Lara Willems, Belgium
Lara Willems joined EY is October 2014 and is currently working in Financial Services, under Advisory in the performance department. Lara studied Business engineering at the Free University of Brussels and joined straight after university.
What was it that attracted you to EY? And how has your experience been so far?
Business engineering mainly, and I thought that EY would be a good starter of your career especially in consultancy, as you have the opportunity to work on a number of different projects that offer a lot of variety. EY gives you the opportunity to learn and develop our skills and knowledge at your own pace, which was another reason why I was attracted to EY.
My first year with EY has been amazing. I have met a lot of new people and learnt more than I thought would. I think this is because EY is such a dynamic organisation and I was given the opportunity to take part is number of different projects, learning new and improved skills at each one.
What have been your initial impressions of the culture and the working environment within EY?
The people that I was working, and even just the people around me, they were all very open and welcoming, in that I was able to ask questions to my seniors, managers and even the partners if I had an issues. One of things I noticed was that everyone likes to be called by their first name, which was something I really like about EY as it creates such a humble and non-hierarchical environment. Also the dynamic within the teams I worked with was always so positive in that everyone was helping each other no matter what the task.
One of the main comments we get from EY employees is that need for a good work-life balance. In your experience at EY for the past year, how have you found it trying to balance both work and personal life?
For me, what I expected is, if I joined a company like EY, that hours would not from 9 to 5, rather would be dependent on the client, the workload and the deadlines. I think EY supports its people to handle the pressure or you have the opportunity to say if it is too much. I feel it's like this, but for me it was not a surprise.
As you are part of the advisory service line, have you had any involvement with our EMEIA Advisory Graduate Network, and if so how has the experience been with it so far?
I have, in fact I am a country representative for our graduate network. So, we are responsible to send out the newsletters. Each country will take it in turns to send out the newsletter, and the aim of the newsletter is to share information amongst all graduates in the EMEIA Network. It is to share experiences, and also to share the best practices and knowledge that works best for that particular country. As a country representative, you are also responsible for providing updates for any newsletters, articles from the graduates in other countries to put in the newsletters so others can read their experiences. We also inform students and others as to what the graduate network is and how they can contribute, and we give them updates on events, seminars and learning events they are going to be held. It has also provided me with opportunities to get to know other people from other countries and to work with them. I was also given to the opportunity to attend the learning event that was held in Madrid this year, which was a great experience and allowed me to learn about the different platforms and cultures within EY internationally.
Since joining EY what types of learning, training, and development opportunities have you been given?
First of all, we have a graduate training program that has a duration of two years. We also had the learning event that was held in Madrid, and also a number of sessions in Brussels. I think the Brussels sessions consisted of about five to six seminars all on different topics, such excel, the financial market in Belgium and other topics like those. I also participated in the PI learning week in Paris this summer which was a really good experience. I was also able to have an induction to the Agile methodology, which was a lot of training but you have facilities such as E-Learning and also EY leads that you are able to follow. The list of opportunities to learn is endless.
Have you faced any challenges in your role at EY thus far?
The main challenge is the fact that everything is new. Sometimes you have to find your way in the working world, but I had a lot of support from my EY team especially at the client sites. They were always open for questions and discussions.
How have you found working with financial service clients, due to them being a special kind of sector?
There are a lot of interesting developments in the market. For example, we are going digital and that is a bit disruptive for the industry, especially because the financial institutions are not currently up to date with the new and emerging technology. Also, there's a tendency to go more client-focused than some insurance companies, so that is very interesting as well. Such as, how can you adapt your processes so they'll focus on the client, how can you offer these products to your clients those are the questions that have interested me the most.
Looking back on your time at EY, is there anything that stands out as a highlight or an accomplishment that you are most proud of?
At the client site, working independently as nowI'm responsible for the process management for a certain project, and you can work independently and see how you grow. Also at EY, participating to the graduate network and also to other internal events, that's also a contribution.