4 minute read 6 May 2021
Creating my path – How did Markus and Niklas find international opportunities at EY?

Creating my path – How did Markus and Niklas find international opportunities at EY?

By EY Finland

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

EY Finland is a globally connected, multidisciplinary professional services organization driven by our purpose: building a better working world – for our clients, our people and communities.

4 minute read 6 May 2021
Related topics Careers

This episode of the Creating my Path -blog series is published in English. We had a chat with Markus Schneider and Niklas Korhonen who both enjoy the international atmosphere at EY – read their stories here!

Markus Schneider works as a Manager in the Finnish Process Excellence-team, which is part of Assurance, and is originally from Germany, where he attended both elementary and high school after which he decided to move to Switzerland for his bachelor’s and master’s studies. “During this time, I did an exchange semester in Finland in Kuopio, which can be viewed as a link to coming back here”.

Niklas Korhonen works as a Senior Consultant in Finance Consulting team and is originally from Finland., having attended his high school and university studies in Helsinki. “Although funnily enough Markus, when I was looking for my first graduate job, I was considering some of the German-speaking countries!” A friend working within the Consulting practice tipped him off that they were looking for a fresh new consultant. “I applied and got the job and noticed the international atmosphere immediately.”

First steps

Upon returning home from his exchange, Markus contemplated whether to remain in Switzerland or move to Germany for a while. “As all university recruitments were done by the EY organization in Switzerland I opted to stay there and joined their Audit team.” After having spent two and a half years in Audit he figured that his next step was to transfer to a FAAS practice. “In the beginning I focused more on typical accounting topics but started gradually working on modelling processes and digitalized work. Having done this for another 2.5 years I looked for other options within EY, since I had enjoyed the organization as an employee. I decided to look at opportunities outside of Switzerland with an open mind and found that the Process Excellence team in Finland was looking for a manager. I had fond memories of the country based on my exchange period, so I applied. The process went quickly, I got the job, moved to Finland and here I am!”

The past 3.5 years Niklas has been working in various engagements, mostly for a multinational company headquartered in Finland, and the first day he joined the EY organization he was put in the call with client stakeholders from across the globe. He soon took on a project management role in a global legal entity rationalization project, managing local country deployments in e.g. Ecuador, Italy and South Korea simultaneously. “The biggest challenge here came from a time zone perspective, as one summer I woke up early to talk with the Koreans, spend regular working hours talking with Italians and extended my workday to finalize things with Ecuadorians. Physically it was a bit rough but simultaneously it was a great learning experience. Even if the client was the same the cultural differences were evident, be it from a working or meeting cultures perspective. It was also fascinating learning about the regulatory and procedural differences in the countries and see how they tackle them.”

Niklas works with client stakeholders from across the globe in Finance Consulting team.

Having spent 2 years on this project Niklas was enjoying his last day of summer vacation when he got a call that upon returning to the office he’d fly to London and start in a big Tax and Finance Operate engagement signed under EY’s offices in London. “Most of the core project members were in the UK and due to this me and two other Finnish colleagues spent the fall peddling between London and Helsinki. If I thought my previous engagement was international, it was even more apparent on this one with 120+ countries involved. It was interesting (and a tad hectic) to be part of a partly client-facing and partly internal engagement, where good coordination was essential.”

Differences in hierarchy

When asked about how cultures have differed between their current home base and previous engagements Niklas points out that: “Nowadays there’s no such thing as a “normal culture” due to it being so common to have people with different cultural backgrounds. It’s up to oneself to read the room and adapt their own methods and ways of working to fit in.” Naturally there are some distinct cultural differences which are apparent when working with the same task with multiple cultures. As an example, Niklas points out that it was evident that certain meeting structures used in Latin American countries were vastly different from ones in Far East Asia. “In Ecuador for instance the number of participants in a meeting was a lot larger and they utilized it as an info-session of sorts while as in South Korea the tempo was a lot quicker with only necessary stakeholders being present. Don’t get me wrong, neither way is better, they’re just different and I had to adapt.”

