Learn to lead

Hannah Langworth finds out about professional services firm Ernst & Young's exciting leadership programme for students

Are you a talented, outgoing and curious student who's had some leadership experience? If so, the Ernst & Young Leadership Academy could be for you. This challenging three-day residential course run by leading professional services firm Ernst & Young will teach you a lot about leadership, the world of work, and yourself.

To find out more, we spoke to Brad Greenwood, a third year student studying Chinese, Spanish and business studies at the University of Birmingham who took part in the programme last April.

What made you decide to apply to the Leadership Academy programme?

I'd already had a few different leadership roles, including being president of my halls of residence, and I thought the programme would help me to build on what I'd done as a leader already.

In addition, I'm an Ernst & Young campus brand manager, and what I'd seen of the firm's culture attracted me to apply, in particular the way the partners interacted with students - they were always happy to share their experience and knowledge with us.

What was the application process like?

First, I had to fill in an online application form, which focused on my strengths and experiences so far as a leader. Next, I had to do some online tests, including verbal, numerical and psychometric tests. The last stage was a phone interview. I was quite nervous and found I had to think on my feet, but I must have managed to prove myself as I was offered a place.

What did the programme involve?

When we arrived, it was almost like moving into halls at university. It wasn't so much the surroundings - we were staying in a hotel in the country by a beautiful castle and a lake. It was more that we were all in the same situation and no-one knew each other. But because we were living together and with each other all the time, I soon felt like I'd been friends with everyone for years.

The programme started with a welcome event, which gave us all a chance to meet each other and the course instructors. The theme of the first day was �You as a leader". We started with some leadership theory, which helped us understand the rest of the course. In the next session we put theory into practice to solve a number of team-based challenges. For instance, in one we had to work out how to get five rubber rings onto poles while following certain rules. It was chaos to start with, but we managed to organise ourselves and did quite well in the end!

The second day was all about �You in relation to others". As part of it, we took some personality tests to find out about ourselves and how we interact with other people. This session was one of my favourites - it was amazing how accurate it was. I found out I'm quite assertive in normal situations, but less so when conflict arises. I now also have a better idea of how to work with someone who's a different personality type to me.

The theme of the third day was �You in an organisation". We learnt about workplace skills and what Ernst & Young is looking for in its employees. In the afternoon, we had an hour to go off for a walk on our own in the beautiful surroundings of where we were staying. We were asked to reflect on what we'd learnt and on what we wanted to do in the future.

In the evenings, there were more informal activities including meals and drinks, a drumming workshop and karaoke!

What did you learn on the programme?

I learnt a lot about myself, including how others might perceive me. I've also been able to think about the leadership roles I've had so far and how I could take further steps as a leader. I'll be using everything I've learnt to benefit my future career. Also, talking to people from Ernst & Young about what their day-to-day role involves, and how their career has progressed, provided insights which are hard to find elsewhere - things like what they actually do on a day-to-day basis, which it can be hard to get from other sources. One Ernst & Young person I met even put me in touch with someone in an area I'm interested in working in, which has been really helpful.

What are the next steps in your career going to be, and how has the Leadership Academy affected the path you're taking?

I'm doing an internship with Ernst & Young next summer. After completing the Leadership Academy programme, I had access to a fast-track internship assessment centre process, which was great as it gave me a head start.

The programme has helped me to decide what I want from my career, and I've realised that at Ernst & Young I can be successful.