I had the privilege of working for Ernst & Young for almost two years in Kenya. If you asked me whether I enjoyed the experience, I would tell you I did. Here’s what it’s like to work in one of the big four professional firms worldwide. (Don’t worry, I am not going to reveal confidential information here, lest I get sued)
It’s no secret that the big four recruit the sharpest minds from campus or when they hire at higher levels, they get those with a proven performance record in the industry. So it was a pleasure working with some smart people in EY. People for whom the common goal is to finish an assignment with efficiency. People to whom you explain something only once, or no explanation is needed. No pettiness (mostly), no sweating the small stuff (depending on your team).
Dynamic Environment & Great Experience
I worked on various assignments dealing with clients in different industries: manufacturing, hospitality, banking, insurance etc. In the jobs you get to learn about the clients’ needs and understand how various industries operate. I worked in IT Risk & Advisory, which is a very dynamic field. Well, although EY is known as an accounting firm, and where balance sheets remain the same year in year out; I was in a different service line which is Advisory (Consultancy). In IT, things change all the time and we needed to stay on top of the game in order to win jobs and perform on assignments.
Being a consultant means I hardly spent time in the office. I would report to the office only to get a new assignment, then I go to the client’s premises to ‘advise’ them and stay there for the period of the assignment. When it was done, back to the office for the next assignment; or just straight from one client to the next. At the very least, there is no dread at the thought of going to the same desk over and over again, each day every day, several months and years gone by.. although some client’s working environments were not the most desirable, at least change was guaranteed from time to time.
When you strut into the offices of a new client, and they’ll introduce you like, “This is the consultant from EY” and you stand taller haha.. consultants are generally
selfimportant. And you get respect and tea served on time, and since the tag “auditor” hangs over you, and everyone wants to be in your good books.
So I’m in Japan and I am meeting people from the world over. I tell them I worked in EY and they nod in understanding. Everyone knows EY. Everyone assumes that you must be smart, I mean the big 4 are known for recruiting the smartest of the lot. So the name on your CV will already put in you in favourable light. Of course now you have to prove yourself. And back home you state you work in EY and you pause for people to take it in, as if you own shares in the company, when all you really are is a KYM (Kazi ya Mkono).
At entry-level, you are a KYM. Then you get to be a senior, after some years, when you have enough work experience to lead an assignment and have also acquired some managerial skills. And then depending on your ability to bring in business, you can make manager. To make director, partner.. it’s not so much about your technical skills now but your ability to sell the business, to bring in accounts and retain clients. You’re a salesman. Just ask Harvey Specter in Suits how he made partner. And it’s a pyramid, so some people have to fall of off along the way. It’s competitive, it is the so-called corporate ladder. Will I go back to the corporate world? Hmmm.. I am now in Japan to get leverage, if I come back it will not be at the base of the pyramid, that’s for sure. In any case, that pyramid base is fed by fresh-eyed and eager smart graduates churned out by our universities, year after year. I am coming for the very top. (GG do you read this? )
Haha, what pay? You guys are joking. I think it’s case of the grass is greener on the other side. Guys who are out think we earn more than them, and us who are in know we don’t. After all, we do look at your payroll cough cough. Anyway, money has never been and will never be enough. And if it’s your chief motivation then EY is not the place for you.
There is no workplace without its politics and all. Some companies have it better, some have it worse. Also, as a young mother, I was able to work and deliver on my assignments, thanks to a fairly understanding team. All you can do is embrace the positive and soldier on. The company is quite fair, on paper at least. EY was voted top employer in Africa by some survey. All in all, the work at EY was a necessary corporate experience that I’m grateful for.