Rohini Ram works for EY at Britomart, leading the New Zealand People Advisory practice. She is on EY’s executive board, and has recently been appointed to the Oxfam New Zealand board.

This interview was conducted as part of a feature called “Daring Greatly” which features in Britomart Magazine, Edition 20. Read it here.

Rohini leads a team of 65 who are concerned with change management, consulting on recruitment and developing leaders, among other things. Her team holds around 25 different nationalities; she talks about the intangible value that such diversity adds and she mentions, as she does often over our long chat, that diversity isn’t any one thing. “It means lots of things – different things for different people,” she says. “And it’s something that’s very important to EY– not in a tick-the-box way but in a real, far-reaching way.”

What does she love about her job?

“I love the autonomy, the flexibility. I love being able to run my division exactly as I would if it were to be picked up and placed outside of EY and be my own business. It truly is like a family. Every employee at EY has a mentor – a guide or coach from within the company, and groups of these employee-mentors form ‘families’ within the company. This is a different way of managing employees – it fosters a real connection, encourages a more collaborative approach in the workplace. This process helps employees to understand their career path. We have strong internal learning platforms and have a system where if someone wants to succeed, we will look at what their challenges are and try to eliminate them. We have accelerate programmes for females at EY, not to push them beyond their male colleagues but to work closely and properly with them to figure out ways to narrow the gaps (that their careers might hold).”

What are her team concerned with?

“We are always looking toward the future. The future of work – the progress of technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence that is bringing about an unprecedented level of change to the way we work and live. New demographics, new needs and new challenges. Issues such as jobs being replaced with robots; how to identify different skills in people and encourage them to work in different ways. So this is both an opportunity and a challenge.”

What other challenges does her team face?

“You can never do better if there are no challenges. For me the pace of change around the workforce of the future is a challenge. The expectation that you will have one career for life has now gone, those entering the workforce today want variety, optionality and freedom to pursue other interests. It is important to understand what makes millennials tick. Talking to millenials, understanding what their models of work might look like, now and in the future. In some areas good retention may sit at 24 months – and that is something we have to work with, so instead of fighting it, we have to think: how do you challenge someone and get the most out of them in that time, how do you engage and motivate them?”

Did she always know where she’d end up?

“I didn’t have a set career plan; I started as a consultant, and I never would have thought I’d one day be a partner. I am very grateful to EY for allowing me to develop, and pushing me outside of my comfort zone. I got the right kind of support. This is not a company that says good luck and leaves you to it.”

And what has inspired her?

“My parents. My father was a businessman, he built a trucking business in Fiji literally from the ground up, starting with one truck… he would always be showing us kids how to do things for ourselves.” What message did she take from him? “Work hard. Don’t doubt yourself. And don’t forget your values. We were taught the best kind of values and mindset but left to apply it to whatever we felt was right, with no set expectation.”

And what if she’d done nothing with your life?

“My mother would have made her peace with it, but my father would have said ‘you’re better than that.’”