The backbone of Ernst & Young alumni relations is our network of 23 Alumni Councils in the US, Canada and London, England. Comprising more than 400 of your fellow Ernst & Young alumni, including approximately 100 former partners, these Councils help us stay in touch with the pulse of our alumni.
The Councils’ feedback provides vital direction for our alumni efforts. Our Councils also serve as a sounding board to improve our brand, to better understand current market issues and to best serve our clients and constituents. In recognition of their contribution, we want to introduce you to some of our Council members who are truly helping us stay connected.
San Francisco Alumni Council member and Vice President, Corporate Controller and Principal Accounting Officer, Cisco Systems. More
South Bay (San Jose) Alumni Council member and Corporate Controller, Tesla, Inc. More
Working the network
Whether it’s helping guide Cisco Systems into the future, or serving on the San Francisco Alumni Council, for Prat Bhatt, life is all about networking. The former Ernst & Young LLP senior manager joined Cisco 12 years ago, drawn by the company’s high-tech culture and reputation.
While his official title is Vice President, Corporate Controller and Principal Accounting Officer, Bhatt says his job allows him to “cover a lot of ground.” This includes working with investors, partnering with company engineers and participat-ing in strategic development. “Cisco had the foresight to recognize the network would become the platform for the massive convergence of all forms of communications and IT,” says Bhatt. Today, he is passionate about helping Cisco achieve its vision of expanding the network to change the way we live, play, work and learn. “That,” he says, “is what drives me.”
Bhatt is also wired to help Ernst & Young alumni network. “There’s incredible power in the alumni network that I think we’re just starting to tap into,” he states. As an original member of the San Francisco Council, Bhatt is focused on building a stronger, better connected alumni community. “We have a constant stream of new alumni. Our Council is asking: ‘How do we capture this to the benefit of the entire alumni community? How can we leverage our connections?
We don’t have all the answers, but I think we’ve got a common vision and that we’re asking the right questions,” says Bhatt.
Keeping with the board and governance theme of this issue of Connect, we asked our two featured Council members whether they see board or governance service in their future. Bhatt currently serves as Audit Committee Chair for the Cisco Foundation and as a Trustee and Vice Chair of the Financial Executives Research Foundation (part of Financial Executives International).
He’s also on the Financial Accounting Standards Board Advisory Council. Looking ahead, Bhatt definitely sees himself serving on a corporate board. “Over time you develop a lot of experience and judgment,” notes Bhatt. In more recent years, Bhatt has been spending a “huge part” of his time developing his leadership skills. “I’d like to use these skills at the highest level, as well as to be able to influence those issues that are important to me.”
Bhatt also feels that he has a responsibility to serve: “The profession has treated me very well. I’ve been fortunate to have had opportunities not everyone gets. I think I need to do something with that.”
All charged up
Somewhere along the way to pursuing a PhD in immunology, South Bay (San Jose) Alumni Council member Rex Liu decided an MBA degree would come in handy in the fast-evolving biotech world. So he returned to his alma mater, the University of Toronto, and as part of his MBA studies, interned at Ernst & Young.
He eventually joined the firm full time and worked in Toronto for three years as a member of the entrepreneurial services team. “I got to work on a lot of tech companies, so it was a great fit,” says Liu. However, Liu yearned to be in the epicenter of the biotech world. So he relocated to Silicon Valley to join the Life Sciences group in the Ernst & Young LLP Palo Alto office.
Three years later, Liu made the jump to private industry and joined Gilead Sciences, a leading biotech company. He spent six years at Gilead and then heard about an opening at Tesla Motors, another high-tech focused on making high-performance all-electric vehicles. The company was poised to go public and Liu saw it as an opportunity to expand his controllership experience.
Today, as Tesla’s corporate controller, Liu says he is “fascinated and inspired” by the company’s drive, vision and passion in designing and developing premium electric vehicles — a niche where many others have failed. Tesla Motors began delivering its first sedan, the Model S, to customers in June of this year and plans to produce more than 20,000 vehicles in 2013. “These are certainly exciting times at Tesla,” says Liu.
Liu is also revved up about serving on the South Bay Alumni Council. Although the Council has met just twice since its formation this past year, Liu is impressed with the “great exchange of ideas, perspectives and needs” among Council members. As one of the Council’s younger members, Liu has a particular interest in ensuring that younger alumni are well integrated into the larger alumni community.
When people leave Ernst & Young, Liu believes they sometimes don’t know whom to turn to for guidance. “I think our alumni network can be used to connect newer alumni with more experienced alums who can serve as role models or provide advice.”
As to corporate board service, Liu’s interested, but not right away. “Board members must bring a perspective or expe-rience to a company that no one else on the management team has,” says Liu. He also believes that great board mem-bers possess a great breadth of experience and depth of knowledge on issues that complement the perspective of management.
“Once I feel I have enough experience and knowledge,” says Liu, “I would consider it.” But in the meantime, Liu is con-tent to accelerate success at Tesla and to serve on the South Bay Council.