Why I left the Big 4 for Ayming

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Expert Opinion
October 5, 2021

We sat down with Naomi Ikeda, who works as a Manager for R&D Incentives in our London office, about her background and career to date. Naomi tells us why she chose to leave one of the Big 4, and why she chose Ayming.

Tell us about your background.

My career was initially in academia. I completed my PhD in Molecular Biology, specifically in genetic factors associated with bacterial shape change. Before this, I studied Biochemistry with Microbiology for my undergraduate degree. Once I completed my studies, I decided to start a career in consulting. I started in 2015 as an Assistant Consultant in Innovation and Incentives at a Big 4 firm, and left at the end of 2019 as a Manager. Over the years, I progressed my career and experience in R&D tax incentives.

What did your work involve at the Big 4?

My work focussed on contributing to the deliverables of R&D claims, primarily for my portfolio of software and IT-centric clients. My level of ownership and responsibility was limited, as most of the work was task-focused, and the interaction with clients was restricted. The team was relatively small compared to other teams in the Big 4. It was rare to be recognised as an individual for your input or achievements in junior positions. As my title changed, so did my daily activities, focusing more on project management and more involvement with clients and HMRC.

How long were you considering a move?

I considered moving for about 6-9 months before I took the final decision. I was initially unsure what would be the best move, as I wanted to make sure the company I moved to aligned with my views on working culture. I spoke to quite a few companies regarding available positions. However, all of these often struggled to describe people management to me.

So, why did you move to Ayming?

Over my years at the Big 4, I heard many great things about Ayming and their work. They are well known for the teaching and training provided within the role and the culture and atmosphere. I wanted to move to an environment that would help me develop as a people manager, not just a project manager.

As part of the interviewing process, I met Mark Smith and Njy Rios. Both greatly impressed me in their views on leading the Innovation team, taking previous learnings from their experience at the Big 4 to inspire the current Ayming team.

Another person that impressed me through the joining process was Jenny Temenu, Head of HR. Meeting with HR definitely added a personal touch to the experience. Conversely, at the Big 4, there is no individual link to HR. If you want to get in touch with them, you have to email a centralised mailbox and receive a response in the next five working days.

Were you nervous about moving away from the Big 4?

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t! The change is somewhat nerve-wracking, but ultimately I knew that was the best choice for my development. Having allowed a considerable notice period, I was able to discuss my move in further detail with my previous Senior Management team and partners. Following these frank discussions, it was agreed that this was a better move for myself and what I was seeking.

What were the biggest challenges you faced with your move?

Initially, my perception of moving to a boutique firm like Ayming felt like it could not have been a ‘good’ move for my career. Being able to speak with members of the Ayming team before I took my decision made me realise that my fears were unfounded.

What are the differences so far between the Big 4 and Ayming?

More than I initially realised! The working culture is very different, with a lot more focus on what I can do and learn in my role than just what I can produce. Naturally, within a boutique firm, there is more focus on the individuals and their thoughts, which is not possible within larger firms due to the hierarchal operations.

Furthermore, at Ayming there is a lot more focus on giving people responsibility and ownership. Within the Big 4 structures, junior staff members are only given information at a task level and have minimal interaction with the clients. It’s very refreshing to see all people being given that opportunity.

And what about the similarities?

The quality of work produced is always at the forefront of both Ayming and the Big 4s’ minds. It’s important to ensure that the client always gets the best quality work.

What piece of advice would you give to someone looking to move from the Big 4 to another consultancy?

Make sure that it works for you, and don’t be afraid to have open discussions about the potential benefits that either working environment can provide. This is important for every individual regardless of what type of company you move to. I would recommend that you keep those lines of communication open about what you aim for and what would be needed to help you achieve this goal.

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