women in business

My Sophomore Slump

College begs a million and one questions from the moment you are accepted. Which dorm do you want to live in? What's your major? What clubs will you join? What kind of person do you want to be? Who will you surround yourself with? Do you want to party? What kind of grades are you willing to work for? Some choices are simple, others seem to lurk forever. I felt a lot of pressure to choose — to be certain of what I wanted and how I would get there, and so I did. I dug in my heels about every choice — I was certain I hated banks and corporate America and wanted to work in tech with startups. I accordingly changed my major to Information Systems and never looked back. I sat through classes I thought I liked but actually felt apathetic about, getting sub-par grades. I worked for a start-up for two summers that lacked the size or structure to give me much guidance, not to mention the work was completely unrelated to my path. But I had decided that this was what I wanted to do. Changing my mind would go against the persona I constructed.

Mid-sophomore year, I was in full-on crisis mode. My mental health spiraled as I applied for an endless string of internships, all of which systematically turned me down. The momentum from freshman year ran out, and I felt like a complete failure. Up until this point, I had a strong sense of direction and awareness of what I wanted, and how that changed, but it seemed like change was no longer an option – it was succeed at what I set out to do or fail. I had no idea how to move forward or gain perspective on my situation. I started writing applications to transfer colleges and even debated taking a semester off, just to escape the feeling of inadequacy.

Growing up feeling independent and sure of myself led to good grades and a strong sense of self, but when I lost that feeling sophomore year, it was replaced with a hatred for why I couldn’t make myself feel strong and steady again. I knew logically that everything would be fine, but logic and emotion exist in two very different worlds.

In the midst of my sophomore slump, a part of me knew something had to change. I learned about the Investment Management Workshop from some Wibbers that I loved and respected, and figured trying out their path wouldn't hurt.  Their support and guidance helped me get accepted into the IMW. I still held firm on my decision to work in startups despite immersing myself in the world of finance. Joining the IMW felt like an accomplishment I should have been proud of, but instead, I felt like a fraud — like I shouldn't have been allowed in the room because I didn’t really know what I wanted. That feeling didn’t go away my entire sophomore year. I just plowed through, waiting for the reprieve of summer.

I wish I could give a fabulous line of advice or quick fix for when life absolutely sucks, but that doesn’t exist. I tried everything I could to "cure" myself, from running a half marathon to reading countless books and doing meditation — all of which I'm so glad I did, but none gave me the relief I was looking for. Only time could do that.

I spent the summer in California working at the aforementioned startup, but more importantly, spending time with family, hiking, running, camping and doing things I loved, all which were completely unrelated to school. Within a month, I felt human again. In another month, I could stomach thinking about school and jobs, and I re-gained the freedom to be what I wanted without self-imposed restrictions. I decided finance might be alright after all, and I applied to some jobs. I was lucky to have offers before school began and signed early in the semester, freeing up a lot of mental space as I entered I-Core.

I started junior year with a clean slate. I forgave myself for the harsh criticisms I told myself and approached learning with an open mind. To my surprise, finance was my favorite part of I-Core, so I switched my major over winter break. I watched all the horrible feelings from sophomore year melt away and reveal a new version of myself. I feel strong, confident, and sure of myself. But I also accept that I am changing and cannot be defined as one thing forever. I've realized it's okay to change my mind about whatever I want, and that no one, not even myself, has the right to make me feel bad about it. I trust myself to know what is right for me and not compare that feeling to yesterdays.

P.S. I know this story is all wrapped up in a bow where I got a great job and I'm happy and there are rainbows everywhere, but in the midst of it, I was absolutely miserable for eight months straight. I broke down in nearly every hallway in Hodge and hid myself away from friends and clubs. Hindsight is 20/20, but I was damn near blind for a lot of it. My best piece of advice is to trust your gut and just keep chugging — and seek therapy if at all possible. I really wish I had.

Author: Niki Ryan is a junior majoring in Finance. She is the Director for Intellectual Development and enjoys working on the committee’s new podcast and planning organization-wide events!

Table for One  

College is a time when we are seemingly constantly surrounded by people — which is amazing. I love people, and I’m about as extroverted as a person can get. But, I’ve come to a point where I now realize there is a time when I need to allow myself to be alone. During this time alone, one needs to step back and totally release from the commotion that surrounds us. I often find myself so caught up in what I can do for other people that I forget to take care of myself. What has helped me to truly realize this and understand that I need to spend time taking care of myself too, is simply going out on my own and finding my own independence. When I am walking around London by myself or even sitting at a café alone, I make a true effort to stay off my phone and spend that time engaged in the present moment. When I am present with my own thoughts, without the thoughts of others circulating in my head, I feel more apt to trust my personal intuition. I’ve never been one to “just go with my gut” — I am usually a major overthinker. But because I have embraced this new-found independence, I am now used to relying on myself, and I feel confident relying on my instinct.

