By Deanna C. White
Angela Gomez, a transaction advisory services manager for Ernst & Young, has always been intrigued by the energy of entrepreneurship – the idea of taking a nascent vision and transforming it into a successful business through courage, innovation, and drive.
From the moment she began her career at Ernst & Young in New York, she put that love of entrepreneurship into play, pushing her career as a transaction advisory professional to a managerial level in just five short years and taking every opportunity to volunteer for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® awards program, which recognizes global entrepreneurs for their vision and achievement.
So when Gomez had the chance to push her passion for entrepreneurship and her professional skill set to the max by volunteering to assist global entrepreneurs through Ernst & Young's Americas Corporate Responsibility (CR) Fellows program, she jumped at the chance.
"For me, the best part of working with entrepreneurs is the fast-paced, quick-changing environment. Entrepreneurs are energetic and enthusiastic, and their excitement about the path of their business is truly contagious," said Gomez, who worked with Conexia, a business process outsourcing (BPO) information technology company in Argentina. "Their concepts are often changing the way we live globally. The CR Fellows program turned out to be the perfect fit for me to gain experience with this group."
Gomez was one of twelve Ernst & Young volunteers from the 2012 class of CR Fellows who recently returned from seven-week assignments in Latin America. While they were there, the CR Fellows leveraged their workplace skills to meet the specific business needs of high-impact entrepreneurs – those who have the potential to expand employment, generate wealth, and inspire others to innovate in their local community – in various host countries at no cost to the business.
The CR Fellows program is a partnership between Ernst& Young and Endeavor
. According to Ernst & Young, Endeavor is a not-for-profit organization that identifies and supports high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging economies, matching them with Ernst & Young CR Fellows in their host country.
Since 2006, more than sixty high-impact entrepreneurs have benefitted from the volunteer efforts of Ernst & Young's CR Fellows. Since its inception, CR Fellows have logged nearly 27,000 volunteer hours working with these enterprising entrepreneurs in emerging markets in an effort to create scalable, sustainable economic value.
In 2012, the CR Fellows program, Ernst & Young's longest-standing corporate responsibility program, assisted entrepreneurs in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Chile where its top-performing managerial talent worked on a diverse array of business issues, including financial process definition, cash flow management, leadership development, and assistance with branding and marketing.
In turn, the CR Fellows acquired hands-on business and leadership skills in an emerging economy, all while gaining the invaluable experience of living and working in an entirely new culture, through the filter of new customs and unfamiliar languages.
Americas Director of Corporate Responsibility Deborah Holmes said the CR Fellows program and the relationship with Endeavor are a natural extension of two of Ernst & Young's global differentiators: the global commitment to entrepreneurship as a means of strengthening the firm's local communities, and its promise to serve as a "best-in-class" learning organization by offering boundary-breaking educational experiences to its employees.
To say the CR Fellows program pushes participants – some of the "best and brightest" the firm has to offer – off their center of equilibrium for the sake of learning, Holmes said, is no understatement.
"Imagine you are a CR Fellow and you are asked to work directly with an entrepreneurial client who has very high expectations. You are working in an emerging market, and you are responsible not only for implementing, but scoping the project. On top of that, you have just seven weeks to do it," Holmes said. "For these Fellows, this experience is truly a step change from their prior experience. It is a phenomenal way for them to learn and practice new skills, and to do it in a global environment."
A step change, both personally and professionally, CR Fellows like Gomez say, because in the end, their experience abroad isn't just a challenging project that changes their business perspective on emerging economies and the global marketplace, it's a life experience.
From attending family BBQs with her always-welcoming host families, to learning that trust in individuals can be just as important as trust in a company name when it comes to business transactions, to learning the proprieties of enjoying a cup of Argentinean tea – serving as a CR Fellow was a "totally fulfilling cultural experience," Gomez said.
A cultural experience, that Holmes believes, makes all Ernst & Young's CR Fellows true proponents of global mobility.
"We all hear phrases like 'global mind-set' and 'achieving your potential,' but the CR Fellows have actually lived it," Holmes said. "We see them come back with a higher degree of belief in their own abilities. We see them come back eager to serve as active ambassadors for the Ernst & Young mobility culture and the power of inclusiveness."