The Pandemic’s Impact on Ernst and Young’s Dallas Office

Dallas Ernst and Young employees share their thoughts on how the pandemic has impacted business travel this year.

Ernst & Young (EY), a global leader in consulting, transactions, assurance and tax, has experienced many changes to the way its Dallas office operates since the start of the pandemic this past March. The biggest change: business travel.

Most people (71 percent) have not traveled for business purposes at all in the past 12 months, said the Statista Global Consumer Survey.
Most people (71 percent) have not traveled for business purposes at all in the past 12 months, said the Statista Global Consumer Survey.

The business travel industry is estimated to have lost $518 billion since March, according to Global Business Travel Association.

Staff members typically travel around to different EY offices’ clients to perform inventory counts, but these paying-your-dues-like tasks work more strangely now than before.

Remember how Santa makes his list and checks it twice? Well, the “checking it twice” task is left to EY staff. Inventory counts ensure businesses accurately report their financial reports to consumers each quarter. EY staff act as Santa’s little elves, traveling during the global pandemic to – yes – count things. Aren’t you glad you didn’t major in accounting?

Katharine (Katie) Camp, 22, is one of Santa’s elves. She graduated from Ouachita Baptist University in May 2020 and received her job offer from EY last December. She waited and waited to receive her start date as EY’s newest Assurance Staff, but the pandemic kept pushing it back – from the beginning of 2020 all the way to September.

“Santa” is no other than Cesar Garcia, 26, who started as one of the many other elves in August 2018 but was promoted to Assurance Senior this year.

Meet the stars of the story, EY employees Katie Camp and Cesar Garcia.

Cesar “Santa” Garcia tells his elves – staff members – which clients of which EY locations to pay visits to to conduct inventory counts. Katie the Elf knew inventory counts were part of the job when she received her offer, but once COVID happened, she figured she wasn’t going to be traveling as much as she had expected, she said.

While leisure travel was down 50% year-over-year in Aug., corporate travel was down 88%, said a recent research note from Bank of America analysts.

Way back pre-COVID, Katie was looking forward to attending happy hours with colleagues and laughing it up at elaborate EY holiday parties. “Every college student envisions their first job out of college to be very exciting, and they look forward to becoming friends with coworkers,” Katie said.

But that dream came to a grinding halt once COVID made its way overseas. “I was really looking forward to hanging out with coworkers, but I haven’t been able to do that. I never got to do that; I attended a Baptist school. I haven’t ever even been inside the Dallas EY office or met any of my coworkers.”

Once Katie finally got to start her dream job at her dream company this past September, she was asked about her comfort levels regarding doing anything in-person.

“Since I was in Arkansas for school during EY’s interview season, I was able to be interviewed virtually,” said Camp. “This is the first year EY implemented virtual interviews. I was also a volleyball player, and interviews took place during the season, so it was interesting trying out virtual interviews before the pandemic even hit.” | Photo by Ernst & Young.

“EY asked everyone who was comfortable with in-person inventory counts to partake, depending on family situation and health,” Katie said. Everyone realizes inventory counts aren’t “the most fun tasks, but they still beat staying in your room.” Traveling around the state is her “only way to get experience outside of my house for right now.”

“I like being able to show the company how I’m still willing to put in the work, do what needs to be done and get to know the clients in-person,” she said.

Katie’s first inventory count took her to West Texas. She drove a rental car although she was expecting EY to allow her to fly, but the client’s safety personnel preferred she drove. “I was doing a count for the EY team out of the country in Canada.”

She said how the company is really trying to keep employees as local as possible, avoiding as much contact with others as they could. Staff members could be assigned to work for any EY office from around the globe, but now are being assigned to accounts based on geographical location.

Approaching her third inventory count, Katie is beginning to feel the impact of the pandemic. “During the orientations, employees always mention that they’re following health and safety protocols.”

“Staying in hotels is the strangest. It’s a little lonely,” Katie said. “It makes traveling a little awkward – being around other people for the first time in a long time and not being able to socialize with anyone at the hotel bars or restaurants.”

"The two main clients I oversee are Berkshire Automotive and Top Golf," said Cesar Garcia.
“The two main clients I oversee are Berkshire Automotive and Top Golf,” said Cesar Garcia. | Photo by Berkshire Hathaway Automotive.

