Ishrah Ahmed, BS Accounting ’16, had been studying pharmacy at St. John’s University before she moved to Virginia, where her husband Saad Ahmed, BS Information Systems and Operations Management ’17, was enrolled in the George Mason University School of Business.
“I would tag along to some of the classes my husband was taking and I realized that business, and especially accounting, was very intuitive to me,” she says. “I saw how accounting is such an important function of an entity because that’s how leaders understand what’s happening with the business. Accounting helps answer questions such as where all the money is going. As I started to realize the value of these careers, I was drawn to them more.” Being able to commute and take classes with her husband brought comfort and joy to the education process, but she also really appreciated the diversity in content and approaches taught within the School of Business. Beginning at Ernst & Young (EY) right after graduating from Mason, her work ethic and constant pursuit of knowledge led to immediate career success.
Though she wears many different hats at EY, Ahmed’s official title is as assurance manager, a role in which she’s tasked with managing financial statement audits. “All public companies are required to be audited and I help manage those audits, which means I’m working with engagement teams of varying sizes, going through their financial statements and things of that nature,” she says. She thoroughly enjoys the process, but it’s the extracurricular opportunities at EY that help her realize her full potential. As a member of the EY Greater Washington People Advisory Board, she organizes events for employees to develop both personally and professionally. Another crucial role she plays is recruiting top accounting students to come work at EY, a task that brings her to business schools including at Mason, to serve on panels and speak one on one with students.
EY’s recruiting efforts to the School of Business have borne fruit over the years, leading to a steady pipeline of School of Business graduates coming to work at the firm. Two other Patriots at the firm are EY Partners Michelle Montes, BS Accounting ’95, and Brett Rembold, BS Accounting and Finance ’08. Rembold has directly worked with Ahmed in many of the firm’s recruiting efforts. “She’s just been a fantastic person to work with. She really embodies a lot of what we talk about at the firm, as far as having a personal life while working hard, doing great work, and being really successful professionally as well,” he says. Montes has also noticed Ahmed’s work ethic. “She is very clearly open to the opportunities that the firm can provide to her and invested in the opportunities to continue to professionally develop,” she says. “That’s a great testament to her commitment to herself and to EY.”
Many of the practices that enabled Ahmed to excel at the School of Business are also what help her at EY. Chief among them is managing the work-life balance, something she had to learn while raising her first child, a toddler at the time, when she was enrolled at Mason. “Whether it’s engaging with your professors or leaders on your team, it’s important to tell them about yourself so they have an understanding of what you’re prioritizing or what you’re dealing with outside of work or school,” she says. “Building that communication at the beginning to say that I don’t want to miss anything important in my children’s lives was important. And it’s not like I’m decreasing the amount of work I do, but recognize that I can work flexibly.”
"At the School of Business, we understand that our students have multiple commitments and responsibilities outside the classroom,” says Long Chen, area chair and associate professor of accounting. “By cultivating time management skills and promoting self-care practices, we empower our students to be successful not only in their careers but also in their personal lives. We encourage our students to take advantage of the resources available to them, such as networking events, internships, and career development workshops, to gain hands-on experience and build a professional network. Our faculty members are also dedicated to providing mentorship and guidance to help students achieve their professional and personal aspirations.”
Like at Mason, Ahmed is constantly learning at EY, pushing herself and her peers to succeed. But what it really boils down to is the people. “EY has a collaborative culture and our people, along with our culture, is what I most enjoy about coming into work each day,” says Montes, who has been at EY for more than two decades and counting. Rembold agrees. “I would not still be here if I didn’t have great people to support me, mentor me, and work alongside me over the years, and that’s really what sets us apart,” he says. The three Mason alumni also agree that the range of opportunities and responsibilities, which are ever evolving, make EY an exciting place to keep learning and growing, much like what they experienced at the School of Business. By prioritizing work-life balance, Ishrah Ahmed and her colleagues are able to avoid burnout in pursuit of lifelong learning and professional development, benefitting themselves and the entire EY family.