more than I thought possible, but my safety net was always there to support me. I’m grateful to work in an environment where my safety net also allows me to ask questions, sometimes admit that I don’t know, and let me discover the answer.
It is important to take the time to think about your personal growth, recognize the people who have helped you, and pay for it to help others on their own journey.
3. What are some of the biggest barriers to your career advancement?
At EY we have a wonderful parental leave program that allows new parents to spend more time with their families. But the most difficult moment in my career was coming back from parental leave. It was hard to figure out how to balance all of my new priorities and responsibilities as a new mom and a professional. With the birth of my child, my life changed completely and I tried to redefine my goals and my career. I even had to consider whether my career was still something I could or would want to pursue.
Before going on vacation, I knew this was going to be a challenging time, so while I was still expecting, I reached out to my network, including working parents and EY executives, for advice. Upon my return, one of these partners offered me to sponsor me for executive coaching sessions as part of the firm’s career and family coaching program, which I was happy to accept. It’s such a huge asset that EY offers and it was a safe space in which to share my challenges, insecurities and successes.
Over time, I found it more and more enjoyable to be my full, authentic self at work and to share with colleagues what was going on behind the scenes. Eventually, I learned how it worked by prioritizing the most important or valuable things (e.g., going home at bedtime or attending a team dinner). We will all have challenging times in our lives and it is important to acknowledge that we are all human – and being human is sometimes messy.
4. Was there a crucial moment in your career and what did you learn from it?
When I wanted to be promoted from manager to senior manager, I was assigned to an important customer for a project that was visible from afar. I knew I was being offered a demanding role, a challenging opportunity. I really wanted to do a great job to show that I was ready. Despite my best efforts, nothing seemed to be going right and it felt like I was attracting attention for the wrong reasons.
I was at a big team dinner with the most senior partner on the account, whom I barely knew. As the evening drew to a close and we said goodbye, I burst out of nowhere: “I need help!” She immediately took out her phone and arranged to meet me for the next day. Her willingness to support me and share how she got through some of her most vulnerable moments gave me the confidence boost I needed. That moment really taught me the importance of asking for help.
5. What advice would you give other women of color as they advance in their careers?
There have been many moments in my career when I was the “only one” in the room: the only woman, the only Asian, or the only young person. I’ve learned to accept this, use it as an advantage – a reason to stand out – instead of trying to ignore it or take a back seat.
My advice: don’t let yourself be different or “the only one” holding you back. Your unique background and experience are valuable. Your perspective brings something new to the table.
When I feel intimidated because I’m the “only one” in the room, I try to remind myself that this is a superpower. The more I practice this positive mindset and live according to it, the more I realize that this is why I am actually sitting at the table.