Management Consultant, Ernst and Young (EY), Financial Services Advisory Practice

Lee Madden

Management Consultant, Ernst and Young (EY)

Listen to Lee talking about his Life Beyond his PPLS degree


Degree subject and year of graduation

  • MA Hons : Mental Philosophy [2006], the greatest course of all time

My current job

  • I am a management consultant with Ernst and Young (EY) in their Financial Services Advisory Practice. This means I work with some of the largest UK banks to deliver strategic projects to reduce business risk and improve their culture. I also manage a team of volunteers within the EY Womens Network to deliver events focused on supporting the personal and professional development of women in the workplace.

My career history

  • Since graduating, I have spent time selling suits for a local business in Ireland, working for Courts Service of Northern Ireland and with the BBC in their HR department, all in a 2 year period in Belfast
  • On a whim in 2008, I applied for a graduate scheme and moved to London, to work for Barclays. 5 years later, I’d spent time working as a manager in some of the roughest areas of London, created an internal intranet site for 3,000 people, visited over 150 branches across England, Wales, NI and Scotland and worked on multi-million pound business projects as a Strategy Analyst, guiding medium and long term investments in their branch network
  • When I left Barclays in 2013, I moved to EY, a management consulting Firm, to focus on business strategy and was immediately asked to work on a long term Derivatives project. Fast forward nearly 3 years and I was recognised as one of the Technical Specialists on the project, promoted to Manager and am now responsible for managing one of the most complex and sensitive areas of the project
  • Throughout my professional career I’ve also volunteered to support initiatives that I feel are worthwhile. This has meant I have worked with Primary School Children, teaching them basic maths and economics, mentoring a 15 year old prior to their GCSE’s and working with the EY Womens Network to support Gender Equality

Using my skills and/or knowledge from my degree in my career

Philosophy has been absolutely invaluable to my career and professional life and there are three points I can talk about in particular.

  • Firstly, Philosophy teaches you the value in exploring a range of viewpoints. Being able to do so, and debating this understanding, is central to what Philosophy is about. This is absolutely critical in business – I have to be able to quickly understand where a client or colleague is coming from, help them analyse their own viewpoint it and sometimes coach them to appreciate different perspectives, which makes it much easier to do what is right for each other, yourself and the business.
  • Secondly, Philosophy teaches you how to develop your own opinions and both construct and communicate an argument that supports them. Again, this is crucial in business, especially when you are working with very challenging people. Being able to successfully explain your view and bring people round to your way of thinking is a skill and can be extremely rewarding. It is also central to collaboration and effective decision making in business.
  • Finally, my degree taught me the value of learning. Since I left university I’ve never stopped learning and Philosophy absolutely inspired me to always look for chances to learn and develop and gave me the tools to do this effectively. This is central to progression in any career.

My useful experience

  • The two things that stand out for me are quite simple actually. Taking a part time job where I had to work full time hours in my final year while writing a dissertation really stretched me. However, succeeding in passing my exams while holding down a job taught me that I could perform while under pressure and look after myself and It gave me a lot of confidence.
  • The second big experience I had at University was really around developing my own sense of personal values. This was done through both my lectures and the people I met. Edinburgh and the University is a very diverse place and having opportunities to debate, live and mix with people of all cultures, backgrounds and opinions taught me just how valuable diversity is. It’s one of the reasons I love London so much.

My career decisions

  • The two biggest ones for me were really about understanding when it was right to change and developing my professional self-confidence.
  • The first was when I had the opportunity to move to London almost by accident. I stumbled across a great opportunity to work with Barclays and I knew that I had to throw myself into with the attitude that “I can only learn and benefit from the experience”. This meant moving to a new city, new industry and having the confidence that I’d be able to succeed. It was a decision made with very little understanding of what I was getting myself into, but I recognised I wasn’t getting the challenge I wanted from my existing job, I had outgrown my hometown and wanted a fresh start. Once the decision was made, it was really a case of making the most of the opportunity
  • The second decision I made was when I was first approached by my current employer, Ernst and Young, to consider applying for a promotion. This was not something that I had thought about at the point in time and it somewhat surprised me. With hindsight, I have realised that them asking me if I was interested in it gave me a lot of professional confidence and at the time though I took time to make the decision, I did so because I understood that I had the right skills, network and attitude to succeed in the business and that I should back myself to succeed. I applied, was successful and have had a bunch of other experiences opened up to me because of it which have been fascinating!

My advice to students wanting to work in this area

  • Attitude is often more important than expertise, especially when you’re starting out. Once you graduate, your degree tells potential employers that you are intelligent and committed. Often, that will get your foot in the door. But what will really make you stand out is your attitude and approach to work. This is more than just being enthusiastic – it is everything from showing an interest in learning, showing that you’ve researched the business and its competitors, asking intelligent questions and being committed and flexible if needed. I’ve seen many people apply for jobs who are academically smart fall down at interview stage as they sound like they’ve swallowed text book or come across as if they are saying what they think the employer wants to hear, rather than bringing their individuality out.
  • Don’t be afraid to say I don’t know, but I’ll work with you to find out. It shows intelligence and professionalism to acknowledge when you don’t know something and offer to work with someone to find it out.
  • Take time to reflect on your skills and experiences and consider how they may be useful in a professional environment. It can seem challenging at first, but as Arts students you have a great set of intellectual tools that are valuable in any working environment. Analytical thinking, attention to detail, an ability to discuss and explore different viewpoints, being structured in your thought process – these are all crucial skills in the consulting. The same applies to your personal experiences.

My advice to current students making career decisions

  • Embrace ambiguity, trust your judgement and don’t worry about things – you’re not going to consciously make a bad decision and taking risks is part and parcel of life.
  • Take responsibility! Don’t be afraid to say “I’m going to do this because I want to achieve X, Y and Z!”
  • Try figure out what you value and look for a role that delivers that. For me, it’s always been the culture of a business that’s most important. Specifically, where everyone has a voice, there are no hierarchies and there are opportunities to work independently. I always made a point of asking about these points in interviews.
  • Embrace the mistakes – even the career moves that haven’t worked out for me are ones that I’ve learned a lot from and I’ve met some amazing people. If you find yourself in a job you don’t like, take time to reflect on this and move on, but don’t view it as a failure, view it as an opportunity to learn and improve.

Feb 2016

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