Sonia Ooi, Manager, Lead Advisory, Kuala Lumpur
I wanted to join a Big 4 firm immediately after graduating from college but it took longer than I thought. My first job was with a mid-tier accounting firm, then I moved into a small investment company before joining EY. Looking back, I’m actually glad that happened because those experiences were invaluable and I’m proof you don’t have to join a Big 4 firm fresh out of school to be successful at EY.
I never thought I’d end up working in transactions. During my college days, I was quite curious about how companies set their growth strategies around M&A, but never thought about working in that space. I guess my heart has brought me to where I am supposed to be because I love it!
I won’t lie, the work is demanding, especially when we’re on a deadline. But with the support of my team I can balance work with my family, personal and social life. It’s really about knowing how to prioritize and manage the expectations of my bosses and teammates. More often than not, they willingly show their support for all parts of my life.
I cannot emphasize enough just how globally connected EY is. I am currently working on a Power and Utilities engagement based in Malaysia, which means I am constantly getting in touch with industry leaders in the UK, Australia and Singapore. It’s great because it encourages us to learn from each other. Also it’s great knowing that when I’ve finished for the day, the work still goes on, because I can call on the support of my colleagues around the world. It means clients see us as collaborative and amazingly resourceful!
Your employer becomes part of your own brand, so it’s important they have a clear purpose that is aligned with your own beliefs. I sincerely believe that companies can fulfil a good purpose alongside the pursuit of profit. EY’s purpose is embedded in its culture and its brand globally, not just words on a page – and this motivates me.
To progress up the career ladder, you need an open door. Yes, I’m mixing metaphors here but it’s the best way to describe my experience. My career progression has been seamless owing to an engaging counsellor, partner and direct supervisor – all of whom always have their doors open for me. This allows timely discussions on where I am and what I need to improve for my next career progression.
Doing something new can be daunting at first. But I know I need to unlock new skills in order to grow professionally, and I’m grateful EY gives me those opportunities. My partner in charge has never doubted my ability to take on a new challenge, even if I have no prior experience, and their confidence allows me to push my limits and flourish.
Someday I hope to become a partner and still stay in control of my life. It’s all about integrating all aspects of my life. The work is demanding but the key is setting priorities and managing expectations. I see partners making it work and I see how it works for me now. It’s doable.
I’m coming up to four years at EY and never, even for one day, have I felt like I was treated as second-class because I am a woman. I work with a great team, who are open and willing to share experiences with each other and recognizes individual strengths and capabilities, regardless of gender or anything really. Everyone has equal access to opportunities and progression as long as you perform.