Earlier this year, we promoted 747 of our people to partners – 12% more partner promotions than 2017 and the largest since 2015. Transitioning to a partner role is a major career milestone for most of our people – and a major change in responsibilities too. We recently caught up with EY alumna and former EY Partner Cheryl-Jane Kujenga to talk about her rise through the ranks and transition to a partner role.
Cheryl-Jane Kujenga, EY alumna and now CFO of Adcorp Holdings Limited, spent 16 years of her successful career with EY. She became partner when she was only 29. “It was daunting I have to admit,” she says. But advice from Ajen Sita, now CEO of EY Africa, is what she says helped her with the transition.
"Ajen, at the time, was the Head of Audit,” Cheryl-Jane recollects “and he sat me down and talked to me about the fact that I needed to be comfortable with what I brought to the table and not try and sit as the client CEO or CFO.
“He used to say to me that when you sit with a client, walk in with what you are comfortable, what you are bringing to the table and the level of experience and exposure you have. Don't try and be them. They understand their business. And you will bring value to them, because you understand your role as the auditor.” Cheryl-Jane finds this advice useful, years later as a CFO and as the youngest member of Adcorp’s executive team.
During our conversation, Cheryl-Jane also discussed the controversies audit firms in South Africa, where she lives, have been through and the impact such controversies have had on those firms.
“One of the things that gives me great pride is that EY is not one of the firms that's been caught up in scandals. When I was a partner, I used to get very frustrated with our risk management processes. But there was a gentleman called Mike Bourne who ran risk and audit. I'd like to thank him. I think he did us all a great favor.”
Advice for aspiring leaders
Cheryl-Jane has three tips for aspiring EY partners and people who want to rise to leadership positions:
- “Make sure that you are strong in what you do. Build your credibility. People can see through fluff after a while.”
- “Find a sponsor. Understand who can help you navigate the corridors of the firm and work closely with them.”
- “Don't be afraid to take on different challenges. I often used to get asked why I stayed so long in the firm. It's because my role was never the same from year to year.”