I spent eight years at The University of Leeds (UK) with 6 months as a visiting scholar at the University of Sydney, Australia. My undergraduate degree was a generic English Language and Literature degree with some Latin and Creative Writing thrown in, but I became interested in the literatures of marginalized peoples and chose to take a masters in postcolonial literature, focusing on the literatures of Australia, New Zealand, and Africa, as well as postcolonial London. I then chose to specialize further, taking a PhD in Australian women’s writing, travelling to Australia to complete a research exchange programme, interning at our postcolonial institute on campus and editing part time for an international postgraduate eJournal – it was a busy time!
How did you get started in your career and what drew you to EY?
Joining EY was a career change for me. I always thought I’d go into academia, and I thought that was the only place my particular specialist knowledge and talents would be appreciated. I was coming out of the library one day and had to walk through a recruitment fair to get to my class and ran into the EY campus team. I got chatting to them and they convinced me that EY is a company all about people, with different strengths coming together to make exceptional teams. They were really friendly and pretty persuasive that my skills might be desirable, so I went along to a recruitment event looking at a day in the life of a consultant and thought, ‘wow, this is really interesting!’. I didn’t realize what a diverse range of work was available, so I went away and, typical researcher, did my research. The more I read about EY – its reputation for talent management, careers for women, a safe place for disabled people, a great LGBT network, interesting projects, passionate people, opportunities abroad, diversity – the more I knew it was somewhere I wanted to work. I didn’t have any particular team in mind, so I looked at their graduate scheme, the Advisory Consultant Programme, which would provide me a good grounding in the areas of the business and consulting skills. I was thrilled to be accepted, and here I am three years later still loving my job.
What are your typical daily responsibilities?
I work for EY’s client-facing Digital Learning and Communication (“DLC”) team, who provide a range of services to clients. The team consists of learning and development specialists, instructional designers, designers and other experts who collaborate with technical specialists in EY to deliver end-to-end solutions to our clients, globally.
The team consists of 60 individuals and work to date has included eLearning modules, Virtual Instructor Led Teaching and e-briefing videos across a wide range of subject matter.
There is no typical day! At the grade I am now, much of my work involves liaising between the producers of module content, whether that is technical or instructional designers, and the client themselves – making sure the client is happy with the content being produced. This can be on a call, in a meeting, via email, or in workshops – it all depends on the deliverable being produced. I’ve worked on adverts, e-learning modules, e-briefings, communications, and more. I also sometimes work on the project management side of things, making sure we have the right resources, that the budget is on track, that the paperwork is all signed and up to date, and that the work is running smoothly.
Work doesn’t stop at 5pm: I also regularly attend events through our networks – the LGBT network Unity, the women’s network, and the disabled working group and these tend to be lunch time seminars or evening workshops and networking drinks.
How do you manage your disability at work?
I have myalgic encephalomyopathy (M.E., otherwise known as chronic fatigue syndrome, or C.F.S). It has taken a lot of trial and error but I have now found a routine that works for me, thanks to lots of support from EY. I have a fixed desk with ergonomic equipment, I have the option to do a few days a week working from home, and I also have access to taxis as and when needed to help me get to work. I book in lunch every day and stick to it – getting a complete hour of rest away from my desk really helps. I do 10-6 everyday, which allows me a bit of extra time in the morning to travel to work and means I miss the worst of the morning and evening rush hour.
How has your employer helped you to do well at your workplace?
We don’t have line managers, as such, but we have ‘counsellors’ who look after our personal development and career progression – mine is fantastic! He is a real advocate for me and has been a great support, helping me steer through any obstacle or difficulty I’ve faced. I also have a great mentor. Both of them always tell me to take my disability out of the picture – have the career that I want and if my disability causes me problems, we’ll find a way to overcome it, but that shouldn’t stop me from pursuing my goals.
Our HR team is fantastic, and I tend to always deal with the same person. They know me and my condition and are a great support when I need extra support or assistance.
The partner in our team, and all my colleagues, all understand my capabilities and there is a real culture of support. If anything is proving too much or if I’m having difficulties due to my health, I have a team of people to turn to help me through.
EY have also provided support through allowing me to use taxis for work – without them I wouldn’t be able to get into work some days, and certainly wouldn’t be able to work as hard as I do.
How would you describe the diversity culture at EY?
It’s such a diverse place to work! There are people of different ages and backgrounds and they actively encourage people of different strengths to work together. We have a great range of networks that can introduce you to colleagues of the same faith, gender or sexuality. As a disabled, bisexual woman I feel pretty at home here and feel like I can bring my whole self to work – I’m just another member of the team.
What advice or top tips would you offer?
I have three top tips:
- Find an advocate: Make sure that someone you work with understands your condition and your capabilities. No matter who we are, it’s always good to have someone to fight our corner if ever we need them to. Hopefully, you won’t ever need them to go to bat for you, but it is good to know they are there if you need them. They should be someone you can go to in confidence, who understands the company and has the ability to do something about it if you have any difficulties.
- Know your limits: Don’t feel pressured into doing everything – we all have our limits. I know that if I attend a full day of training, I can’t go to the networking drinks in the evening because it is just too much. I know that if I attend a three hour meeting, I can’t go straight into another meeting without a break. Set yourself some rules and guidelines about what you can and cannot do. At work we call these tailored adjustment agreements – it’s a simple document that states, for anyone I’m working for and with, what I need to do my job and what I can and can’t do. Get it down in black and white and get it agreed. That way, you should never feel guilty about saying no to something that is really too much for you. It’s ok to not be able to do everything!
- But – don’t let your disability limit you: This may seem a bit of a contradiction to my first tip, but hear me out! Don’t ever think that because of your disability there is something you can’t or shouldn’t be doing. With the right support in place, there is often a way to do what you want to do. I never thought I’d be able to work on hectic client projects, or travel for work, or even come into work every day – but working with my colleagues and my support system here at EY I’ve found a way to do this, within my limits. If there’s something you really want to do, find a way to do it – if it doesn’t work out, at least you tried. Good luck!