While Cesar’s elves are off conducting these tasks, he works from home and overlooks engagements. His job as an Assurance Senior requires him to manage downward and upward, update executives on the status of clients and “double check inventory counts and financial reports clients show to the market,” Garcia said.

“Before the pandemic and my promotion, I was going on inventory counts all over the state. One even took me to Alaska!”

Now, Garcia says, overlooking inventory counts is a little bit of a struggle. However, “it’s proven that, as a firm, you don’t need to be together, working elbow to elbow, constantly to still get close to your teams.”

Garcia used to visit clients’ offices every day, but now he has to jump on calls or schedule virtual meetings to answer client questions.

Bill Gates, Microsoft Co-Founder, has even inserted his opinion on business travel during the Nov. Deal Book online summit hosted by New York Times. “My prediction would be that over 50 percent of business travel and over 30 percent of days in the office will go away,” Gates said.

Now, Cesar tends to sit on Zoom meetings with clients and just sit in silence – cameras on, microphones off – while working “just to act like you’re in the same room.”

“It feels a little distant and hard to not be working with people,” Cesar said. “I can’t meet my new staff, so it’s a little upsetting. We still do the same great work, but it just feels different doing the same things but virtually.”

“I miss traveling to visit with my clients and meet my staff on inventory counts.” The pandemic can’t end soon enough, said the EY Assurance Senior.

Dallas Love Field Airport Wins Multiple Honors

Dallas Love Field Airport flew to the top of major airport rankings, receiving two new honors this September.

Dallas Love Field is one of two area airports many SMU students use to fly home or on vacation. J.D. Power named Love Field North America’s best large airport and it was inducted into the Airports Council International World (ACI) Roll of Excellence for its multiple honors through the Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards program.

Airports that earn five ASQ awards over a 10-year period are inducted into the ACI World Roll of Excellence, and Dallas Love Field is now one of the 55 airports worldwide to have received the honor since its inception in 2011.
Airports that earn five ASQ awards over a 10-year period are inducted into the ACI World Roll of Excellence, and Dallas Love Field is now one of the 55 airports worldwide to have received the honor since its inception in 2011. | Photo by the City of Dallas.

The airport’s central location within Dallas and about four miles from SMU makes it a popular place for the SMU community to travel.

Airport satisfaction has risen sharply since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Love Field ranking highest among large airports with a score of 844 (on a 1,000-point scale), according to J.D. Power’s 2020 North America Airport Satisfaction Study released in September.

“In its category (airports that serve 15-25 million passengers yearly), DAL did very well in airport access, check in, facilities, food, beverage and retail, and bag claim,” said Michael Taylor, J.D. Power spokesperson. “Hopefully, considering our data, the SMU community will recognize what other passengers and airport reports have recognized; Love Field is one of the best airports in North America and a pleasant place to fly in and out of.”

J.D. Power has been delivering incisive industry intelligence on customer interactions with brands and products for more than 50 years. The world’s leading businesses across major industries rely on J.D. Power to guide their customer-facing strategies. | Photo from LinkedIn.

Now in its 15th year, the study serves as a benchmark and measures overall traveler satisfaction within 30 days of passengers’ travel.

The other organization that honored Love Field, ACI, inducted the airport into its ASQ program, a subscription model that surveys passengers while at the airport about airport services, perceptions and priorities compared to other airports around the world.

Its role is to be a comprehensive business tool for airports, offering detailed analysis into various aspects of the passenger experience.

Airports Council International (ACI), established in 1991, is the only global trade representative of the world’s airports. | Photo from ACI.

Since the ACI World’s 2020 Customer Experience Global Summit was canceled due to the pandemic, ASQ winners will be recognized virtually for both its ASQ Award and Roll of Excellence honor during ASQ Customer Experience Week beginning Oct. 26, according to an airport press release.

“Our program evaluates every part of the passenger journey,” said David Whitely, ACI vice president for marketing and communications. “We not only celebrate airports and offer them a competitive edge in an increasingly sophisticated industry, but demonstrate to passengers how airports adapt to the times, address passengers’ concerns and offer experiences to its customers.”

Employee satisfaction is another key objective in both reports.

“Southwest [Airlines] is known for its hub at Love Field and reflects its can-do attitude, convenience and attention to every traveler onto the airport,” said Southwest customer service representative, Sean Dennis.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the global airport industry to a standstill with an estimated reduction in passenger traffic of 5.6 billion, according to an ACI media release.

