3 minute read 26 Oct 2021
diversity at EY

The people behind our EY UK film committing us to Black diversity

3 minute read 26 Oct 2021

Geoff and Thobeka both work at EY, and earlier this year took time out of their day jobs to shoot our film showing our Black colleagues’ lived experiences at EY. It’s been a few months since the film was launched, so we caught up with them to hear how they’ve been since filming the video, and to learn more about the people behind the footage.

O

ur people were integral to the authenticity of the film we made, so we're sharing their lived experiences of EY, their service lines, and from making the film itself. 

Geoff is a Technology Consulting Manager in our London Canary Wharf office, and Thobeka is an Audit Senior based in our Newcastle office. They have different experiences to share at EY, but have so much pride in making the film, being part of real change at EY, and collaborating with other Black colleagues from within the firm. 

Find out more about their experiences making the film, and their roles at EY.

    • Geoff

      • Making the film

        Lived experience before the film

        For me, I'm mixed race - because of this I mix with everybody and don't necessarily feel racism. Only a few weeks before being told there was a film being made at EY, I joined EY's Black Network. Before then I hadn't had any insight into the D&I space. But following the death of George Floyd in May 2020, I joined the EY Black Community (EYBC) following some sessions held by the Race and Ethnicity network. 

        Making the film

        At the time I was suffering from food poisoning just before filming, so it was really important to me to film because of the following: 

        • To get some confidence back and taking part in physical activity like this
        • The context of this video meant a lot - I had never seen anything like this from a company, with actions and leadership accepting that there is a problem; for me EY was taking a firm step that there is an issue of racism
        • Although I've never seen racism in London directly, now I'm in Tunbridge Wells I have seen it,  so I wanted to be a part of the change the firm is making

        I didn't realise how professional the video would be - they really selected people that had great ideas and it was really authentic.

        I'd love to branch into the world of acting after filming the video. We had a rehearsal, which meant that we bonded quite well. We got to learn about each other. On the day it was quite relaxed and people were very positive about everything.

        The impact of the film

        Interestingly, a lot of people and colleagues that have been working with me over the last few years, didn't know I was mixed race, so it generated a lot of conversations with people in my team at EY about racism, and sharing my experiences. I love that it generated discussions and conversations with others. 

        For people outside the firm (my family and friends) - they are all doing things, but not a video like this - our approach at EY was different, and putting time into creating a strong and powerful message.

        My family are very proud - of me doing this and of EY. This is quite different and personal. They are proud that the firm is taking steps to make change and allowing me to be a part of it. 

        Culture and belonging

        The film itself hasn't had an impact on what belonging means to me. But belonging is about feeling accepted and feeling like you're making a positive impact to others, and this is usually the key to being accepted. Within my team I feel like it's absolutely fantastic. In Insurance Technology, diversity is great. I joined three and a half years ago - I have found that belonging is ingrained into the team; it's got a family vibe. The team is really good at making people feel comfortable. Our team usually have large engagements - just before COVID we were 70  UK-based colleagues on my engagement and it's very diversified and large groups on projects, so we build friendships.

        More to do

        I've seen EY starting to do it, but there can be even more on D&I as part of our reviews and performance. In Insurance Technology, we have a Townhall event. D&I is always a 10 minute slot, but actually getting people to talk about how they feel, rather than just talking about what we have done in the space of processes and statistics.

      • Working in Technology Consulting

        An introduction to your role at EY
        I work in Technology Consulting, specifically in Insurance Technology. I mainly work for Insurance companies, running operational and technology changes. The work I do is more about the strategy of an organisation and target operating model to improve the businesses processes, increase revenue, and improve cost savings.

        • Strategy delivery in Operations and Technology - this usually leads to implementation work where we select a technology vendor to provide a solution to the client and we provide that from A-Z. We go through the process with the client, complete the Request for Purchase (RFP) for the client, complete agile methodologies for delivery to the client.
        • Consulting work - any problem an Insurance Company has, we are there to fix it.
         
        What attracted you to EY?
        Previously I've worked at a well-known insurance company provider and was working as a Business Analyst. I found myself getting bored and I felt like I couldn't get exposure to understanding how an implementation of something works for a client. 
         
        Then after that I worked at another Big 4 firm, working in Insurance Strategy work which was great, but there was no progressional opportunities. I was based in Canada for a project but I wanted to be based out of London.
         
        I used my network and knew about EY, and the culture being all about the people, so I was connected to a role which is the role I'm now in at EY. 
         
        What surprised you most about EY and the people?
        I love how EY is happy for everyone to be themselves - EY wants you to be who you are everyday at work!
         
        What do you like most about your role?
        There's three main things I love about the role I'm in:
        • People - the people you get exposed to
        • Delivery - the sense of achievement whether you do strategy or delivery
        • Variety - it's always moving and changing - the types of deliverables we do for a client are always changing, so we're always learning. 
         
        What advice would you give someone trying to decide whether to join EY?
        Be yourself - remain true to yourself and remain throughout EY like this too.
    • Thobeka

      • Making the film

        Lived experienced before the film

         After the George Floyd killing in May 2020, there were a lot of calls arranged by EY's Race and Ethnicity Network (REN) about diversity and I heard stories that weren't very nice. So, when I saw this advert (especially as I knew it meant I didn't need to speak on camera), I was interested in getting involved. I thought this project would be such an impactful way to bring the messafes from the calls to life. 

        In the Newcastle office, I'm the D&I champion and it's good to be part of the strategy of the organisation from a D&I perspective. 

