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How being part of an alumni network can open doors to new opportunities

Rick Fezell shares insights on how he leveraged the EY Alumni Network on his journey from retired EY partner to the Boardroom. 

In brief
  • Access to an alumni network can serve as an invaluable resource. Opening the door to a wide network, supporting both personal and professional growth.
  • Programs, such as EY’s Journey to the Boardroom, support leaders in identifying passions, developing skillsets and ultimately transitioning into board roles.

Rick Fezell is an EY Alumni, Board member and Audit Committee Chair of American Battery Technology Company and a graduate of EY’s Journey to the Boardroom program.

Rick had an illustrious career of over 35 years with EY teams in senior leadership roles such as EY Global Technology Industry Leader and EY Americas Vice Chair – Accounts, to name a few. After a successful stint at EY, Rick joined the board of American Battery Technology Company. He is also a serving Board Member at Perspectives Charter Schools.

Rick has always been an ardent believer in the power and influence of building strong relationships and the value of being part of a network. We recently had the opportunity to interview Rick to hear about his EY journey and his thoughts on the importance of connections.

During our conversation we were able to gain insights about his journey, experiences, learnings, and outlook for the future. He illustrated how the years he spent and the connections he built while at EY have continued to help him since his retirement.

What was your last role at EY and what part of the EY business did you work in?             

My last role was Americas Leader for EY’s strategic alliance with Microsoft, bringing the best of digital transformation to the market. Prior to this I was Americas Vice Chair – Accounts, driving and enabling growth in key markets. All in all, I worked at EY for 35 years.

What was your proudest moment or greatest achievement while at EY?

Proudest moment and greatest achievement were the same for me, and it’s something I was able to experience each year. When I’d receive phone calls or messages from people who were promoted, thanking me and others for helping them achieve a significant milestone in their career. It was always a great joy to be recognized for that.

Tell us a bit more about your current employer and board role.

I joined the board of American Battery Technology Company in February 2022. ABTC is a critical-minerals and lithium-ion sourcing and battery recycling company headquartered in Reno, Nevada, US. 

This role came about as a referral from the EY Center for Board Matters after a request from a headhunter firm, highlighting the power of the EY referral network.

My background was in Audit before taking on leadership roles and I’m leveraging this experience in my current board role. A key learning has been that your EY experience is much broader than your core competencies and there is a wealth of experience to leverage. I think this plays well when partners are starting to think about board roles.

For over three years now I have also been a Board member for Perspective Charter Schools which is one of the many non-for-profit roles I took on while still at EY.

What do you enjoy most about your current board role?

The purpose and values of ABTC are directly aligned with sustainability and ESG goals, which is really important to me personally. 

How did your experience at EY help you with your career?

Various leadership roles have helped my career significantly.  My last role at EY as Americas Leader for the strategic alliance with Microsoft, helping companies with their digital strategy, was a good segue into my current board role. My experiences as a Vice Chair and Audit Partner also provided me with significant board room experience. 

How did the Journey to the Boardroom (JttB) program help to shape your approach to the boardroom and secure a board role?    

The Journey to the Boardroom program was excellent. The content was outstanding, the Harvard leaders were also excellent, the alumni panelists were of such high quality and there was the opportunity to participate in group projects, which was tremendous. 

It reminded me that a board search requires a lot of effort, trying to match what you want to do with market opportunities. We tend to over rely on market relationships, and they are important, but you still must be effective in communicating why you want to do what you want to do and the value you bring to the board. How your passions align with opportunities.

There was a “stand out attributes” questionnaire which was really helpful, and the process helped me to identify my top three attributes, along with those requiring more focus.   

As an alumnus of EY, why do you think it’s important to be part of the EY Alumni Network?

I’ve really benefited by being part of the EY Alumni Network. Having access to a vast network of EY leaders and valuable content and insights is invaluable. The informal network, consisting of outstanding EY alumni, has also been a valued resource. EY Center for Board Matters (CBM) has great content and thought leadership and it’s kept me informed from a governance and board trends perspective. I have often forwarded CBM thought leadership to other board members. I was also referred to my current board role via EY CBM, which helped to secure this role.

The EY Alumni Network, and any other networks you choose to join, do a great job of keeping you connected, engaged, and informed.

What advice would you give others about the value of being part of an alumni network or networks?

Upon retirement, it's quite an adjustment to transition from a firm +300,000 professionals strong to a party of one, yourself. The EY Alumni Network, and any other networks you choose to join, do a great job of keeping you connected, engaged and informed. From referrals, to technical and current events content and updates on the firm and industry, I don't believe we should ever stop learning. I've found the EY Alumni Network invaluable to my continued growth and development.

How are you helping to build a better working world?

There are two key ways by which I’m still showing my commitment to EY’s purpose of Building a Better Working World. The first of which is around sustainability. ABTC is doing a lot on e-battery recycling and growth of e-battery industry. I feel good about the work of the company and my purpose aligns with the company’s purpose and focus on sustainability. The second involves the act of mentoring. I’m still proactively involved with EY staff and colleagues and I’m helping them with coaching and mentoring even though I’ve retired from the firm. 

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Rick Fezell is a Board member and Audit Committee Chair at American Battery Technology Company. Rick shared his insights on how EY invested in his journey to the boardroom and how perspectives from EY NED Alumni and connections from EY Alumni Network helped to shape his approach to the boardroom and secure a board role. We also learned how being an EY Alumni member supports boardroom activities, networking, and continued growth.

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