Talented women in transactions

Share in the journey, stories, insights and advice of inspiring women around the world. These stories are about being more successful in business, important career lessons, delivering purpose and how diversity can have a real impact.

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At a time when innovation is accelerating the speed of change, we need to ensure diverse capabilities and thought are helping to address today’s toughest business questions. That is the only way to arrive at better answers.

Julie Hood

EY Global Deputy Vice Chair – Transaction Advisory Services

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Sonia Ooi

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.

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    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.

Kristen Connelly

Senior Manager, Divestiture Advisory Services, Miami

I knew I wanted to work with smart, driven and successful people. I deliberately set out to work for a Big 4 organization. I started in Audit at EY, but after five years I knew it wasn’t my passion. Thanks to the terrific counsellor and mentor I had at the time, I was introduced to an opportunity that better matched my interests in Transaction Advisory Services (TAS).

Kristen Connelly
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    The focus on current and future global issues makes EY an exciting place to be. There’s recognition that individuals and teams create a better working world. While EY sponsors many internal and external programs that encourage innovative thinking on how issues can be handled, we’re encouraged to live this purpose every day in our individual roles.

    Global doesn’t just mean international – it’s who you work with day to day too! My team currently includes people from Brazil, France, India, Ireland, Singapore and the US. Over the past five years, each of my teams has been just as diverse. Our clients are often global organizations, so this global thinking within and across our teams not only helps us to fully support them through a transaction, it’s helpful for our own learning too.

    Not every job allows you to visit the Taj Mahal on the weekend. I once spent an entire month at our Global Delivery Services Centre at Gurgaon in India, providing training and assisting with process improvement. It was an opportunity to work closely with people from the UK, Germany, Australia and the US that I’d previously only communicated with over the phone. Building these relationships, which is easier to do in person, has definitely had a beneficial impact on my day-to-day work. 

    Work-life balance will not always be perfect. Life will challenge you. But you need to set your priorities. If I have a personal commitment that’s important, I tell my team, and because they know it’s important, they will always pitch in to help.  Even if there are deadlines.  It’s a two-way street, because when my team member has a commitment, it will be my turn to pitch in!

    Achieving work-life balance is all about communication. Working in Transactions is a rewarding and demanding job where you will work long hours, but just as we constantly adapt our workflow to meet changing client deadlines, we can adapt our workflow to meet personal team commitments.  Whether it’s attending your child’s school performance or training for a marathon, communicating your personal commitments and goals is what allows your team to provide you the flexibility needed to achieve your balance. 

    If you’re too comfortable you’re probably not growing. I’ve been challenged and pushed out of my comfort zone almost on a weekly basis. The point is to continue your professional development. With the support and direction of counsellors and mentors, I’ve been able to create a detailed roadmap of the necessary qualifications and achievements for promotion. It’s meant I’ve had the right experiences and the right support to improve year by year. It’s that support and guidance that steered my career from Audit to TAS.

Jessica Lönnqvist

Jessica Lönnqvist

Manager, Transactions Diligence, Helsinki

All I wanted to do was to get under the skin of corporates. It wasn’t about a fancy job title or prestige. While completing my Masters in Finance, I discovered that I really enjoyed working out what made corporates successful, by exploring their financials and understanding the industry specific drivers behind their financial development. I wanted to work in an interesting and dynamic role at a global company in my field of studies. Working in transactions with financial due diligence at EY allows me to do just this.

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    EY is a meritocracy: if I perform well, I will be rewarded. I started at EY as an entry-level analyst. Since then I’ve been promoted twice and I’m now a manager. EY is meritocratic – both in terms of compensation and career progression – so I feel like I am in charge of my own destiny. The added bonus is that with each step-up comes new challenges and responsibilities.

    It is important for me to feel a sense of purpose in my work. My personal interests and success at EY are encapsulated in one, clear purpose: helping clients make their deals successful in order to achieve their strategic goals. It is equally important to know that this ethos is shared by my company. I believe it is.

    I’m a realist: tight deadlines are part of working in M&A. But flexibility can work both ways. In M&A I need to be prepared to work intense hours. However, I’ve learned to take time to rest between projects, which is encouraged. EY recognises the importance of flexible working in terms of where and when the work is done (as long as it gets done), which makes it easier to manage personal commitments.

    My three-month secondment in Milan with EY was an invaluable experience. It exposed me to new, bigger clients and stretched my technical knowledge. I also gained experience in a new sector and was able to really explore my personal interest in getting to know how companies work by looking at their financials. The coaching and mentoring from senior peers also really helped me to grow professionally.

    The global mindset of EY people is really inspiring. The open, international and collaborative environment is so valuable. As well as my own experiences in Milan, I’ve seen several colleagues transfer to other EY offices, either temporarily or permanently and I regularly work with people across the world, depending on my client.

    My motto: do everything to the very best of your ability, with pride, and the rest will follow. With this mindset I feel like I can become a partner if I choose. I’m confident that I could manage my work-life balance by prioritizing my work and trusting my team. But, there are still plenty of decisions to make before then, both in my personal and professional life.

Isabelle Duggan

Senior, Transactions Diligence, Sydney

I didn’t want to be placed in a box as either a ‘lawyer’ or an ‘accountant’ – I studied both. EY stood out to me as a dynamic organization that would provide opportunities across the board. Three years on, it continues to surprise me.

Isabelle Duggan
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    We work hard, that’s the unvarnished, honest truth. When the deal is on you have to get it done, and then we celebrate and catch our breath. However, outside of these times working flexibly is hugely supported here. My team really trust each other and because of the way we work together, I feel I can manage my personal commitments. That said, everyone is focused on doing the best possible job for our client.

    I love skiing, I even worked as a ski lift operator during my gap year and I’ve been able to combine work and pleasure. Not just because flexibility means I can still hit the slopes, but a career highlight was working on a real estate deal, the buy-side financial due diligence for a major ski resort in Australia – I felt like I understood the deal from all sides. It required technical experience and required a lot of innovation on our part. It was definitely an exciting experience to be on the frontline.

    EY is truly global, a key reason it’s so interesting and challenging, but it sometimes feels like everyone is in the same office. The global reach is evident on a day-to-day basis. We frequently work closely with teams across Asia-Pacific, and farther afield if that’s the nature of the deal. But technology keeps us connected and collaboration is our mantra.

    Being pushed was the best thing for me, and my career. I had an amazing senior manager on a project who mentored me, and would constantly push me. Her support meant I was able to gain the right experiences that led me to being promoted last year. I’m working with a new senior manager now, and he’s just as keen to see me climb the ladder! To have someone make such an investment in me and my career is invaluable – it’s just part of the culture here.

    Being a woman is not a barrier; I have the same opportunities to progress as my male colleagues. Everyone is treated fairly and equitably here, in fact, reward and promotion are monitored to help ensure parity – we are one team after all.

    I want to become a partner and I have no doubt it can happen without sacrificing my life outside of work. I work with a great team, but the partners and directors still make work/life balance a priority through flexible working hours and working from home – there’s no reason I couldn’t do the same when I progress further in my career.

    I want clients to see beyond their financial due diligence report, and to start thinking about the bigger picture impact they can have. The value that we provide to clients goes beyond a profit made or the words written in a report – but affects shareholders, employees, suppliers and customers – the whole community. How is that not purpose-driven?