What does your current role look like on a day-to-day basis?
I’m a Director at EY and the Wealth and Asset Management sector lead for internal audit. As an auditor, my role is to protect the assets of financial institutions by providing assurance that they have sound governance, processes and controls in place. My activities vary on a daily basis and could range from client meetings, coaching and supporting my team, and assisting with or driving people or strategic initiatives. People are at the forefront of what we do at EY, so it’s important that our people have a good experience and feel supported to develop their career aspirations. This means I spend a lot of time with my team, coaching, nurturing and mentoring them, through their work but also through their careers.
I also work on some things that impact the broader organisation, in particular the diversity and inclusion strategy, which I’m helping drive as the Chair of the Race Steering Committee within our FS practice, as well as efforts around corporate social responsibility (CSR), including going out to schools to talk about my experiences and inspiring the future generation of chartered accountants and business consultants. At the heart of it, it’s all about looking after our clients, our people and our firm.
Outside of my EY role, I’m the Vice President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) in the West of England, and I’m very passionate about seeing more diversity coming through into accountancy and financial services. I hope to see a lot more applications from Queen Mary, and to see more Queen Mary students and graduates aspiring to become chartered accountants or to work in financial services. The calibre and diversity at Queen Mary is exactly what we are looking for! Women and individuals from Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are still very underrepresented in financial and professional services, therefore, I am keen to aspire as many talented people as possible to be interested in the profession.
Can you tell me about a key turning point in your career?
I’ve had a lot of turning points – all the way from being graduate. One key turning point was my experience in the industry as Head of Audit for a financial services firm. Before then, I had worked in professional practice and serviced clients from the outside. Being inside a firm as part of the management team, providing assurance to the business and supporting the executive committee as a trust advisor was interesting – a role I really enjoyed with very exciting challenges. It made me see organisations, particularly their operational aspects through a different lens and it’s an experience that I’ll forever cherish. However, after about 3 years in the industry successfully building a solid team, I was ready for variety again and decided to return to professional practice so that I could apply my industry experience and success in supporting multiple organisations.
How did your time studying Law and Economics at Queen Mary equip you for life after university?
I went on to complete my LLM in Queen Mary after my undergraduate degree, because there is no doubt that Queen Mary is one of the best universities in the country for law. My degree from Queen Mary, coupled with support from the Careers Advice Service provided me with the solid foundation to land my graduate job in one of the big 4 firms.
The other great thing about Queen Mary is that everything is all on campus – the library, the lecture theatres, cafes and the student union. I even had a job as a residency officer in the Student Accommodation Office! This convenience certainly helped to focus the mind and undoubtedly also contributed to my academic success in the university.
Why did you choose your degree and career?
I had always wanted to do Law, but my parents wanted me to do something related to business. Law and Economics was the compromise we came to, having been accepted to the course offered by Queen Mary. I’m really glad I did because it’s a degree that helped me to build a number of transferable skills that I now apply as a chartered accountant. Thankfully, you don’t need to study accountancy to qualify as a chartered accountant or work for big 4 firms such as EY.
What’s a piece of advice which changed your perspective?
I’ve had mentors throughout my career, from sixth form, and university, as a graduate all the way to now, who have helped me through my career journey. I also mentor several people including some Queen Mary students. One piece of advice I received early on was to be authentic, to be my full self. It is difficult to be authentic in the professional world, and especially if you’re from an ethnic minority background, because you can find that your cultural background conflicts with some of your professional demands. However, for someone to say that to me early in my career to bring my whole self to work and to give an authentic twist to what I do was great as it encouraged me to focus on my strengths. I say it to others too, you achieve your best when you can be yourself.
What advice would you give a current student or recent graduate considering their career options?
If you are considering a career in the Big 4 or as a chartered accountant, my advice is to please go for it. We are looking for more, talented people to come through that pipeline. Queen Mary produces talent, so don’t let anything hold you back. If you don’t feel confident, get a mentor, to find out more about your options, get them to coach you through process. A mentor’s support certainly helps.
What was the most memorable thing about your time at Queen Mary?
I did a lot of things at university, I was the vice president of the debating society. I had so much fun travelling round the country for debating competitions with other universities and socialising with my co-debaters, we became very good friends. Something I did which ended up being more time consuming than I expected was I got involved in a mooting competition, where you get to present a case at a law firm as if you were a barrister. It was really challenging and fun, but time consuming, and the experience may have helped me decide that the Bar was not the right path for me!
Tell me about your experiences volunteering with QMentoring
I have had fantastic experiences sharing in my mentees journeys. One of them has graduated and has a good job now in financial services. I made sure to bring some of them into our EY offices for coffee meetings, and hopefully they were inspired. I believe that it’s really important to invest in the next generation of leaders, but I’ve also learnt a lot from them as well. My advice to someone looking to start mentoring, is that it’s not about imposing yourself on somebody, but guiding them to make their own decisions, and so it’s most important to be a good listener.
For anyone who wants to be mentored, I would say to make the most of the relationship, go into every meeting with a plan of action, and be clear about the outcome that you are looking for.