        The video was a challenge to me - I'm in Audit so it's something completely different to my day to day activities and out of my comfort zone. It's still the best decision I've ever made and the best project I've ever worked on in my life and career. It was incredible to see the diverse group of people on the video all being from EY. 

        Making the film

        As I'm based in EY Newcastle, I was  very excited about going to London, filming a video, and I was excited about how it was going to be shown shown internally and externally. I was very inspired by the Directors’ vision and creativity. I was initially a bit uncertain about going on camera, but it was great meeting with other colleagues from EY knowing we were all in the same position. 

        The experience itself of a whole day shooting was physically exhausting but a lot of fun. It was  interesting talking to the crew and finding out how they work. I remember when they shouted “cut – that’s a wrap”, the reality came back to me of why we are doing this. I got to reflect on why we were there. I remember thinking, “this is bigger than what I had originally thought”. This is for EY’s strategy. A global firm’s commitment to anti-racism. I had an overwhelming feeling that I’m really proud to be a part of change – part of a shift.

        The impact of the film

        When I watched the video and listened to the words for the first time, the images are so beautiful and the words are so powerful. It’s a proud moment that I’m right where I should be, doing what I’m supposed to be. I'm proud of the challenge I put on myself to do this video, particularly outside of my normal day job in Audit. This video and the message behind it is something that I’ve never seen another Big 4 firm do. We would be lying to ourselves if we were saying there was no racism in the UK and in these firms, so EY is bold and brave for saying that there’s a lot more to do, we’re not perfect, we’re on a journey. I think I've made a good decision to be part of a firm that has decided to be at the forefront of change and a disruptive leader for change.

        I also remember getting the link to the video – I didn’t know I’d made the cover at the time. Someone said to me, “You’ve become you’re ancestors wildest dreams”, which was so moving.

        I started sharing the film with my team and I was given amazing feedback on both my performance and the message behind the film. My counsellor and team loved it. I was the only EY colleague in the North of England who got involved in it and I received a performance award and recognition for it in my team! 

        Culture and belonging

        For me, belonging is about intentionally being included. Always being conscious of the one person who maybe doesn’t speak up all the time, and being conscious of those who obviously have responsibilities outside of work. We’re all different, and we should be using that awareness essentially to bring us together. Belonging is about using differences as strengths and as benefits. It's more than just trying to fit in – it’s being comfortable and confident in the spaces that you’re in. I feel like I belong in my team, my office, and at EY – I have leveraged from the fact I have a smaller team which means I get to know everyone and they get to know me and it’s been working to my advantage. I love that people ask me if I’m okay and are looking out for my mental health. It's also about making sure everyone’s inputs are considered. We have a very collaborative approach in our team in Newcastle – it’s not always decisions being made from the top; things are considered at all levels for decisions and solutions.

        More to do

        Looking at it from my office in Newcastle, I can see that diversity and inclusion has progressed to some extent – I know for this year our apprenticeship programme has more diverse people - it’s got the most diversity since I’ve started. 

        I would say we should definitely be continuously aware of things like inclusive week, black history month, mental health week.

        For me, EY could be getting even more people involved in D&I – it shouldn’t be a tick box exercise, but it should be something embedded into their performance LEAD feedback – it really encompasses the Better Me aspect of our transformational leadership model.  

      • Working in Audit

        An introduction to you and your role at EY

        I am a chartered accountant from South Africa and came to the UK in February 2020, just a month before national lockdown. I studied Accounting at Wits University and trained at Auditor General South Africa. During my time in Uni, I love tutoring accounting and tax. I recently started enjoying African literature and joined a book club. I love trying out new things especially food, places and activities. I take an interest in learning about different cultures and traditions. I have a brother and two sisters and I am my mom’s doppelganger. 

        I am a Senior in Audit based in EY Newcastle, and I look after clients in the Government and Public sector, for example Universities, hospitals, councils, etc. 

        What surprised you most about EY and the people?

        My interview was a conversation and it made me feel so comfortable and I wasn’t as nervous so that was a big plus for me. The people in the office are very friendly and always willing to help. I had a smooth onboarding process and a good transition into the UK.

        What do you like most about your role?

        Solving problems every day and using EY technology to do it. I like collaborating with team members and sharing ideas and working towards the same objective. 

        Tell us what you think about EY's culture?

        It is flexible. It is more than a work life balance but rather work-life harmony. People are very friendly and helpful and supportive.

        How has your role evolved during your time at EY?

        From when I started, I had a lot of support and patience from my team because I constantly had so many questions about everything and there was a lot to take in. Now I am happy to say that I am at a point where I can help other transition into working at EY and I am assisting in answering the questions. I still ask questions but now they are more probing and a more consultative basis. 

        What is your proudest career moment?

        Moving to the UK and being part of the anti-racism commitment video.

        What advice would you give to someone trying to decide whether to join EY?

        I would encourage potential candidates to take the leap. The environment is evolving, and the way of working is changing. My growth after joining EY has been exponential in terms of skills and career. There is more to do to challenge yourself outside work and I would encourage them to get involved.

    I'm so proud of the challenge I put on myself to do this video, particularly outside of my normal day job in Audit.

    Thobeka

    Assurance Senior

     

    We are launching some exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from our film over the next few weeks and months. You can watch the full length film on our website below.

    Watch our EY UK Film
    Read our anti-racism commitments here.

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    Belonging at EY

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    Summary

    We have worked with our Black colleagues to understand their lived experience at EY to help make this video. We know that we must continue to listen and encourage open and honest conversations in order to become the allies our friends deserve.

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