- May Breisacher
May joined EY in July 2014 and works as a Supervising Associate/Assistant Manager within the corporate sustainability team here at EY which sits within our core business services.
“Many people have a clear career path and career ambition from a very young age. I admire these people. They seem to be so together, so ambitious, so focused. The question of ‘where you see yourself in 5 years’ time’ used to result in a bit of a vague answer: to work for a company where I enjoy what I do, where I have an impact. A company that is committed to progressing and developing people, where you can learn. And most importantly where I can be myself – my full whole self with all my strengths but also my weaknesses.
I sort of fell into my career. I was always interested in working with people, having an impact, helping organisations become better places to work. I graduated with a BA Hons in European Business from the University of Lincoln. After my undergrad, I was keen to work and build on my experience in Germany. A couple of years after working, I started an MSc in Management at the University of Leicester which I completed via distance learning, alongside work. I was in the last stretch of my postgrad when I joined EY in July 2014. It was a bit of career change, moving from the for profit sector to the third sector back to the for profit sector but in a corporate environment. I joined EY’s EMEIA Financial Services practice in the Corporate Sustainability team.
Why did I join EY?
I had worked with EY through my previous employer and attended a couple of events which I really enjoyed. EY people were so friendly. A lot of people talk about how nice the EY culture is, especially compared to other Big 4 companies. And it really has a great culture! So much so that it has actually helped me talk about something I had hidden from other employers and many people in my life. Something I was ashamed of and thought would stop me from ever progressing in a job, taking a leadership role or having a proper impact. I’m one of 1 in a 100 people in the UK who has a stammer – it’s nothing to do with being nervous or less intelligent. It’s neurological and can have a variety of forms. Mine is a covert stammer – it means it’s not very obvious to most people, as I’ve found tricks to hide it or make it less obvious. This in turn meant though that I wasn’t bringing my whole self to work and I felt it was holding me back.
EY’s people culture
As with any new environment, it took me a while to be myself at work. It was even harder to do so trying to hide I had a stammer. My team has played a key role with their openness, support and friendship. I’ve had great counsellors and line managers who challenge and stretch me while being supportive. EY’s culture is also shaped by its networks. The availability of networks and role models has been crucial to being myself. I’m not saying I’m fully there yet and am myself all the time every time but there’s a real encouragement to bring yourself to work. People accept you for who you are and often what you perceive as your biggest flaw isn’t noticeable to others. Knowing that everyone has a struggle can be helpful.
I think the great thing about EY is that it’s up to you how much you want to progress and how much you network. There’s plenty of opportunity to meet others, have access to senior leaders if you’re willing to put some effort in. I’d encourage everyone to ask questions, ask people for coffees and build your network. EY people seem to be particularly open to introductions so make the most of that! Another great thing about EY is their global operations and reach, the opportunity to try different things within the firm and its brand.
My EY journey
Since joining EY, I’ve been given a lot of responsibilities and involvement in interesting projects, including the opportunity to go on secondment into a different business unit. EY is a great place to experiment, even for experienced hires like myself. We have so many opportunities and options these days – sometimes it’s hard to find the right route for you. EY can help you explore routes. Our networks provide additional opportunities and support mechanisms. For example, I completed the 8 week mindfulness course which has become a huge part of my daily routine. This has really helped me professionally and personally. If you want support, there is support available and that’s what is really great about EY.
By opening the conversation about topics - whether gender, race, ability levels, religion, and sexual orientation - EY’s networks raise awareness help to educate and push boundaries. Since disclosing I have a stammer, I’ve joined the EY Stammering Network and have even become a co-chair. Something I never thought I’d do! I thought showing vulnerability would hinder me but in fact, it has opened so many doors. Through the Network I hope I can help to promote a culture at EY where people can feel free from judgment. I had always feared that if employers knew I had a stammer they wouldn’t employ me. However working for EY has shown me a very different side to an employer. It’s ok to be who you are. We’re not perfect but we’ve come far and even in the time I’ve been at EY I’ve seen change happening. People are accepting of differences and they are celebrated.
My ambition at EY
A lot of people call me ambitious – which I am but maybe not in the traditional sense. I’m part of an internal team. Working in corporate sustainability for our EMEIA Financial Services practice, I hope my work is making a difference to people at EY, our wider community and the environment. But more importantly it’s about driving change in our wider business, thinking about purpose beyond profit. I’d like to change how sustainability and purpose is seen by everyone in the business. That it’s not a fancy add on but part of our business strategy, objectives and that it covers every part of our business; from how we make money, to who we work with, to what services we offer, as well as using our skills to have a positive impact on the communities we work in. I’d also like to further the ability agenda. It’s such a great and rewarding opportunity to be a co-chair of the EY Stammering Network alongside my day to day job.
My top tip for joining EY
A lot of people ask me what my top tip for joining EY is and I would say this: make connections, get to know people from different ranks and parts of the business. Ask to go for coffees and learn more about how other teams work. Look at your strengths, use them wisely and don’t focus too much on your weaknesses. It’s so easy to focus on what you’re not good at, that we forget what we’re good at and what we thrive in.”