Cultivating Intentional Community
By Eliana Chow
When Jamelia Livingston, MAC ’09, first walked through the doors of EY’s Raleigh office for an undergraduate internship, an accounting career was nowhere on her radar. While she knew she wanted to enter the world of business management, the finance major had her sights set on climbing the corporate ladder at a large financial firm right after graduation.
Serendipitously, Livingston interacted with several students and faculty members from the Poole College of Management’s Jenkins MAC community during her internship. As a result of those conversations, she realized that her personal passion for fostering meaningful relationships aligned perfectly with Poole’s longstanding commitment to collaboration. She enrolled in the MAC program with a specialization in enterprise risk management, jumping at the chance to develop holistic leadership skills. “I knew the MAC program would provide the perfect community to help me launch the next stage of my career,” she says. “I never once looked back.”
Walking the Extra Mile
For Livingston, exceptional leadership is all about stepping into another person’s shoes and recognizing the value of what they bring to a team. She praises Poole for providing ample opportunities for MAC students to develop the relational and technical skills they need to flourish in their careers, including empathy and inclusivity. “Just like in the workplace, you don’t typically choose your teammates for MAC group projects,” Livingston explains. “You have to learn how to leverage each person’s strengths for the success of the entire group.”
In her current role as a senior manager based out of EY’s Charlotte office, Livingston has traveled the world to meet the strategic needs of her multinational clients. But her role encompasses much more than attending meetings and giving directives. Whenever she can, she devotes a few days to exploring the city and immersing herself in the local culture and language. “These experiences help me better understand where global teams are coming from and how I can respect their unique backgrounds and stories, both in and out of the office,” says Livingston.
Strategies for Lasting Connection
Throughout the past 12 years at EY, Livingston has held a front-row seat to the evolution of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the accounting industry. When she first joined the company, the industry was more narrowly focused on the diversity aspect of DEI, working to improve statistical representation of historical minorities in the workplace. In the past few years, though, she has appreciated the ways in which EY has expanded its focus to the concept of belonging.
“DEI is not something we can simply achieve once and call it a day,” says Livingston. “When you genuinely want to help others succeed, you don’t just stop at giving them the tools to come to the table. Managers must practice ongoing, personalized investment in their team members’ professional journeys to ensure those individuals thrive during their time with the company.”
With her emphasis on building lasting relationships, Livingston underscores the value of consistent communication. She brings this commitment to every student she interacts with as part of her recruiting responsibilities for EY. Whether providing career advice or sitting on a recent panel on “DEI in the Workplace,” hosted by the Jenkins MAC program, Livingston always seeks opportunities to reconnect with everyone she meets, however brief their first interaction. “I want MAC students in particular to know that I see them and value them for far more than their job applications or the questions they ask during Q&A sessions,” she says. “We have to recognize that intentional engagement is crucial for preparing the next generation of thought leaders, storytellers and community builders.”
While some may associate accounting with stereotypical depictions of tedious number-crunching and gray cubicles, Livingston is part of a vibrant profession that is always improving and evolving. She remains grateful to her professors and peers at Poole for encouraging her to stay attentive to the endless possibilities within the field. “There is always room to grow,” she reflects. “Whether it is traveling to a new city or assisting a client with a technical accounting matter, I am always on the lookout for my next adventure.”