Global View, Personal Impact

– with Dilek Cilingir Kostem, Global Assurance Talent Leader, EY

Humans of HR: The story behind the leading lights – their career, motivation and achievements.

EY’s Global Assurance Talent Leader, Dilek Cilingir Kostem, explains her motivation and work for a large global organisation.

EY’s Global Assurance Talent Leader, Dilek Cilingir Kostem

02 April 2024

Story by
Simon Kent, Head of Content – The HR World

Dilek Cilingir Kostem is EY’s Global Assurance Talent Leader. She describes her role as one of advocacy for the 130,000-plus Assurance people stationed in more than 140 countries, as well as for all of EY. On a day-to-day basis she oversees talent engagement strategies and program implementation as the business develops tomorrow’s EY Assurance workforce and equips them to thrive in an increasingly complex professional environment.

Dilek started in auditing because she wanted to understand how businesses work and found auditing to be a quick and immersive way to do this. As a junior auditor she swiftly gained in-depth and behind-the-scenes insight into how companies operate, scale and transform. Her experience also unlocked some international opportunities. Throughout her career Dilek has relocated three times, becoming a risk consultant in the US, the EY Forensics and Integrity Services Leader for Turkey and Southeast Europe, the Turkey Assurance Leader, and currently the Global Assurance Talent Leader for EY, based in London.

“My wide range of experiences early on in my career provided me with several professional transformation opportunities,” says Dilek. “Whenever my progress was starting to plateau, pivot moments presented themselves, followed by new challenges and possibilities that gave my career a boost. I found myself transitioning in different ways, experiencing growth, and, once again, progressing.”

Indeed this fast moving career meant Dilek reached partner level at 34, a relatively swift path given the number of shifts she made. “I am of the view that those experiences, life lessons and relationships helped pave the way for this achievement,” she says. “It’s a career highlight that fills me with immense pride and a leadership role I approach with a deep sense of duty.”

The Future is Arriving

Dilek is proud to have played a part in establishing a group of future leaders called EY’s Global Voices – a 200-strong employee forum that represents the Global Assurance practice and helps shape the business strategy. “At the time, I saw an opportunity for Global Assurance to create a formal structure that encouraged the sharing of diverse perspectives from younger generations across our global membership firm network,” she says. “This is so important given that these are the professionals who are critical to the future of EY.

“There is immense value in listening to the insights and ideas of younger, diverse professionals, many of whom are from a different background and country than myself,” she adds. “Personally, they encourage me to explore challenges and opportunities from fresh angles, and see through their eyes; often with an entirely fresh and new perspective. This helps me be a better HR leader.”

Mentoring for More

Dilek enjoys mentoring and coaching members of this group, to help them develop their leadership capabilities and grow their network. “The value we all receive is amazing, I am firm believer in two-way mentorship – we can and should learn from one another.”

The second stand-out moment for Dilek is helping to increase innovation within EY’s Audit and Assurance teams.

“Given my background in client-service, I enjoy being on-the-pulse of fast paced and innovative projects,” she says. “I have been lucky to introduce or explore projects that are on the cutting edge and have never been done before with EY.”

She gives the example of the business engaging with the Metaverse when it had its first wave of popularity a couple of years back. “I wanted EY to build infrastructure and content to host several virtual recruitment events,” she says. “We did this successfully with the direct involvement of a number of countries around the world.

“This, for me, was interesting, not only to see how we could use this virtual platform to create an entirely new experience to achieve our engagement goals, but to successfully apply emerging technology in a real-world context,” she says.

HR Passion Grows

Dilek’s passion for developing and providing opportunities for EY people has grown steadily throughout her career. This meant the ultimate move into an HR role was a natural progression. “I don’t have a traditional HR leadership background,” she notes, “but my career experience means I have learned how to lead a practice or a function and influence others. I can see challenges and opportunities through the lens of the people we are trying to create solutions for. And my standing as a client service leader has helped me better connect and relate to the leadership team in EY Assurance, and beyond, with whom I work now.”

Dilek confesses to being impressed by Gartner’s Human Deal Framework saying that the model is all about the value exchange, and what the employee receives because of the services provided to the employer. She believes the model to be so obviously true that if you are to affect employee’s lives in a positive way in the workplace, they are more likely to deliver more value in their work, which improves the business.

“I take great satisfaction from being in a role where one of my main objectives is to improve people’s lives in a positive way."  

Team hands, support and work motivation of business workers working with financial data. Finance collaboration, teamwork and accounting employee group together planning a project with tax documents

“As I reflect on my career, one of the many things I take the most joy from is having watched someone start their career in their early twenties and to watch them grow and have their own tremendous successes – and knowing that I was able to nurture and support them along the way.

And now I get to try and help with that for 130000+ people.”

The Challenge of the Future

Looking towards the future, Dilek is aware that across the audit and accounting industry, in almost all countries, the numbers of those studying towards an accounting qualification at university, or towards a professional certifications filling has fallen. She says that as an industry, accounting and audit has an issue of attractiveness that needs to be addressed. “There are some key root causes we must look to address as a profession at a global level, but they do also manifest differently in different jurisdictions,” she says.

“This challenge encourages me to constantly evaluate what we offer as a profession and how we should be continually investing in new recruits,” she says, “helping to meet their needs as well as ours by providing great work and life experiences. As an example, I am wanting to increase the amount of international mobility at EY.”

Professional learning and development has always been a key EY attractor and Dilek says she and her colleagues are constantly challenging themselves to think about how to stay at the forefront of training and upskilling. She says their people need the structure and the capacity to feel they are always learning. The company is investing heavily in the content, the personalisation and the delivery mechanisms of learning, for example upskilling the entire workforce around sustainability and emerging technologies, such as AI.

Dilek explains that the size and scope of the business means there are challenges and complexities when it comes to navigating the global footprint. “In such a large organisation it can naturally be difficult to translate strategies into operational realities across our network,” she notes, “however its precisely this challenge that creates opportunity, out of the box thinking and a sense of entrepreneurship I enjoy.”

From country-to-country, Dilek recognises the need to be flexible in how objectives are achieved, reflecting an understanding of cultural nuances and differing perspectives. “That is what I love most about this role,” she affirms. “The opportunity to work with such a variety of people, experiences, cultures and backgrounds and to make an impact for the good. So, when I’m able to lead us in making a change and driving innovation, I know ultimately it will be felt at an individual level – and that for me is one of biggest wins that comes with this job.”

EY’s Global Assurance Talent Leader, Dilek Cilingir Kostem

Dilek Cilingir Kostem

Global Assurance Talent Leader, EY
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