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Learning from your mistakes and taking ownership of your work - full essay!

After graduating from UC Berkeley, I had the incredible opportunity to transition into a professional role as a Valuation and Business Modelling Analyst at EY San Francisco. Working at a Big Four company meant the pressure was on, and it seemed to go very well at first. My supervisors appreciated my strong technical competence and proactive work ethic. And when my manager went on leave just as a tough American-Chinese cross border purchase was assigned to our team, this translated into me being immediately entrusted to work alongside managers and senior managers without supervision.

This increased responsibility, including being directly responsible for all valuation deliverables, was challenging. I can even admit now that I felt some anxiety in accepting such a critical position so early on in my career. However, interacting with the team made me understand their strong level of trust in me, which pushed me to reciprocate this with a drive for ownership and competence.

I have always liked to do a job well—which meant that my initial response was to be determined to handle all of it on my own, to show ownership. This was a problem: for example, the project demanded difficult tasks like applications of an 8 year sigmoid curve to the valuation of technology, which was beyond my scope of experience. The client’s provided data were also a mess, leaving me to sort and make sense of the figures myself. Still, for a time, I slowly trudged on solo.

This was, of course, misguided. Upon expressing some of my anxiety and difficulties to a senior manager, it was pointed out to me that asking clarifying questions as soon as they arose often saved more time and led to higher quality outputs. I then realized that being outspoken about uncertainty and taking charge of resolving them are also manifestations of ownership and responsibility.

Armed with this feedback, I looked at the client data once more, and conceptualized the model needed for CAGR calculations and financial ratio analyses. I then reached out to other analysts, to see if they had worked on similar models before, and adapted them for the project’s use. I also accessed the EY shared drives and used the pooled resources on the valuation of developed technology to inform the progression of the project. As a result, I was able to fully grasp the intricacies of the project, ready to defend a completed model to the client and the manager upon return.

This piece of feedback was instrumental in the transformation of the way I worked. I became more willing to voice out my opinions, and became proactive at clarifying all parameters of a project as soon as necessary. I also became excellent at formulating questions, never asking a similar one twice. In effect, through developing the ability to identify the most efficient means to resolve uncertainty—even if that source was outside myself or my team—I somewhat counter-intuitively became a more confident and responsible analyst.

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