Markus agrees with Niklas and highlights that especially in European countries the cultural differences aren’t as evident as in the comparison between South America and Far East Asia. However, there is a hierarchical difference between central European and Nordic countries. “In the Nordics consultants are free to challenge partners in ways of thinking which is unheard of in say Germany and Switzerland. The same is also visible when meeting clients, where the role of a partner is more supportive and ironing out the details while the managers and team members lead the conversation. This differs greatly from the meeting structure in Germany and Switzerland, where the partner leads the conversation and managers tend to be ones taking notes.”

Niklas adds that a similar situation can be seen in the UK as well and that they’re closer to our German and Swiss colleagues. “Sure, we have a corporate ladder at EY and can be viewed somewhat hierarchical compared to a typical Finnish organization, but that’s mostly visible in the admin tasks at work, not in our everyday life. Due to our work culture, I’ve never hesitated in approaching a partner with questions but in other parts of the world I might reconsider the situation and as previously mentioned “read the room” so to say.”

Another thing which Niklas found interesting was the amount of responsibility given to him right from the start. “I’m not sure if the situation would’ve been the same in other parts of the world but I could assume that it correlates with the size of our organization in Finland as well as the work culture we have. Once you’re hired, no matter your rank, you’re given responsibilities.”

“Trust in the younger employees is higher in Finland in general, although it does depend on the person hired” Markus notes. “In general, I’d say that if a person demonstrates that they’re accountable and proves themselves to their superiors, they’re given more responsibilities, no matter where in the world they work.”

International mindsets

Niklas highlights, that his colleagues have a very international mindset. “It’s very easy to throw anyone into any situation and they’ll find a way to adapt due to them not being afraid of international interactions. This type of work can be challenging at times, but it definitively keeps it interesting. It broadens our view of business done in the world and we notice that people are tackling the same dilemmas but from different angles. What is there not to like about internationality!”

Markus adds that although we’re an international firm, EY clients are often even more international than we are. That as well as the international mindset Niklas mentioned has made it very easy for him to adapt to the Helsinki office. “I’ve gained a supportive, international network!”

When asked about what would be one thing to bring back as lesson learned from international environment, Niklas had this to say: “I’d bring back a psychological aspect to ways of working. EY teams have a broad range of standardized ways of doing things and differences aren’t vast. Being openminded and ready to adapt is the most important thing I’d bring back. You never know the exact background of people you work with and hence, you need to throw yourself out there, learn what works best in which situation and adapt your ways of working. A certain amount of curiosity is never wrong either, be it having a coffee with a colleague and talking about their background or learning how something is done somewhere else in the world.”

Markus agrees with Niklas, deeming that soft skills are essential to succeed. “You figure out so many things by being open, listening to people tell their story and asking them questions. It truly widens your personal view as well. projects don’t allow that much flexibility, so the work standards are the same.”

Markus transferred from EY Switzerland to EY Finland where he works within Financial Accounting Advisory Services team.

Importance of social interactions

Lastly, when asked about what’s the best thing about their international assignment, both emphasize social interactions. As Markus states: “Definitively getting to know new people! Be it colleagues or clients at work or creating a private network with the family. It’s been great doing things together as a family, you get to explore a totally new environment not only physically but also socially. Hence, I do wish for this and many other reasons that this pandemic is over soon!”

Niklas goes on to note that although meeting locals was great, it was especially working with them as part of a first of a kind engagement that spiced things up. “It gave me a feeling that I’m doing something that will shape the EY organization and the way we work in the future. We were laying the foundation for how EY teams will do Tax and Finance Operate’s in the future and a lot of time has been put in reusable assets for similar client engagements in the future which made the assignment exciting.”

Would you like to join EY and build a career as unique as you are? Take a look at our open positions on our Career pages.

Summary

The core of the EY professionals’ strategy is supporting the growth of EY professionals as well as supporting different, individual career paths. We want to offer EY professionals the chance of molding their career to their own liking! In the Creating my Path -blog series we introduce EY professionals different career stories, who’ve found new career paths within the company. As we enjoy saying: “The exceptional EY experience – it’s yours to build!”

About this article

By EY Finland

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

EY Finland is a globally connected, multidisciplinary professional services organization driven by our purpose: building a better working world – for our clients, our people and communities.

Related topics Careers