Spending time alone is where you learn to follow your inner voice, allowing that voice to guide you rather than letting the thoughts or opinions of others obscure what you truly want. Once you learn to follow your inner voice and you learn to filter out the outside influences, you will be more apt to make good decisions — the decisions that are right for YOU. I have noticed that by following my instinct and by making the right decisions for myself, I have felt incredibly liberated. Of course doing things for others is so important, and it is essential to care for others too. Yet, there is a point where we need to give ourselves that same time and attention. We are strong and can stand to take care of ourselves too. This inner voice and inner strength are rooted in realizing our true wants and needs and discovering our true selves. This is done by embracing our independence.

Whether you choose to embrace this independence by going on a walk around Bloomington alone, going to a yoga class alone, or grabbing a table for one, you are the one who chooses. Personally, much of my semester has consisted of exploring the city of London by myself or flying to other cities solo. This has been such a defining experience because by focusing on solely myself and my personal journey for the day, my eyes are much more open to my surroundings and how I can use my surroundings to get to where I want to go. It is me and the world and nothing in between. I am now so much more confident in my decisions and so much more relaxed with the life I lead. Spending my valuable gift of time on myself has helped me to be so content with who I truly am.

On a more extreme note of embracing independence, Cheryl Strayed in her novel Wild recalls how she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, from the Mojave Desert to the Oregon-Washington state line, completely alone. It became a spiritual journey that ultimately saved her. Pure bravery and grit pushed her to rely on herself, and herself only, to complete this journey. A journey on which she found and embraced herself after being lost for so long.

Whether we are an extrovert or an introvert, in college or on the journey of a lifetime, we must find that time alone to embrace ourselves and our own independence.

Table for one, please?

Author: Mandy Novicoff is a junior majoring in Marketing and Professional Sales. She is currently enjoying studying abroad in London, England!

Pictures from Mandy’s adventures in London:

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A Freshman Perspective

From the first time I stepped into Hodge Hall, I was overwhelmed with nervous giddiness. The building was intimidating with its soaring ceilings, hustle and bustle, and students walking with purpose in full business professional attire.

Doubt and insecurity immediately flooded my mind.

Did I actually belong here? Would I be able to compete alongside these incredibly talented individuals?

The first few weeks of school was me trying to find my bearings. I got to know my professors, studied for classes, and bonded with my floor mates. However, something was still not right—I was still trying to find my passion. In high school, I was highly involved in my school’s DECA chapter and that was where I had found a community of some of my closest friends. Thus, I made it my goal to find a similar community of inspiring, caring, and hardworking people. Soon thereafter, I stumbled upon WIB while talking to a friend. I have always been passionate about female empowerment, and a club that combined it with business, seemed the perfect place for me.

Even after joining WIB, I felt the same doubt and insecurity that I felt my first day in Hodge Hall. I was surrounded, again, by talented and brilliant women who were doing incredible things both inside and out of Kelley. However, instead of letting these doubts and insecurities consume me, I decided to reverse the cycle. I began talking to the women of WIB, connecting with them, and showing genuine interest in creating a relationship. Rather than seeing these women as my competition or people I had to be better than, I began to change my mindset. I started to notice all of the amazing opportunities that WIB provided, and I sought out all of them. I no longer needed to prove myself to people; instead, I was determined to work hard and help the people around me also achieve their goals.

First semester freshman year was a period of growth and change, but I am now going into second semester confident in my own abilities, knowing that I have an incredible community of strong women who are supporting me every step of the way.

Author: Spoorthi Vittaladevuni is a freshman majoring in Marketing and Business Analytics. She hopes to pursue a career within the consulting industry and is excited to be a part of WIB!

The Truth About Work-Life Balance at a Big Four

Being a part of the Kelley community, I often run into the question of how does one genuinely balance work and life when working at a large company? I usually get the same kind of answers, like “go do yoga” or just “prioritize your health.” Although true statements, the answers are not usually beneficial or detailed with the true experiences employees face in the corporate world. Getting somewhat annoyed at the tiny answers I was being given to a big question, I decided that I wanted to search for my own answers. I reached out to four women Kelley graduates, each one currently working at a different Big Four firm: EY, PwC, Deloitte, and KPMG. Each person was eager and excited to give me some insight on the true story behind work-life balance.

