An entrepreneur who secretly quit her job at consulting giant Ernst & Young to start her own business has lifted the lid on what it’s really like in the high pressure environment of a Big Four accounting firm.
Jane Lu, 36, built her fashion empire Showpo into a business that is now worth $50million after quitting the accounting job she hated at EY more than 10 years ago.
The firm has been grappling with allegations of a toxic culture and launched a major investigation after one of its workers took her own life at the company’s Sydney office on August 27.
Aishwarya Venkatachalam, 27, a senior auditor in real estate assurance for EY, fell to her death from the 11th floor of her building after complaining friends she was being bullied at work and was a victim of racism.
Speaking to Daily Mail Australia, Ms Lu said she often spent endless hours doing spreadsheets when working at EY and her ‘heart wasn’t in it’.
Jane Lu, 36, who now runs online clothing giant Showpo worth $50million, quit her job 10 years ago in order to pursue her own business
Aishwarya Venkatachalam, 27, (pictured left) died on August 27 after falling from the Ernst & Young building in Sydney’s CBD
Aishwarya Venkatachalam, 27, a senior auditor in real estate assurance for EY, fell to her death from the 11th storey of her building (pictured) after confiding in friends she was being bullied at work and was a victim of racism
‘I was working on Showpo in the background during my time as an accountant so my priorities and focus were very much on driving Showpo,’ Ms Lu said.
‘My head and heart wasn’t in it, I realised I wanted something different for my career, which is why I was building Showpo in the background.’
The mother-of-one, who is pregnant with her second child, has previously spoken about working at EY and competing firm KPMG.
‘I remember I was staring at this spreadsheet for hours. I had this moment of realisation that I’d wasted three hours. I was three hours closer to death and my life had not improved,’ she previously told the podcast How I Made It.
‘I thought, I can’t do this for the rest of my life, I’m never going to be a good accountant.’
Ms Lu said she didn’t know how to explain to her parents, Queenie, 62, and Frank Lu, 68, that she just didn’t enjoy the accountancy job after quitting during the global financial crisis.
The mother-of-one, who is pregnant with her second child, has previously spoken about her work at EY and KPMG
Jane said she eventually told her parents of her decision to ditch accountancy about two years after she’d actually done so. She told the podcast they finally accepted her decision by the time she was able to pay off their mortgage and buy them a car
Her parents, who worked as cleaners in Sydney, had arrived from China with Ms Lu as an eight-year-old.
They had encouraged her to do accountancy and work for a big corporate firm.
In 2010, a friend suggested to Ms Lu they start a business selling clothes from a pop-up stall.
In 2010 a friend suggested to Jane they start a business selling clothes from a pop-up stall. She quit her job, maxed out her credit card buying stock, and shoved it into the garage of her parents’ Balmain home
She quit her job, maxed out her credit card buying stock, and shoved it all into the garage of her parents’ Balmain home.
But when her partner withdrew and the start-up floundered, Ms Lu feared she had made the wrong decision.
‘People were just trying to get rid of everyone, so I could not have been more rock bottom,’ she said.
‘I’m like “how do I even tell my parents?”‘
It took Ms Lu two years to tell her parents she had decided to ditch accountancy.
She told the podcast they finally accepted her decision by the time she was able to pay off their mortgage and buy them a car.
In November 2010, she opened a permanent store in Broadway with her partner under the brand name ‘Showpony’, which eventually morphed into ‘Showpo’ after dropping the ‘ny’ to avoid trademark disputes in the US
‘They were shocked,’ she said.
‘They just couldn’t believe how I had the balls… They’re like, “We don’t have anyone really entrepreneurial in our family. How did you know to take that risk?”‘
Eleven years later, she is widely regarded as one of Australia’s most successful self-made businesswomen, whose knack for social media marketing created a clothing website that turned over a reported $85million in 2019 alone.
She has made the AFR’s Young Rich List every year since 2017.
Ms Lu’s comments come as the culture at Big4 accounting firms – EY, KPMG, PwC and Deloitte – has been thrown into the spotlight by the tragic death of Ms Venkatachalam.
The Sydney staffer had been at work until around 7.30pm on Friday when she left her office in the golden EY skyscraper before returning again around midnight.
Neeti Bisht (left) is pictured with Ms Venkatachalam during her trip to Sydney in April this year – the last time they saw each other in person
It was also originally believed she attended work drinks between 5.30pm and 7.30pm, but Daily Mail Australia now understands she was at the office until 7.30pm.
Daily Mail Australia on Tuesday revealed the Indian national had complained to friends about racsim she had suffered in Australia and ‘mean colleagues’ at work.
EY has vowed to probe the accusations and take whatever action is necessary to stamp it out, promising ‘zero tolerance’.
And close friend Neeti Bisht revealed Ms Venkatachalam, a bridesmaid at her wedding, had struggled to fit in since moving to Australia 11 months ago.
Bosses at Ernst and Young have launched a major investigation into claims Aishwarya Venkatachalum (pictured on her wedding day with husband, Nakul) died after she was bullied at work and was a victim of racism
‘She was a happy soul and was finding her feet in Australia… She mentioned how mean some of her colleagues were,’ Ms Bisht told Daily Mail Australia.
Ms Bisht said Ms Venkatachalam told her she was dealing with bullying and racism at work, but she was otherwise thriving in Australia.
‘I think things had just started to brew then… Her colleagues and the racist angle was at play,’ she said.
A spokeswoman for EY this week told Daily Mail Australia the company ‘has a zero tolerance response to bullying, harassment and racism, and we take any allegations that relate to these issues very seriously’.
‘The review we launched last week following this tragedy is ongoing and it would be inappropriate to comment further until it is complete,’ she said.
‘We are continuing to offer all our people counselling and support.’
Read More: DailyMail