The 2024 Qsa Final Is Coming - Meet One Of The Judges!
1 month ago

We are proud to support The Queer Student Awards, in association with EY, for the third year running by providing a live stream of the event. Ahead of this year's final, the QSAs sat down with last year's highly commended Rising Star, Krita Shah, to talk about her apprenticeship at EY, career, success, and advice to finalists.

 

Introduce yourself

I’m Krita, I am a Senior Associate in Audit at EY. I specialise in financial services working with some of the big banks and insurance companies that you might be aware of. I’ve been at EY for 3 years and I love it here. I’m now on my way to becoming an ICAEW Chartered Accountant with just a few exams left to sit before I’m qualified. 

 

What does your role involve?

In my role I take a company's financial statements and assess whether they are true and fair. The numbers are correct that the internal control systems are accurate as well. As I've progressed at EY, I've gone from working as part of the team to actually managing people and taking responsibility for my areas, with more client interactions, and application of a lot more analytical and critical thinking. I’ve also taken on a bigger role in DE&I within the department getting involved with EY Unity activities thinking about how we can talk more about the importance of diversity and inclusion. The thing about diversity is that it’s not just a one time thing, a checkbox exercise. In my opinion, it should underlie everything that we do on a daily basis.

 

Are you involved in anything in addition to your role?

I'm also a Director of Marketing and now Diversity for CASSL - the Chartered Accountants, Student Society of London - the ICAEW student society. I've been involved in a few of their diversity campaigns which I really enjoy. I think it’s important to have more diversity in the accounting industry - people usually don't associate the two. Without it so many people are put off a career in accountancy and it stops the industry getting real credible people to join. They should feel welcome and accepted. 

 

Why did you decide to start your career via an apprenticeship?

When I was in school, I really loved studying and learning new things, however during my GCSEs and A levels I focused too much on the exams and would become overwhelmed and stressed out. When I started to spend more time on extracurricular activities where I could apply what I was learning I started to enjoy things more. That helped me to realise I didn’t really want to go to university where all I was going to be doing was focusing on more exams. Instead, I wanted to do something ‘hands on’ and actually apply myself. 

 

I found out about Business and Degree Apprenticeships - the best of both worlds where I could get a degree and some practical experience. I was looking into accounting because I really enjoyed it and I wanted to get chartered. Once qualified I can then focus on what I want to specialise in. I looked at the Big Four, however, when I applied to EY they got back to me within a few weeks, and I decided against pursuing anything with the rest. I really enjoyed the recruitment process and it came across as a real people firm. Since being made an offer to join I haven't regretted any of my decisions. If I’d gone to university I would have burnt out.

 

What has surprised you the most during your time at EY?

When I was looking for Business Apprenticeships, I was concerned about going straight into work at 18. My parents and friends felt the same way. It seemed very hardcore and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to be my authentic self. However, when I started my apprenticeship I felt really comfortable to be myself straight away. I was made to feel very welcome and assured that who I was wouldn’t impact on how I would be treated. After about six months when I felt more confident I came out to my team as bisexual and they told me nothing had changed. It was really nice to feel that way and to be accepted, which wasn’t something I had experienced much before. 

 

How do you feel you’ve changed during your time at EY?

When I joined I was very passionate about DE&I, but I didn't have the confidence to talk about it. I would try but I was always a bit hesitant. Over the last 3 years I've gained a lot more confidence and a lot more assertiveness. If I want to say something I will and I will stand by it - sticking to my ground. I’ve also become more mature emotionally and appreciate and understand other people’s situations with greater compassion. At EY I meet so many people from so many different backgrounds that I'm able to understand different people and where they're coming from.  

 

You’ve already mentioned EY Unity, the firm’s LGBTQ+ employee network. How has this played a part in your journey as a young LGBTQ+ person?

EY Unity was probably the way I felt the most welcomed at EY. When I joined, I went to an EY Unity event in my first few months. Everyone was so free, so relaxed, and talking normally about their LGBTQ+ partners and things like the cat that they had just adopted. At that moment I found my community and since then, I've attended all the EY Unity events. You get to meet so many people from so many different parts of the LGBTQ+ spectrum and you get to learn how they're all living their truths. They all inspire me to continue doing the same. There are people who are at different stages in their journey - some people have come out everywhere, other people might still be closeted at home. So you really find your crowd, and your place to fit in. I’ve helped to organise some events and the co-chairs have always encouraged me to get more involved. EY Unity has really helped me to take on more responsibility and to play an active role in making a change and having a positive impact.

 

What support can networks like EY Unity, and those in other workplaces, provide LGBTQ+ employees so that they can feel authentic and comfortable in the workplace?

Work is where you spend the majority of your time, whether we like to admit it or not. So, if you don't feel supported at work, you're not going to enjoy it, and you're not going to have a great time. That can trickle down into the rest of your life. I think if you've got a network, like EY Unity, whether you're actively part of it or not, it's a great thing to have access to. Just knowing that the firm supports LGBTQ+ people like me , that they care, and that they're actively doing something to show you that makes all the difference in helping you to feel comfortable at being you, at work. Knowing where to turn to if you're not comfortable is also important, especially if you’ve got a problem and need some support working through a solution.

 

What’s the best thing about working at EY?

They care about us as people. I know other firms (no shade intended!) say that too, however, at EY I’ve never felt like a number or a resource. The support I’ve had has been very personable and helped me to get through everything I’ve experienced as an apprentice over the last 3 years.

 

What career advice would you give other young LGBTQ+ people, especially those who are considering an apprenticeship?

I would say it's a scary world, especially when other people are not also doing an apprenticeship and the majority of your friends have gone to university, but it's a route that I genuinely think you can enjoy just as much - just go for it! There is no harm in applying and trying. If nothing else, you'll get a lot of interview experience before anybody else does. For me, I can see so much professional and emotional development in myself - take the leap I did. Forget what everyone else is doing and pursue exactly what you're interested in. It’s your decision.

 

You were a QSA finalist last year and awarded highly commended in the Rising Star category - what did that mean to you?

I was astonished with how incredible the event was - it was so comforting and I felt so free and open to be myself. Everybody was so welcoming, so friendly, and very inclusive. Nobody felt left out. I was just there for the fun and I didn't think I was going to win. Whenever I put on events, or organise things within and outside of EY, they're very much so that people can feel happy and comfortable to be their authentic selves in the working world. I want to have a positive impact on their lives. The best reward from that is when they tell me they really enjoyed an event, and that they felt welcome. 

 

When they said my name, and shared all the reasons why I'd been recognised it felt so surreal to me. It’s very nice to be honoured, so when I got up on stage it was a very proud moment for ‘little Krita’ who a few years before didn’t talk about her sexuality. It was a very emotional experience for me, in the best way. 

 

You’ve been involved in QSA2024 this year, as a judge - do you have a message you would like to given this year’s finalists ahead of the final on 26th June?

I would just like to say a very big well done! It was very difficult judging when everyone's done such incredible work. Whether you win or whether you don't, it will honestly be one of the best nights of your life, you will meet so many incredible people, you will feel so comforted and so welcomed, and you will also feel so inspired by the end of the evening. This year's theme is ‘Queer Liberation’ and I can't wait to see you there. Get tickets, invite your friends, invite your families - put on your fiercest outfit and get ready to rock!

 

You can get your tickets to the 2024 QSA Final here.

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