When did you graduate from Kelley and what did you study?

EY: I graduated in Spring of 2015 with a degree in Finance and a minor in History.

PwC: May 2015 - majored in accounting and minored in political science.

Deloitte: 2015. Supply Chain Management and Business Analytics.

KPMG: I graduated in 2015 and studied Accounting and Finance.

What company do you currently work for? How long have you been working for this company and what is your position?

EY: I currently work at EY in Chicago. I interned at EY and have worked here for the last 3 years.

PwC: PwC. 3 years - Senior Assurance Associate.

Deloitte: Deloitte Consulting LLC. 3 years. Consultant.

KPMG: I work for KPMG's Chicago office. I've been working here for 3 years, and I'm a senior associate in their audit practice.

On average, how many hours do you work each week?

EY: It can vary but 50-55 is average.

PwC: Depends on the time of year. Busy season is typically 70-80 hours a week, quarterly reviews are 45-50 hours a week and the majority of the rest of the year is 40-45 hours a week.

Deloitte: 55 on average but this varies a lot depending on how my project is going. I've had as heavy as 75 hours and as low as 35.

KPMG: It varies throughout the year. During our "busy season" (generally January to March) I'll work anywhere from 50-70 hours. During the summer, I'm usually able to work a regular 40 hour week.

What does work-life balance mean to you? Are you able to achieve this at your current job?

EY: To me, work-life balance means working with a team that supports me in doing what I need to do – working out on the road, doing laundry when I’m home, eating healthy, etc. I currently work with a team that helps me achieve my work-life balance goals but that hasn’t always been the case. I think it’s important to prove yourself with your team and show that you can get your work done, even if you leave early to go to that 5:30 cycling class. Trust is earned.

PwC: Work-life balance to me is having the time and flexibility to do the things I love outside of work. I would say I'm able to achieve this the majority of the time at my current job. We are given a decent amount of vacation days a year and are highly encouraged to use all the days we are given. PwC is also supportive of allowing employees to get involved in recruiting, volunteering, intramural sports, etc. If you speak up about what is most important to you, teams are typically very accommodating (within reason) as it is in their best interest to keep you happy.

Deloitte: To me, work-life balance means that I feel emotionally, physically, and mentally healthy at work and outside of work. This means having time to go to the gym regularly, getting to hang out with friends and family, and taking time for myself, while also performing well at work. Yes, I have been able to achieve this at my current job but due to the culture of consulting, which is very project-dependent. I was staffed for nine months at a horrible project location with poor leaders and had very little work-life balance then. Since you are constantly changing projects and working with different leaders, achieving work-life balance is sadly always variable. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you really don't.

KPMG: Work-life balance means being able to separate my work-life from my life outside of work. For a good portion of the year, especially in summertime, this is certainly possible in my current role. During busy season, it can be a lot more challenging because there is an expectation that work is your main focus, and work does take over a little bit in that sense. It is a very challenging balance to find, and I'm far from having it fully figured out, but I do think it's possible if you take advantage of the flexibility that is offered throughout the year outside of busy season! Another way that I try to find this balance is by not making myself available at all hours of the day. I try to avoid responding to emails after I leave work for the day so that I don't set the expectation that I'm available 24/7. I have definitely found that my managers respect and encourage setting this boundary!

There are many articles that are written about work-life balance that encourage setting strict work hours or carving out time for friends and family. What happens when your work schedule doesn’t allow you to do these things?

EY: It’s really easy to drift away from family and friends when you’re on the road so frequently. Taking advantage of alternative travel can help you keep in touch with friends who live far away – which is a plus.

PwC: For Big 4 auditing, the hardest time to obtain work-life balance is obviously during busy season. However, you go into public accounting being aware of that and learn to plan your personal life around busy season. You typically aren't allowed to take vacation during January or February, but most people plan a big vacation after filing date and are provided flexibility throughout the rest of the year.

Deloitte: If you are on a team where your leaders really don't care about your work-life balance, it gets hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My suggestion is to still force yourself to go to the gym or disconnect from work even if you're exhausted at the end of the work day. Spending just 30 minutes working out can really change your mental health. Another way to achieve this is to have open and honest conversations with your team leads about your mental state. Sometimes you can negotiate better working or travel hours. Also, take your PTO!!! I know that I am guilty of not taking my PTO for fear of hurting my utilization but at the end of the day, I don't want to burn myself out. It is important to remember that at the end of the day, life isn't about working until you die.