Dallas Love Field, according to its website, is leading the evolution of the airport experience. | Photo from LinkedIn.

Despite this 76 percent nationwide reduction in passenger traffic since March 1, which financially devastated many airports, customer satisfaction has improved, as those still flying enjoy less crowded terminals and see airports taking special interest in passenger perceptions and prioritization of hygiene, according to a J.D. Power media release.

This is especially true for Dallas Love Field. The airport has demonstrated significant efforts in gathering passenger feedback to help better understand customers during the pandemic, said Chris Perry, Love Field communications and marketing manager.

"We aim to be the best medium-hub airport in the United States while leading the evolution of the airport experience," said Dallas Love Field Airport spokesperson, Chris Perry. "All of the decisions we’ve made in relation to capital improvements are related to that and improving our customer experience."
“We aim to be the best medium-hub airport in the United States while leading the evolution of the airport experience,” said Dallas Love Field Airport spokesperson, Chris Perry. “All of the decisions we’ve made in relation to capital improvements are related to that and improving our customer experience.” | Photo by Shutterstock.

“Our customers have shown time and time again that they appreciate our proactive responses,” Perry said. “That shows in our receiving of these honors and our ASQ overall satisfaction score of 4.48 out of 5 at the end of this year’s first quarter.”

The airport served nearly 17 million passengers in 2019, the most in its history, and already more than 5 million passengers this year, despite the pandemic, according to a Love Field total passengers report for August.

“We hope the SMU community continues making Dallas Love Field its airport of choice,” Perry said. “With our location, ease of use and seamless travel experience – one ticketing wing, one security checkpoint, one baggage claim – we have everything that busy SMU students and faculty could hope for in an airport.”

SMU alumna Rosie Roberson’s career is skyrocketing in an unexpected way

Rosie Roberson has always been herself.

She hasn’t changed who she is when she embarks on a new journey. She’s always been goofy, creative and out there. Throughout her transitions from Austin back to Dallas and from music to fashion and journalism, she learned how to be a little more refined “while not being cookie cutter.”

Roberson was born and raised in the Preston Hollow area of Dallas. Throughout high school, she expected to attend The University of Texas (UT) to pursue her dream of managing musicians since she had inherited her passion for music from her father. She was excited to explore the artistic city of Austin and her identity.

She decided to venture out on her own, starting school at Austin Community College (ACC). However, she quickly realized she had a lot of soul-searching to accomplish. She had never moved from Dallas and really wanted to immerse herself in a social lifestyle but had no real plans for her future.

Her time at ACC was spent realizing that she didn’t know which career path to choose, so she headed back home to Dallas to start over at Southern Methodist University (SMU). Her plans for attending UT had changed, yet she was thrilled to attend SMU and pursue music through her Arts Management minor.

“I didn’t know anyone at SMU really, so I thought I’d just buckle down and work,” Roberson said.

Roberson decided on a career in journalism, allowing her to meet Lisa Goodson, an administrator in the journalism school at SMU. Goodson introduced the idea of Roberson interning with Paper City Magazine.

Despite a windy path of not knowing what to do in life, Roberson finally discovered her passion for the magazine world working at Paper City until December of her junior year; but what would be her next step?

Her internship at Paper City led her to her next step at Forty Five Ten, a clothing boutique on McKinney Ave. that had been around for years. After being bought by Tim Headington, Forty Five Ten transformed into what it is today — a successful store on Main St. in downtown. Roberson was inspired by the store’s metamorphosis, so she decided on a whim to interview to be a marketing intern only three weeks after the store established its new home on Main St.

“I thought I had no chance,” she said. “[Forty Five Ten] was the new huge thing at that time. Everyone thought that store was so cool, but then I became the [store’s] only intern.”

She had the chance to work under Nick Wooster, the men’s fashion director from New York City, when he flew into town for photoshoots for the men’s department.

Instead of describing a glamorous encounter with Wooster, she told a story about the time Wooster gave her $100 to go buy him coffee at the first photoshoot.

“I went to buy his coffee with the money he gave me, but they wouldn’t accept the $100. They said the bill was too big. So, I paid for his coffee with my own money and ran back to the photoshoot to deliver it,” Roberson said. “I gave him his coffee and his money back and explained what happened. He looked surprised and told me to never spend my own money for work.”

