EY’s Amy Brachio: “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During This Crisis”

The remote workforce has allowed us to rethink energy consumption. Not only does working from home provide the opportunity to be with family, but also the chance to cut our carbon footprint. As we come out of this crisis, we all have to think about the elements and changes that we need to keep, as […]

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The remote workforce has allowed us to rethink energy consumption. Not only does working from home provide the opportunity to be with family, but also the chance to cut our carbon footprint. As we come out of this crisis, we all have to think about the elements and changes that we need to keep, as well as what is so critically important to return to.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.

As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Brachio. She serves as EY’s Global Business Consulting Leader. She has over 20 years of experience serving large, diversified organizations in risk management and helps leaders achieve their strategic objectives and build agile, risk-aware organizations, equipped to make better decisions.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?

I have had so many amazing opportunities working with clients and throughout my career, it is hard to pick just one! But, the first thing that comes to mind is a trip I took during my first few weeks as the global risk leader. During the two week trip, I got to see both the Sydney Opera House and the Taj Mahal for the first time. Not only was it remarkable personally to see those parts of the world, but I also got to develop some fantastic relationships with our partners and clients in Australia and India. I think that being able to support both of these important markets in such a short period of time and to be able to share what I learned around all of our markets is such a symbolization of the importance of global connectivity and our work as a global firm.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Right now, organizations are reflecting on what they could have done differently when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit. As part of this reflection, businesses are considering the difference between managing impending risks and focusing on business resilience and rapid restoration of production and services. I’m currently working with a few large organizations as they think about how to become more resilient in the wake of the significant challenges we are all facing. These are global issues affecting all businesses — big and small — as well as people, so to have the opportunity to redefine what resilience looks like is pretty powerful.

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 about that?

I credit some of the opportunities that propelled me to where I am today to a former client of mine. When I was a senior manager, my team and I were preparing for a presentation to our client’s CEO and his direct reports. This particular woman approached me and asked me to do the presentation with her, which is typically something that would fall into the role of a partner. She told me she didn’t care who I brought alongside me, as long as I was the one leading the presentation. I had built a strong relationship with this client, and I showed her I was someone who dug in and knew the details inside and out. Her trust in me and my abilities gave me confidence to act at the level of a partner before I was even promoted.

Fast forward to the credit crisis, the same woman was seeking help addressing challenges around the foreclosure topic. She introduced me to her divisional CEO as someone that could help. That led to me being asked me to join her to present to the board of directors. At this point, I was a still a relatively new partner and presenting to a board was something that a more senior partner would normally do. The CEO told me I could bring someone else with me but she wanted me to present. After that I was viewed within the firm at a very different level, because I was the type of partner who was briefing boards on critical topics. I think both of those women helped me in my career by trusting me to succeed for them. Ultimately, one propelled me to partnership and one propelled me to being viewed as a much more senior partner than I otherwise would have been. My advice for emerging leaders is to embrace opportunities like this, even if you may lack the experience or the seniority, because when you do, you and others see the upside of your potential.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?

My daughters are 17 and 19 years old and because I have always traveled for work, my family and I weren’t previously used to all of this time together. All of a sudden everything stopped. High school and college were no longer in person, and there weren’t activities to get us out of the house. So, as a family unit we had to adjust and set boundaries. For the first time in my life, I put together a family chore chart so that we were all clear on expectations. We also all need the freedom to allow some separation, so we set up time to calibrate and give each other space even though we are all living, working and playing in one home. I needed to draw a boundary of when I was working because there is no longer a natural separation when you are in the office vs. at home. Communication became increasingly important — if I have a late night call I make sure everyone knows not to rely on me for dinner because even though I am home, at that moment I am not accessible.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

As a busy family, it wasn’t usual for us all to be home at one time anymore. When we were, it was intentional and we were spending time together. So, we had to have a conversation that it’s okay to do your own thing and still be part of our family unit. We are all very clear on what is on our schedule for the day, and have found this communication to be pivotal. We also found things that we enjoyed doing together, going for walks, working out, new podcasts, binging silly shows and time at the family cabin.

Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?

