African American businesswoman consulting client in boardroom

Four lessons from the EY culture of mentorship

As learning opportunities, mentorship make positive impacts that last — no matter where they are in their careers.


In brief
  • Through mentorships, employees find a stronger sense of purpose.
  • Both mentees and mentors benefit from solid mentorships.
  • Mentorship drives professional development and introduces opportunities.ployees find a stronger sense of purpose. 

When we talk to employees about what brings them fulfillment at work, there’s one theme that stands out every year: the power of mentorship. The EY apprenticeship model is a core part of our employees’ career journeys. It isn't just an aspect of our culture; it’s essential to who we are as an organization.

Mentorship allows our people to unlock their full potential by learning from peers and colleagues at different levels across the organization. In fact, a recent MENTOR study¹ conducted with EY support found that American adults give their mentors more than half (56%) of the credit for the success in their lives.

 

Mentorship extends to the broader EY mission of building a better working world, as we bring our culture of mentorship to EY Ripples volunteering activities like College MAP (Mentoring for Access and Persistence) and collaborations with organizations like Junior Achievement² and MENTOR³.

Below, we share the invaluable lessons individuals across the EY organization have gleaned as both mentees and mentors and how these lessons ripple through their professional and personal lives.

 

1. Mentorship brings a sense of purpose to work

 

In a demanding work environment, it can be easy to get bogged down by everyday demands. But with dedicated time to coach rising talent or volunteer with EY Ripples programs, EY employees gain a sense of perspective and higher purpose.

 

Jessica Stokes, who’s been at Ernst & Young LLP (EY US) for over 20 years, finds purpose in providing support and guidance to help underserved high school students reach and thrive in college. “The College MAP program has given me an incredible purpose,” she says. “My mentees have become family and continue to provide fulfillment, perspective and inspiration.” Jessica was one of the founding members of Boston’s College MAP program and has helped more than 100 mentees over the years. (And she’s just one of over 1,800 EY employees who are involved across the US.)

 

Valery Perez also found her purpose through mentorship. In fact, mentorship is what brought her to EY US in the first place. In 2016, while she was involved with Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE)⁴, EY US named her EY Youth Scholar. The recognition came with a scholarship and the opportunity to attend a special regional event, where she met several EY senior leaders.

 

Years later, once Valery had graduated from college and had a few professional years under her belt, she reconnected with people from the event and landed a job at EY US. “I’m a firm believer that I wouldn’t be where I am in my career if it weren’t for my mentors,” she says. “Their support really sticks with me. I feel like it’s my responsibility to help the next person. It’s my purpose in life.”

 

2. Mentorship is a two-way street

 

When most people think of mentorship in a corporate environment, they envision a conventional relationship in which a more senior person counsels rising junior talent. But at EY US, it’s clear that the most productive mentorships are built on reciprocity, where both sides gain something from investing in the relationship.

 

Kevin Cole, EY Chicago Office Managing Partner, believes mentorship is a learning opportunity for everyone from senior partners to individuals just beginning their careers. He likes that the EY mentoring culture allows senior leaders to hear the ideas of junior team members, while younger workers can test their thinking within a supportive learning environment. Even after 23 years at EY US and multiple leadership roles, Kevin’s search for mentors continues. And he makes sure his search doesn’t stop at the top. Kevin credits some of his young mentees, several of whom he works with as Chair of the EY Chicago People Advisory Forum, with helping him become a smarter and more empathetic leader. “They mentor me, the collective group, as they keep teaching me the things I don’t see the right way,” he says.

3. Mentorship prompts learning and growth

Mentors have the unique ability to help mentees with their current obstacles while inspiring them to think beyond the current moment. Mentors often ask hard questions about personal strengths and weaknesses, long-term vision and the steps mentees are taking to advance to the next chapter.

Over his five years at EY US, Tim Sheridan has had several different mentors — all of whom have helped push him in new directions. One mentor encouraged him to diversify his projects after establishing a comfortable tenure with a single client. Tim now works with multiple clients and has been exposed to a much wider network of colleagues. “Right off the bat, I was given the chance to be front and center with the client, but there was an understanding that I didn’t have to have all the answers right away,” Tim says. “At EY US, you get both the opportunity to learn and to contribute. And that’s really the best place to be.”

Similarly, Kevin Cole sought out mentors with different backgrounds and skill sets early in his career. His mentors helped him find potential learning paths and made sure he felt empowered to pursue them. “The best careers at EY US are not career ladders, but career lattices,” Kevin shares. “I learned to have one goal of doing my current role exceptionally well, while always having another foot in something I thought I might want to do someday.”'

4. Mentorship is the great opportunity equalizer

Good mentors will help individuals — regardless of background — gain the confidence to pursue and reach their goals. These mentors often provide access to opportunities and resources that otherwise would not be available.

By mentoring others through the EY College MAP program, Cedric Nguyen found clarity and purpose in the high school classroom. At the time, he was working as an auditor in our LA office and became involved in the program as a volunteer mentor. When he celebrated graduation day with his mentee, he decided to turn his part-time passion for mentoring into a full-time career as a teacher.

Cedric stays connected with EY people as an alum and as the liaison between the College MAP program and Del Mar High School, where he teaches and chairs the Math Department. Cedric is committed to building an effective mentoring program to improve his high-need school community (65% of Del Mar students are on free or reduced-price lunch). “The school recognizes the need to have outside support,” Cedric shares. “We all understand the hardship the education system faces, and it feels great to have the support of people from outside the space who are willing to lend their time. The students feel it.”

Having benefited from EY US’ mentorship work with NFTE, Valery Perez enjoys “paying it forward” by volunteering with the organization and participating in the EY Latinx Professional Network. She says, “My mentors exposed me to a new world I otherwise wouldn’t have been a part of and taught me that I belong in the room.”


Summary 

The case for mentorship is clear and compelling: It ignites purpose, creates closer bonds, facilitates learning and helps level the playing field — especially for underserved communities.

We are proud that our culture of mentorship has helped bridge gaps and opened doors for so many people. Mentorship is essential to meeting our goal of impacting 1 billion lives by 2030 through EY Ripples. If you’re ready to get involved in one of our mentorship programs, please reach out today.

Related articles

Private sector mentoring of the future workforce strengthens communities

Corporate mentoring programs help strengthen communities and create shared value for all businesses by developing the future workforce. Learn more.

16 Apr 2021 EY Americas