KPMG: This is a tough question, because there truly are times when the demands of work make it feel impossible to spend time with the people I care about. I think you really have to speak up when there are important events you want to attend (I was the maid of honor in my best friend's wedding in the middle of busy season - it is possible!) and make sure to set boundaries and stick to them.

 What do you want Kelley graduates that are entering a Big Four company to know about work-life balance? What is something you wish someone had told you?

EY: Work hard to earn trust. Communicate what you need early. Look to the tone leadership is setting about work-life balance.

PwC: I want graduates entering a Big 4 company to realize that work-life balance is doable, but flexibility is also a privilege and something that is earned. New associates need to earn the trust of their seniors and managers to get the perks of working from home, utilizing Flex Fridays, etc. As you start to earn the trust of your team and get promoted, you are given a lot more opportunities to obtain work-life balance.

Deloitte: It comes and it goes. Deloitte does a great job from a C-suite level to encourage taking time for yourself, but you don't always see that executed at a project level. If you choose to enter consulting at Deloitte, just be realistic with yourself that sometimes you might travel a lot to a small middle-of-nowhere town and it will suck. However, other times you'll get staffed on projects that let you leave at 5pm. There will be times when you have a bad work-life balance, but during the times where it's good, set a healthy routine for yourself and recognize what helps you de-stress and keeps you healthy. You have to identify for yourself what it means to have work-life balance because it really is different for everyone.

KPMG: I wish someone had told me that it's OK to speak up when you are feeling overwhelmed, or if you feel like work is starting to take over your life. If you don't speak up, no one will know that you need help!

 What does your company do to promote a divide between working life and personal life?

EY: I think our leadership does a good job setting the right tone. If they’re local, they try to leave to make it home for dinner with their families and encourage their teams to do the same. You might need to do some work afterwards, but it’s better than missing dinner completely!

PwC: I would say PwC doesn't encourage putting a "divide" between working life and personal life. They would prefer you to be open and honest about your priorities and family obligations. Teams are typically very understanding as long as you are upfront about your other commitments and tell them well in advance.

Deloitte: Deloitte really encourages disconnecting while on PTO. For me, this means not taking my work phone on vacation, so I set a clear boundary with my team that I am not working while on vacation. Additionally, a year or so ago, Deloitte instated Flexibility & Predictability guidelines which means talking to your team leaders about flexible travel schedules and giving team members more predictable working hours. I haven't really seen this play out on my projects which sucks, but I know other projects who let their teams travel less and have more work from home weeks. This is significant for improving mental health, so I hope more leaders instate this on their projects.

KPMG: KPMG promotes flexibility during "down times" - we are able to leave work early on Fridays in the summer and most people take advantage of that. We also have a generous time off package, and in my experience, my teams have been very supportive of taking it. In fact, I'm taking the next two weeks off to travel in Northern Europe. In many jobs it would be tough to take so much time off at one time, but my company definitely recognizes the importance of taking time away from work to recharge.

Do you have any additional thoughts around work-life balance at a Big Four that you would like to add?

EY: I’m part of the Professional Women’s Network Executive Committee at EY and it gives me the opportunity to plan events focused on topics I care about, one of which is work-life balance and staying healthy! At any Big Four firm, there are tons of ways you can get involved and plan events to get people talking about the things that matter to you. There are so many experienced professionals who are more than happy to talk to you about their experiences finding balance.

PwC: Work-life balance is achievable but it's mostly on you to make it happen! You have to be proactive, speak up, and prioritize the things that are important to you.

Deloitte: Work-life balance is difficult to achieve. You have to have project leadership that prioritizes this and also the courage to prioritize it in your own life. Figuring out what work-life balance means for you is the first key step. I've seen a lot of friends quit because the job just became too much of a grind. However, if you have the courage to speak up to your team leads to show that you need XYZ to get your work-life balance, at least you open the door to more options.

KPMG: Speak up when you need help! Reach out to someone in your network for advice or talk to your seniors and managers.

Through talking to these four women at the Big Four firms, I was able to learn about work-life balance and the challenges and successes each one has had.

Author: Sabrina Siew is a sophomore majoring in Operations Management and Sustainable Business with a minor in Dance. She enjoys combining her passion for business with the humanities, as well as incorporating creativity into her life.