One of the biggest challenges that I have faced is that our business is very much a relationship- first business. Whether that means implementing strategies within the firm or problem solving and with clients or even developing new relationships with future clients, it has always been about building relationships. Natural hallway or cafeteria conversations are no longer happening and on top of that I am used to expanding my network through travel. Business continuity begins with human connection, so I am navigating how to maintain relationships and connections in order to continue delivering creative solutions.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

With my one-on-one calls, I am making sure at the beginning of each call, I ask the team member on the other end how they are doing and take the time to have a real conversation. This type of vulnerability has brought my team closer and from a strategic standpoint, allows my employees the space to share personally and then focus on the business at hand.

Beyond that, I am making more time for one-on-one connections and doing things like scheduling a virtual glass of wine with those colleagues that I may not work with frequently, but want to maintain a connection. I am reaching out to people that I don’t naturally cross paths with and exploring more ways to create networks outside of the firm. For example, I just joined a prominent women’s networking group composed of C-suite women from multiple industries and I am excited about expanding my network there. Now that I have more time without traveling, I am also exploring re-engaging in nonprofit board opportunities.

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?

I think it is important to realize that everyone is experiencing some sort of loss with respect to the pandemic. Whether it is the tragic loss of a loved one, significant financial loss or even just loss of the usual aspects in their daily lives. It’s important for us as leaders, as employees, members of communities and as family members to realize that.

Parents juggling homeschooling young children and working from home on top of any other losses they are experiencing need to make sure they are communicating effectively with their managers about what they need in order to be successful. If they need to work odd hours or take a mental health day, it is important to communicate those needs.

I feel very fortunate that my daughters are older during this difficult time. For me, I have been focused on helping my family navigate the losses they are feeling. My older daughter who was so excited last Fall to start her freshman year at NYU never imagined she would be spending the second semester in her parents’ basement. Over the past few months, we have been going on walks together and talking about how she is feeling with the changes. She is now back in the dorms for her Sophomore year. It will be a different experience, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a positive one. It is important to recognize where you are fortunate but also allow yourself to feel the emotions you are experiencing and look for ways to make the best of the situation.

Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?

My family has made an effort to focus on our health and wellness while staying isolated. We downloaded a meditation app, listening to it before bed and then discussing our meditations over breakfast. My younger daughter and I just joined a yoga studio where we can take virtual classes together. As a family we like to compete with each other by tracking our steps and activity, which helps us stay positive and make sure we’re staying healthy. In some ways as a mom I feel like I wasn’t supposed to have this extra time with my kids living at home. I ended up spending time with my older daughter’s best friend and her mom since they were doing some of the same activities, which is something that wouldn’t have happened before. Ultimately, it’s important to try to find those silver linings during the tragedy.

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

I think there are a lot of reasons to stay hopeful and optimistic for the future.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has helped society focus on what is important and concentrate on meaningful relationships. It is also affecting aspects of consumerism where people are reconsidering what they actually need versus what they want, which has helped put everything into perspective.
  • Humanity is learning the importance of acknowledging stress and responding with grace. We are all facing an underlying baseline of stress like we’ve never seen before. There is the pandemic and its financial implications, and then outside of that we are in a time of unrest. We are learning to acknowledge where we are fortunate and share in empathy.
  • The remote workforce has allowed us to rethink energy consumption. Not only does working from home provide the opportunity to be with family, but also the chance to cut our carbon footprint. As we come out of this crisis, we all have to think about the elements and changes that we need to keep, as well as what is so critically important to return to.
  • This is a time where people and organizations have shown tremendous resilience and made strides in transformation and innovation. This is evidenced by the race to develop a vaccine that is happening at a faster pace than ever before, and we’re seeing collaboration at a global scale.
  • Ultimately, I am an optimistic person and I believe we are going to get through this. It is a matter of time before we get a vaccine and it is able to be deployed at scale.

From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

At the end of the day we all need to be holding real one-on-one conversations with our colleagues, our friends and our family. Listen to each other and allow one another to feel the loss, frustration and emotions from this time. When you are able to provide support to someone, they in turn can provide it to someone else.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorite quotes is, “what you permit, you promote”. A colleague of mine shared that with me when I was trying to make a really difficult decision in my first big leadership role. This quote provided me with great clarity, because when you’re in a leadership role, what you allow to happen reflects what you think is right. I try to stay grounded in my values and make sure that I emulate them day in and day out.

How can our readers follow you online?

I am active on both LinkedIn and Twitter.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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