Interview

How EY’s Martha Raupp has developed her career with an entrepreneurial approach

by Liz Marchant

Martha Raupp, Asia-Pacific Knowledge Leader, EY.
Number of kids: 2
Age of kids: 12 and 9

What’s important to you in a role?

Over time, the most important thing for me in a role is to be challenged. I like to meet new people and be able to connect some dots with them, because I’m focused on the big picture. Being challenged is important but it’s also important to have support.

With each role I’ve held, I’ve focused on crafting my own approach within that role. Job descriptions don’t have to be sticky. If you have the skills to do more than your current role involves, it should be possible to bring those skills to bear. If that means your role changes, then that’s great. It allows you to show leadership and it also leads to more longevity in roles because they can evolve alongside you.

It’s also incredibly important to work with great people. Having a team of people whose company you enjoy is crucial. The size of the business is immaterial.

Can you describe what’s involved in doing your job on a day-to-day basis?

For the past four-and-a-half years, I was a leader in EY’s Growth Markets area where I worked with entrepreneurs and middle market companies to connect them with EY’s capabilities to help grow their businesses. I went to a lot of events to uncover opportunities, and I navigated the firm so clients didn’t have to.

Connecting the dots and working with people to deliver solutions has been recognised both by the market, and internally, and as of 1 June, I have started in a fabulous new role as the Asia-Pacific Knowledge Leader for EY.

In the new role, my team is spread out across Asia-Pac and global, but I hope to be able to continue working closely with women entrepreneurs and in my volunteer work, both as a Girl Guide leader, and on the board of Good360, an organisation that takes unsold new merchandise, and redistributes it to Australians in need.

Did you have any personal concerns or worries in relation to family or out-of-work commitments when you started combining working and parenting?

I have to go to a lot of events and most of them are after work. There’s no way around it; I have to be there in person. Luckily, because my husband works part-time and does the drop-offs and pick-ups, as well as managing the meals, I can focus on work without worrying.

What kind of support do you have?

In my case, my husband is home most of the time as he works part-time. I don’t know how I’d do this job if I were a single parent or my husband travelled for work, or had a full-time job. Because of his support, I don’t have to worry about who will pick up the kids or what they’re eating.

I also have a cleaner, which is important. And I have a lot of friends that I talk to and confide in, and I try to have regular exercise. Being involved with Girl Guides also provides a lot of benefit and some of my best friends are through Girl Guides. Through the energy we feel at meetings, I often come home more energetic than I was before I went.

What are your work commitments?

I travel internationally more regularly now, and am often on calls in the very late evenings, to accommodate different time zones. In my last role, I attended after-hours events at least once a week. Neither was a nine-to-five job. However, although I do check my email and phone, I never have to work on weekends, and can often work from home.

What’s the biggest challenge you have faced finding a balance between work and parenting commitments?

When I’ve had stressful roles, it’s been more difficult to be present in the moment when I get home. Sometimes my head is full of meetings and making sure I’m well-presented, when my daughter comes in to show me something. It can be a tough mindshift to be present for the children yet still focused on what you need to do for work.

To try to overcome this, we’ve set some boundaries. When I come home, I need some time to change into comfortable clothes and breathe for a second before launching into family life. My mood affects the rest of the family so it’s important to take that time and find a balance.

How long did you take maternity leave/time out of your career with each of your children?

I was really lucky and took a year off with both girls. That was important to me because I wanted to breastfeed for longer. Because we rent in a situation where the landlord is great, we don’t have a big Sydney mortgage over our heads, so we could afford the time off.

For my second child I was working for IBM which offered three months’ paid leave. So I took six months of half-time paid leave and six months of unpaid leave.

What advice would you give someone before commencing maternity leave?

Don’t predetermine your situation or put all your eggs in one basket. Don’t say you’ll take six months because you might find it’s not enough time. It’s important to think about whether a full-time role back in the city is what you think you’ll need. You might find even after a year off that motherhood is what you love, so a job back in the city full-time might not be right for you. Don’t put yourself in a box; allow yourself to feel what you wanted to feel.

When you come back, recognise that flexibility is important. The environment when you come back needs to be suitable so you can do what you need to do.

What advice would you give someone returning to their career after having kids?

Understand that you need to manage the mindshift. Being there at the right time in both parenthood and working means you’re thinking about the right thing at the right time but it’s not always easy and it takes time.

If women can find a buddy when they get back, formally or informally, that can be helpful. It’s someone to check in with and just someone to talk to.

If you can, work from home where possible. I don’t know anyone who works from home less hard than at work. Working from home removes the burden of commuting. But it’s also helpful to be in the office and find that validation. And conversations do happen at work. So, a mixture of working from home and working in the office might be ideal.

It’s important to note that, having a contract that says you work from home on Wednesdays, for example, isn’t the same as having flexibility. For true flexibility you need to be able to work from home when it makes sense for you, not because it’s mandated in the contract. When you talk about flexibility and balance, it’s not about being able to work from home so you can throw a load of laundry in the machine; it’s so you can be there for critical moments for your family.

Do you find time for yourself? And if so, how and what do you use it for?

I don’t get a lot of sustained time but I grab little snippets of me-time. Before I go to sleep, I have an hour when I’m still training my family to leave me alone. I listen to podcasts and play board games, often at the same time. I also try to get to the gym or walk twice a week.

I find little moments to do things for myself. For example, I like to learn foreign languages so, on the train, I put in earbuds and learn Japanese, Spanish, or French.

On weekends I go out on the deck and I do my language training and like to put a jigsaw puzzle together. People can talk to me but it’s time for me. I also have the occasional massage or pedicure.

Do you have a daily routine, and if so, what does it look like?

I usually work in the office from around 9am. I usually leave about 5:30. I leave at 4pm on Mondays to get to Girl Guides. On Fridays I work from home unless there’s something specific happening. I might work from home another day during the week as well. When there aren’t events happening in the evening, it’s pretty straightforward.

Events generally start at the end of the workday and then may go to 8pm or 9pm. Generally, I then get a taxi home and I’m done for the evening.

If you could do anything differently in relation to developing your career over the years, what would it be (if anything)?  

I would get myself to demand more pay when I take on new roles. We don’t ask the question frequently enough. I’ve taken on roles that were challenging and I don’t know why I didn’t say, “I’m happy to do that, what will the remuneration be?”

Too often, we feel like we take on new challenges of our own making, so we don’t have a leg to stand on to ask for more money. That’s not the case; if you’re doing more work or have more responsibility, then you expect a pay rise. This is something that big companies are often good at; withholding pay rises or dangling timelines. But you should only accept a role if the remuneration is acceptable. Why should anyone take on a role without compensation? Women don’t want to ask but we have to ask!