An insight into working at EY

An insight into working at EY

EY Partner Maggie Stilwell shares her experiences of what it's been like to progress her career with the Big Four firm

Maggie Stilwell is a forensic partner and managing partner for talent at EY. Having been at the Big Four firm for more than 22 years, she knows a thing or two about being an employee there.

Stilwell, who recently came in the top five of the Accountancy Age Women in Finance ranking, shares her experiences of working for EY and the firm’s aims for improve diversity and inclusion for the future.

What makes EY different?

While Stilwell feels her opinion is somewhat limited, having been at EY for a lot of her career, she shares how flexible and understanding the firm have been.

“I have had three children in the time I’ve been at EY. It’s been an employer that has bent and flexed as my needs and ambitions have changed and I think that’s a really important, brilliant factor about the firm, particularly if you’re a woman, because you experience those changes more significantly than maybe your male colleagues.”

EY is also leading the way when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Not only does it champion gender equality, with Stilwell’s progression an excellent example of this, but it is also focused on being more inclusive when it comes to BME and disabled employees. The firm has more BME partners than any of the other Big Four.

“We care about getting these things right and I think people pick that up and I’m not saying we’re perfect, we’re learning as we go, but our intentions are recognised by our people and they try and make us better too.

“The quality and variety of the work we get to do for clients is just amazing. It stretches and develops you every day you come to work. I guess I’m easily bored and this is somewhere that continually throws up new things for me.

“I just think it’s incredible to still feel like you’re being given new things, and learning things, about the world and the firm.”

What is one reason to consider working at EY?

“It would be the people I work with. I’m inspired by the people that I work with.

Right down to when you come in in the morning and Mike, who works on the security team, is smiling and saying hello to you by name as you walk by, through to working with some of the senior partners who are inspiring because of what they do, to the most junior people who haven’t even joined the firm yet but are interested, like student interviews.

“I love hearing about some of the amazing things these people do outside of work. It keeps me energised and keeps me trying to raise my own game to keep up with all these brilliant people.”

Are there core traits of an EY employee, or not?

At the moment, EY are having a total refresh of their student selection process and thinking about how they can attract more diverse talent

For instance they are launching new digital apprenticeships, and the skills and attitudes needed for those programs are different to those needed on the mainstream business apprenticeship or graduate program.

“I think we need to have people who are keen to be part of our firm, who understand what we do, we need people who are able to handle numerical data, be able to write and present data and ideas and messages in a coherent way, we need people who have a technology mindset, who are comfortable in using technology and who can help us drive better answers or improve the way we deliver our services.

“In selection processes, we’re really looking to understand each individual strength and how aware the candidate is of who they are, and to find that fit between what they think they’re good at and use that in the roles that they’re applying for.

“There’s definitely not a limited blueprint of what is going to make someone successful here.”

How can someone join EY early in their career?

EY have a range of ways that university students and graduates join the firm. There’s the traditional graduate programs, in which graduates train to be a chartered accountant or chartered tax advisor, or work in corporate finance or on the consultancy program.

Internships include working with the firm over the summer and industrial placements involve students joining the firm for a year to get experience.

“We’re very supportive of industrial placements because they’re such a fantastic way for us to get to know you and you to get to know us and therefore for that to be quite a safe match.

“I’m very much of the belief that it’s equally important to show people what the job is like as well as to assess whether you’re going to be any good for us.”

You can join EY through the apprenticeship program in which you can earn as you learn, and actually progress faster than those who join later on the graduate scheme.

“It’s an amazing start to your career with no debt. You’re earning at the same time as learning so financially if you know what you want to do it would be hard to argue now I think that that wasn’t the right decision to make. Not everyone has that certainty about what they want to do and who they are so I think it’s really important that we have different ways you can join.”

Prior to apprenticeship entry, EY run evening and day workshops where you can get to know more about the firm and how they work, for those who are considering their career at an early age.

How does EY support employees throughout their careers?

Mental health has become an increasingly important issue to the firm in recent years, with aims around trying to convey that mental health should be treated equally to physical health.

“Most of us will experience some adverse effect on our mental health at some point in our lives, or have a loved one go through that process, so for that reason we’ve had a big investment in training mental health first aiders so people then have the skills to recognise what’s happening with a colleague and ensure there is an appropriate care pathway for that individual.”

A key way that EY have opened up discussion of mental health in the workplace is by having partners talk about their mental health experiences, from depression and alcoholism to anxiety and bereavement.

“It shows incredible bravery from those involved who have spoken about their experiences.”

The impact is overwhelming, with employees who see partners sharing their experiences then feeling able to approach their manager if they are going through a tough time.

How is EY addressing diversity in the workplace?

Inclusive leadership is a big focus for the firm right now. They are keen to upskill partners to ensure they are being inclusive in everything they do, and then cascade this down the firm.

Flexible working is also part of this, which is a policy EY are encouraging everyone to use, not only working mothers.

“It’s so important too to our younger fathers who want to play a more meaningful role as a dad than maybe their dad did, so it’s one of the things we think makes us a very attractive firm to work with.

“We’ve got shared parental leave policies. We’ve seen a really great uptake of men taking shared parental leave. We’d like to see them taking longer, there’s still quite a lot of stickiness. At the 6-7 week mark when their salary drops off from being 100% to being 50%, it seems like the men are coming back to work and we’d like them to take longer.

Other initiatives at EY include the returners programme, which is for men and women who have had a career break of up to ten years. It involves 12 weeks for paid work experience with a good prospect of employment at the end.

As part of the EY development program, the Career Watch scheme is for high potential women and BME employees. It’s a sponsorship program, in which the sponsor has the job of advocating and helping the employee progress to senior manager within two years.

Targets are also an important way for EY to progress when it comes to diversity.

They have a 30% target for female new partners and a 10% target for BME partners. They have currently beaten the BME target, and are sitting just below the female one at 28%. Team leaders are expected to avoid diluting talent pools, so if 30% of managers are female, promotions should be 30% female too.

 

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