Owning your career

Yana Töngi, Switzerland

Senior Manager Yana Töngi, started at the EY Switzerland office just over a year ago and has recently been spending most of her time on the audit for a global financial services company. She is three quarters Russian with one-quarter Tatar roots and grew up at Almaty in Kazakhstan. Yana takes us through her journey from Kazakhstan to the US to London and finally to Switzerland, and how each place influenced the next stage of her life.

Where it all began

While Borat may be the first to spring to mind when Kazakhstan is mentioned, my country is also home to mountains as high as 7,000m and many beautiful mountain lakes. As is tradition there, I was mainly brought up by my grandma and grandpa. As a kid, my grandpa was evacuated from Leningrad in 1943 over the frozen lake Ladoga and subsequently became an engineer in Kazakhstan. My grandma was a well-known chemist and lecturer at the University of Almaty until she was over 70 years old.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents and my three weddings

My career path began at the university. I studied in Almaty, but also did a semester in the US, taking courses in accounting and fraud examination held by ex-FBI agents. This sparked my interest in auditing. After university, I spent four years at another Big Four in Almaty, before being transferred to London where I worked an additional five years. This was also where I met my husband, who is Swiss. As we are a multicultural couple, we decided to have three weddings so that all our friends and family could celebrate with us. The first wedding was in Kazakhstan, followed by a civil registration in Switzerland and finally the big celebration at the beautiful Lago di Como. Perhaps, as a result of our Kazakh wedding being particularly traditional, it went slightly more public than we thought it would and appeared in all the major newspapers in Kazakhstan. We were even contacted by several Kazakh celebrity magazines for interviews.

My EY experience

Just over a year ago, my husband and I moved to Switzerland. I also moved from the Big Four that I had worked at for the past nine years to start at the EY Switzerland office. While this, of course, was a big adjustment, it’s a decision I am happy that I made, as I’ve been welcomed very warmly and it has quickly started to feel like home. I feel that EY is very much united across countries and service lines, and therefore is harvesting really strong relationships. This also helps me in following my passion to drive change and improve wherever I see options to do so. For example, I am running the robotics initiative on a financial services company audit, where we engage with our Advisory team to help us going through this transformation. Dozens of audit processes have been identified across the globe that are in the process of being automated.

Passing it on

My career path has not always been an easy one. However, I have been fortunate enough to have a good mentor, who stood by me with the right advice, and pushed me to change and adapt when moving from one culture to another. My personal experience made me realize that having an outstanding mentor is one of the key factors for a successful career, which is why mentoring more junior people is one of my passions.