Amy Brachio: “It’s okay to not be perfect at everything”

It’s okay to not be perfect at everything. When we are juggling work, family, friends and life, things are not always going to go the way you have planned and that is okay. In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders […]

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It’s okay to not be perfect at everything. When we are juggling work, family, friends and life, things are not always going to go the way you have planned and that is okay.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Brachio.

Amy Brachio is EY’s Global Business Consulting Leader. She helps clients achieve their strategic objectives and build agile, risk-aware organizations equipped to transform and thrive.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I have spent my entire career — from intern to Global Business Consulting Leader — with EY. Throughout my career, I have not only built my technical skills in consulting and my leadership skills across a global business, I have also gotten married, grown my family with two amazing daughters, and at one point made the decision to go part time to care for my young family and support my mother when she needed me. I am grateful to EY for providing me with an inspiring career journey while being an active family member.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

After spending so many years with EY, it is hard to pick just one story. One of the aspects of my career that I find most interesting is helping organizations plan for the future — that includes having to plan for unimaginable events like COVID-19. The biggest lessons I have learned from having to quickly adapt are:

Push the impossible — In the past, we may have never believed that a fully remote workforce was possible or that businesses could become fully digital overnight. But what we see now is that companies that enabled the seemingly impossible pre-pandemic — in other words, those that had already embraced remote working and meaningful digital transformation — were better prepared when the pandemic hit. So, maybe the impossible isn’t always so impossible.

Stay agile and responsive — An unimaginable event can emerge without notice, so your results will be dictated by your readiness and ability to respond. Decisions in uncertain times had to be made quickly with the best data available at the moment, so agility in continuing to adapt as more information became available has been critical to success.

Enable emerging technology for customer experience — Organizations that already had a virtual way of working with customers were able to adapt and respond most quickly to the new virtual environment. All with the confidence of their customers that it could be done in a safe manner.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

EY has what I can only describe as a culture of care. This is a notion that can be felt from the very top. Our leaders place a focus on wellness and encourage employees to take time off for themselves. Rather than just encouraging it, they do it themselves to set an example and that type of role modeling really empowers our people. I know this isn’t felt by all of our people on an every-day basis, but as I reflect on my career and what I hear from those that have joined EY from other companies, we do stand out and our continued focus on this culture of care will continue to differentiate us from others.

I have felt this personally over the course of my career and it stood out again recently. About a year and a half ago, just as I was stepping into my new role as Global Business Consulting Leader, my husband suffered a cardiac arrest (he is doing great now). Because of my new role, I continued to try to show up for meetings. My leader at the time encouraged me to focus fully at home and insisted that I was not to be joining meetings. That resulted in my taking a full month off to spend time with my loved ones, because that is what matters most. It was a time that combined concern for my family with the joy of knowing I was there for them, fully.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Success is built with the support of others, and the support I have received from not only my colleagues but also from clients who have pushed me forward throughout my career has been remarkable. One of my clients twice propelled me forward by requesting I give high profile presentations, typically reserved for partners or senior partners when I had yet to hold those titles. This helped me build confidence in myself and my abilities, but also showed others what I was capable of and this is something I strongly encourage in my teams.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Now more than ever we are seeing an emergence of resilience. We are seeing it in working parents who are homeschooling children while managing careers and facing economic uncertainty. Resilient people are able to withstand challenges — often multiple challenges at once — and still prioritize what matters most at that moment. It is also as much about what you are willing not to do as what you focus on doing. Resilient people let go of what truly doesn’t matter.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

My mom was the epitome of resilience. When she was 36 years old, she was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). She had five and seven-year-old daughters and was halfway through her counseling doctorate when she was given just 3–5 years to live. She ended up living for another 30 years and never slowed down despite her worsening condition. She taught my sister and I that happiness is a choice and that she could have chosen to let her disease sadden her or slow her down, but instead she chose to laugh and push forward. She ended up writing a book with a lifelong friend of hers about making yourself at home in a nursing home — another example of making the most of a situation. So today, when I think of resilience, I think of forging forward, choosing happiness and how limitlessly my mom lived her life even with the challenges she was dealt.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Throughout my life I have learned that nothing is impossible. Early in my career with EY, I was pregnant with my first daughter, living in DC, working full time, and my mom was in a nursing home living near my grandmother in Miami. My grandmother passed away suddenly so I needed to move my mom to a nursing home near me. So, I was suddenly taking care of a new baby, my disabled mother and managing the growth of my career. At the risk of losing my career with EY, I told the partner I worked for that I needed to move to Minnesota to have a bigger support system. The partner I worked for was supportive, but he worried about what this move would do to my career. I was able to demonstrate that even remotely, I was impactful, and I could continue to add value at work while being better enabled to take care of my family.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

