“I think it’s about layers of support that help women at Ernst & Young, Australia (“EY Australia”) grow. People who inspire and believe in you to build your voice and achieve your goals.”
Millie Hogben shares her mentorship journey at EY Australia.
Millie has a virtual sticky-note that lives permanently on the home screen of her laptop that reads, ‘Leadership is not a rank or a position, it is a choice – a choice to look after the person to the left of us and the person to the right of us’.
She keeps it there to inspire her own choices and to remind her to look for leadership and inspiration from every direction of her life. Rather than limiting herself to just one career mentor, Millie believes in connecting with various people from her life to help her through the twists and turns of her career. Together they create what she calls her ‘personal board of directors’.
“I reflect on the learnings, stories and insights I have gained from my own ‘personal board of directors’, a mix of mentors, role models, managers, career counsellors and sponsors from in and outside EY Australia.”
What does a ‘personal board of directors’ do?
Millie explains how a personal board of directors can change and grow as you do and that different people on the board offer different types of guidance throughout your career. Her idea reflects similar sentiments shared by renowned businessman and personal development guru, Jim Rohn, when he said, “we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with”.
By surrounding herself with people that inspire her, Millie has found some amazing success at EY since starting in their graduate program almost 18 months ago.
“I am part of EY’s ‘Women in Technology’ community where I was encouraged to take on a team leadership role. I now lead a team of seven in that community, including people who are more senior than myself.”
One of the people Millie esteems highly on her board of directors is her mentor, Jeffrey Wells. Jeff is a Program Director for Data and Analytics at EY Australia and was specifically matched to mentor Millie as part of the Women in Technology Mentoring Program. Jeff currently mentors several junior team members at EY and says:
“I love mentoring. It’s important for me to give back. The part I enjoy most is helping people like Millie with their careers – I love seeing people grow.”
The layers of support at EY
“The Women in Tech community has been amazing. Not just through the events we hold but also just by being a part of a supportive community. There are so many different perspectives. It’s really fascinating to be part of that conversation. I’m surrounded by very high performing individuals who actively seek to provide guidance and share their experience and knowledge.”
The mentoring program which introduced Millie and Jeff forms just one of the many layers of support. The EY organization also provides buddies to newly onboarded team members, as well as career counsellors. There are also lots of leaders who organically step in to sponsor more junior team members, to help foster the development of their employees.
Then there are the wellbeing officers, which have proved to be very helpful through the ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The EY organization is a large company to navigate, however, the team actively seeks to understand your individual goals and ambitions and puts in place several layers of support to help you make it happen.”
The support is a two-way street
Millie describes her mentorship with Jeff as a sounding board. The fact that Jeff isn’t in her direct team means he offers a different and objective perspective on any obstacles or challenges she is facing.
Jeff says he doesn’t necessarily answer her questions, instead he’s the one asking, questioning her to reflect on her own skills and long-term goals. He also admits that it’s very much a two-way street when it comes to the value of their partnership.
“I’ve recently taken over a project in the tech transformation space. And while it’s a new field for me, Millie is well versed. Now I’m the one with questions for her. I like the way she thinks.”
Part of the mentoring program for Millie included an initiative called ‘Seat at the Table’. Through this initiative EY teams provide unique opportunities for the Women in Technology Community. Opportunities like attending senior level leadership meetings, or high-stakes client proposals. With an option of eight different initiatives, Millie went to Jeff to soundboard which opportunity was best for her. Jeff remembers taking Millie’s call while in the car.
“She needed a decision pretty quickly. My job wasn’t to tell her though, instead together we were able to come up with her best suited preferences.”
Tips for building your own personal board of directors
Witnessing the supportive back and forth between Millie and Jeff ourselves, it was easy to envy the pair. We asked them both for some tips others might take on board to find equal success with our own ‘personal board of directors’.
Jeff: My catchphrase is ‘Work hard, play hard’. Life’s short, and it all comes down to balance. I’m also a big believer in written goals. My advice to all my mentees is that without written goals, you don’t have a career path.
Millie: My advice would be to get involved and take responsibility to create opportunities for yourself. I’m a graduate and a ‘Women in Technology’ team lead, that didn’t happen overnight. I had to work hard and I forged that opportunity for myself. Learning from people along the way is something I’ve really loved.
Millie is now looking forward to becoming a mentor herself and sharing the lessons she has learned from Jeff and the rest of her ‘personal board of directors’.
“My personal purpose is to inspire and empower others to strive to fulfill their potential. I’m doing my best to pass on what I’ve learned to the people, in particular the women, around me, creating a beautiful ripple effect.”
*The views expressed in this article are the views of the author, not Ernst & Young. This article provides general information, does not constitute advice and should not be relied on as such. Professional advice should be sought prior to any action being taken in reliance on any of the information. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.