10 Questions: Sandra Thompson

July 17, 2017

Sandra Thompson is the office managing partner of the EY Newcastle and is responsible for almost 600 people across two offices in the city. In addition, she is an audit partner and works with a diverse mix of clients, from local family-owned businesses to large multi-nationals. Sandra, who relocated from London to take on her new role on Tyneside, sits on the North East LEP’s Business Growth Board and on the Finance and Investment Committee of the Elton John AIDS Foundation

What was your first break in business? 

Being taken on by a small accounting firm, which was across the road from where I lived. The firm saw a talent in me and moved me to the head office in Newcastle, from where I subsequently moved to Touché Ross (now Deloitte) before being head-hunted by PwC.

What did you want to be growing up? 

When I was very young, I wanted to be an inventor but as I got a bit older, I did well at business studies at school and thought banking would be a good career choice. I then spent a very unenjoyable week’s work experience in a bank, which laid that thought to rest. At 16 years old – while awaiting my exam results – I spotted a job opportunity at my local accounting firm and the rest is history.

What attracted you to your current role? 

The first attraction was the ability to achieve a better quality of life and the second was the role itself. Having been away from the North East for almost ten years – living in Edinburgh and, latterly, London. My working hours were getting longer and the places I lived were getting increasingly smaller and I wanted to rebalance this. I was also looking forward to re-connecting with old friends, both personally and professionally, back in the North East.

In terms of the role, I saw taking on the position as a challenge, given the size and diverse nature of the workforce across our two offices. I also recognised an opportunity to really make a difference across the Newcastle offices and in the local marketplace.

What is your company’s mission? 

EY’s mission is to Build a Better Working World. Our values define who we are. They are the fundamental beliefs of our global organisation. They guide our actions and behaviour. They influence the way we work with each other, how we serve our clients and engage with our communities. Our values give us confidence that we are using the same principles to help us make these decisions throughout our global organisation

How do you get the best out of your team?

I’ve been told that I’m very supportive and I make an effort to get to know my teams and spend time with them; also that I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty when necessary. I’m someone with principles and will always aim to do the right thing and call out bad behaviour. I also always thank my teams and give praise where due as, without them, I’d be nothing.

What has been your career highlight? 

There have been a number of highlights along the way, though more recently it was being appointed to the Board of Elton John AIDS Foundation as a non-executive member of the Finance and Investment Committee. It’s something  I am both passionate about and proud of.

What has been your biggest challenge? 

I can be a bit of a workaholic and I’m always on the go – so my biggest challenge is switching off from work and relaxing.

Who or what inspires you? 

I’m inspired by some of the superwomen who I’ve worked with who juggle a stressful and pressurised job with family commitments, and yet seem to make it look easy.

What are your company’s short and long-term goals?

2016 was another good year at EY, with strong growth across all of our service lines, sectors and regions. This has partly been driven by a focus on innovation and investment in technology both within our own business and in the services we provide to our clients. We invested heavily in new audit tools and made two new digital acquisitions – Seren and Integrc. Looking ahead we continue to evolve and innovate our business – adapting and responding to new disruptive technologies. Our data analytics capabilities are now a cornerstone of how we deliver and drive our Assurance business. EY continues to have a leading people culture with a transformational approach to developing talent. We create a positive working environment where our people feel empowered to achieve their personal and professional ambitions.

How do you achieve a good work/life balance? 

If somebody could tell me what the secret is, I’d be grateful! A good work/life balance is something I try hard to achieve – although it has slightly gone by the wayside as I transition to my new role. That said, I have swapped a flat in the City of London for a farmhouse in the countryside with chickens and a dog, which is certainly more calming.


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