An Interview with Sue Dawe
The route to partnership has long been shrouded by hierarchical politics, misconceptions and the top level of imposter syndromes. Sally McFall’s interview of Sue Dawe was a genuinely enlightening take of how to develop yourself and your career in a firm as big as EY and reach the Board table. Sue’s lessons weren’t just applicable to the big four however, her candid view on goal-setting, family life and strategising for success meant every attendee left the room with something to aspire towards.
Her realisation that she was ‘Partner material’ came later than her male contemporaries and it took a leader in the London office to highlight she should go for it. The antiquated assessment centres meant she spent a day being interrupted and spoken over whilst all the candidates competed for partnership. She didn’t get to demonstrate her ability, her feedback of ‘you smile too much’ and ‘you need to speak up’ only confirmed to her what she’d initially thought – she wasn’t partner material. Yet her family, friends and clients (who wrote letters in her defence!) were shocked by the outcome.
At least it wasn’t an outright rejection, just telling her to apply next year – and in that year her whole outlook and approach was changed by EY suggesting a senior figure in the industry as a career coach. The coach didn’t tell her to stop smiling or look more aggressive and instead he conveyed how, even at his level, imposter syndrome is felt by everyone. Sue started recognising her successes and consciously building her network, including those who would be assessing her. Sue reapplied for the Partner track and had face to face interviews and this time she walked out knowing that she’d represented herself properly. Whilst on a work trip in Monaco she found out she’d become a Partner.
Sue noted how she adapts and learns from others around her (both good and bad behaviour), how she recognises her achievements in a much greater way and wants to create transparent conversations about training, goals and policies that were hidden before, like maternity leave. Her advice to someone starting out was to not underestimate yourself and to clearly see where you want to be in the future. Her advice for networking (which might be useful on future WIBF events!) was to see that everyone is in the same boat and that you can learn a huge amount from others in your industry and don’t be blinkered to the opportunities ahead of you!
Many thanks for EY who hosted this event.