Lynn Kraus has spent much of her career with the one firm. But she’s somewhat improvised her way to the top, taking on new and varied opportunities to get to the executive and to her current position as EY’s Sydney Office Managing Partner.
“I thought making partner was the be all and end all but it’s not,” Kraus says, noting she’s taken on roles within EY she never expected since joining the partnership in 2004.
Upon returning to work following the birth of her second child, the then client services partner took a new position with the firm in a field she had no experience managing: as head of human resources across Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Indonesia.
And just to make it more interesting, she took the job part time, working Tuesdays to Friday.
It happened when former CEO Gerard Dalbosco decided the firm needed a new approach to HR. He liked that Kraus had been a client (working in-house with Westpac) and a partner with the firm, and believed she could spearhead a new agenda for recruiting and developing staff. He supported Kraus’ desire to work four days a week, acknowledging that if it couldn’t work for an HR executive they would have problems encouraging it elsewhere. Kraus became one of the first women on the EY executive, and the first executive to work part time.
“That changed my career. He took a chance on me by appointing someone with no HR background and by appointing someone on maternity leave who wanted to come back part time and into a role she hadn’t done before,” says Kraus. To help her move into the executive, Dalbosco also offered an executive coach to assist her negotiating skills. It was a move that inspired Kraus to implement, as part of the firm’s parental leave scheme, a menu of items new parents can use to help their transition back to work such as coaching, additional superannuation, parenting advice and even cleaning services.
Now, she’s one of the firm’s six city managing partners, four of whom are women. It’s a contrast to many professional services firms where barely 20% of the partnership is female. “We’re all highly efficient at what we do and can multi-task really well,” says Kraus. “We got there at different times, marking a change in which different CEOs said, ‘It may have always looked a certain way, but it’s time to break with tradition’.”
Kraus is ultimately responsibly for the firm’s 2800 employees in Sydney (although she only has six direct reports), working on everything from EY’s market strategy and identifying the clients it works for, to developing and connecting teams within the business and managing the firm’s brand. Following the firm’s mantra that you don’t only lead, but also ‘do’, she also spends around 40% of her time on transactional work clients. “That sitting in the ivory tower telling people what to do doesn’t exist here,” she says. Kraus is also chair of the firm’s diversity and inclusiveness council for Australia and New Zealand.
Kraus admits that while continually putting her hand up for opportunities, she didn’t always put her best foot forward on negotiating pay and applying for promotions. From that experience, she now uses her leadership position to ensure women get what they deserve.
“There’s some luck involved, but then there’s the need to absolutely back yourself,” she says. “I haven’t always been that way. There have been times when I’ve not put myself forward only to see someone who was less qualified move into a role.”
“I’ve tried to champion that for all of the women within EY, to let people know what you want to do in a way that feels genuine to you. It’s not about self promotion. It’s about using your network to get what you want.” While head of HR, Kraus conducted the firm’s first ever pay parity review in order to determine if there were pay gaps across EY.
She passionately supports employees working part time and in flexible arrangements, declaring her personal key to managing it as an executive was to be open and upfront about her boundaries and the hours she was putting in. She encourages part-time employees to communicate their working arrangements to those within the firm and their clients externally.
Kraus developed an interest in accounting working part time in her father’s textile manufacturing business back in the US. She studied at South Carolina University, before starting with EY in Atlanta, like the “clear career path and clarity” the firm could offer. A secondment in Australia turned into a four-year working stint. She went back to the US following 9/11, later returning to take a position with Westpac, and being recruited back to EY.
Kraus notes the importance of mentors and sponsors throughout her career – especially one female partner who told her to put in her business case for partnership despite Kraus not thinking she’d have much of a chance, or was personally ready. “She basically replayed my career to me and said, ‘You’ve already done it all! There’s no reason to wait’,” says Kraus. “I always looked for mentors and sponsors. I think the reality is that all organisations are political and while you don’t have to play politics, you at least need to understand them.”
Ultimately, Kraus’s career path’s been very different to what she imagined joining EY as a graduate, back when making partner seemed the end result.
“People might look at a professional services firm and think it could be very monotonous,” adds Kraus. “But it’s a great place where you can have a completely different career. I would never have seen myself as an HR profession, and now heading up Sydney markets. It’s been interesting to be able to continually re-invent myself.”