Having career aspirations while growing my family and being a caregiver for a loved one was hard for me. But I was able to make changes to help me forge forward. The first change I made was moving to Minnesota. Because of my significant family commitments, I also moved to part-time with EY. When I was ready, I gradually moved back up to a full time employee but the choices I made, even though they may have seemed like a setback in my career, allowed me to be a better mother, wife and daughter. And because of that, I was and am happy with who I am now — both at work and at home.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

I have mentioned my mom a few times but growing up with a career and family-oriented mom inspired me to do the same. I developed resilience watching her deal with a severe health issue, which many would consider a setback, with such grace, determination, and humility. She was able to achieve so much and build so much purpose in her life even after receiving a terminal diagnosis at 36. She passed away in 2010 but I still think of the resilience she showed every day.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

First and foremost, in order to be resilient you need to have a clear definition of what is important to you. This serves as a real grounding in times of stress. To ground myself when I am working too much or feeling unbalanced, I like to ask myself three questions to evaluate if I am doing the right thing or if I need to make a change:

How is my marriage?

I have been married to my college sweetheart for 23 years and maintaining a healthy and happy marriage is core to me.

How are my girls?

Are they happy? Are they healthy? Do they have friends? Are they doing well in school? Usually if the answer to all of these questions is yes then they are doing alright, and I am doing my job in supporting them to thrive.

Am I happy?

It’s not that I value myself third but usually if one of the first two questions isn’t in-line I’m not happy myself. This last question allows me to reflect on my work aspirations and look at what I want to accomplish.

Secondly, it is important to take time to be grateful for all you have. Right now, many of us are experiencing new hardships but we usually still have so much to be grateful for.

A colleague of mine has her children tell her three things they are grateful for every night and reminds them that regardless of the day they have had or what they are going through, they still have a bed to sleep in, clean water to drink and access to a warm meal.

It’s okay to not be perfect at everything. When we are juggling work, family, friends and life, things are not always going to go the way you have planned and that is okay.

When our girls were young, we taught them to be very independent — so independent that they would sometimes RSVP to birthday parties without telling us. We would get phone calls on Saturdays asking us if our daughters were still coming to the party, and instead of getting upset that we’d missed the invitation, my husband would run my daughters over and I would run to the store to pick up a gift and not let myself feel bad, but rather proud the girls were independent.

Focus on personal wellness. While working remotely it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself.

Carve out time to go for a walk, set up a virtual coffee with someone you have not seen for a while and protect time with loved ones. Our lines between work and home have blurred and you need to hold this time dear.

Take time off to recharge even if you have no place to go.

Many of us have not taken real vacations in quite some time. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the time off we need to recharge. Planning a staycation or another safe activity is as critical now as ever.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would like to spread a movement of kindness and grace. If everyone could be a little kinder in their actions and treat people with grace when something has not gone their way, we would be much better off. A partner I really respect recently spoke about the importance of going into situations of conflict assuming noble intent. If everyone could assume noble intent, it would be so much easier to resolve issues.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them!

I would love to meet with Kamala Harris. Regardless of your politics, she is the first woman to hold this high of an office in the US and the first Vice President of color. This type of representation means so much and I would love to hear her perspective on taking on such a powerful role with so many people watching. On a personal level, my niece and nephew are 5 and 7 and they are half Indian. My niece saw Kamala on the TV one day and was so excited to see someone that was half Indian like her — it opened her eyes to limitless future potential. It is the little girls like my niece that Kamala is impacting — and that is so powerful.

How can our readers follow you online?

I am active on both LinkedIn and Twitter.

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