She explained that Wooster then took her under his wing and became an important mentor. She said that their personalities “hit it off so well.” She explained how you don’t see a lot of genuineness and kindness in the fashion industry, which helped shape her work ethic.

Tracy Hayes, a friend of Roberson’s since 2017, was editorial director of Headington Companies and working at Forty Five Ten when she first met Roberson.

“She was one of those interns you dream about — smart, engaged, enthusiastic, quick to learn and not afraid to work! She also has great style, which is never a bad thing in this industry, and a seemingly innate ability to connect with people and build lasting relationships. The same qualities that make a good intern make a successful career. It’s truly been a joy to watch Rosie grow and bloom,” Hayes said.

Roberson said her time working at Forty Five Ten was the big start to her career. She learned that there are no small tasks and precision is key.

“[I learned] to be a hustler,” Roberson said. “Do things fast and right and always say yes you can do something. Hustle is so important to being successful.”

After working at Forty Five Ten, Roberson started a “super entry-level job” as the marketing and events coordinator at Modern Luxury, a luxury lifestyle publication. Due to what she had learn thus far and becoming close to the editor-in-chief, when the assistant editor left the magazine, Roberson was offered the job.

“Grit and luck got me where God wanted me to be. I got that [Forty Five Ten internship] because I was just confident and went with my gut and asked questions,” she said. “I didn’t even want to go into fashion at first. I wanted to be different than my mom because she’s a fashion designer and I grew up in the fashion world. But fashion is booming in Dallas and it comes naturally to me.”

Roberson has no real plans for the future.

“I kind of fell into the [fashion industry] completely and I’m taking life as it comes,” she said. “I want to see where my passion can take me.”

Jewish Wedding Trends for 2019

Planning a wedding is hard enough as it is but having to remember all the Jewish wedding traditions complicates things even more. Recently, couples have started adapting those traditions to suit their own dreams for their special day. Couples have evolved from die-hard traditionalists to aspiring trend-setters.

When making your very long list of things to do to tie the knot, you might want to start with assessing how you wish to blend Jewish tradition with contemporary pizzazz. Which traditions do you want to keep, you know, traditional, and which things would you like to add a special touch to?

Randi Steinhart, certified special event professional for RS Event Productions, has found recent wedding trends to revolve around saving an extra buck and unique branding for the bride and groom.

“Their names or initials [are printed] on everything from cocktail napkins, dance floors, bar fronts, walls and mirrors,” Steinhart said. “I’ve produced a lot of different styles of weddings and each has their own uniqueness designed with the bride and groom in mind.”

While keeping up with the times, Jewish brides and grooms add their trendy touches throughout their otherwise traditional Jewish weddings. After all, weddings are all about the bride … yes – and the groom.

Steinhart’s clients haven’t strayed too far from the traditional Jewish wedding. The events may incorporate different music genres to suit the happy couple or less flowers than you may imagine in order to stay within a smaller budget.

Jennifer Hines, special event professional for Tie A Bow Event Planning, has found similar trend-setting at weddings for her clients.

Hines has noticed weddings becoming more tailored to the digital age with wedding websites full of all the necessary information and digital invitations. Although she was quite surprised to find so many couples not wanting to send out paper invites, she’s intrigued to see the world of weddings evolving and moving online just like many other things. However, one can only hope brides stick to going to a bridal store to “say yes to the dress” instead of ordering online.

A Jewish wedding is still a Jewish wedding though. Hines said there’s no bigger and rowdier party than an Orthodox wedding. If you ever have the privilege to attend such an event, be sure to pay attention to every magnificent detail because you’ll never see a better party.

Keeping with tradition, you’ll still find kosher catering at Jewish weddings along with quite modest wedding dresses during the ceremony. The ceremony is the most structured and specific aspect of a Jewish wedding; and when you get to have a look at the rings, you’ll notice they still meet all the requirements for Jewish wedding rings.

On that note, you’ll find all the trendy and unique touches at the reception – the real party. Having a band is the standard, but many couples have switched to hiring a DJ to supply the tunes and keeping the party more casual.

Other big changes you may observe are the venues being chosen. Several years ago, every hotel would be booked during wedding season; but, now, venues have become the best way for a couple to plan a wedding that matches their personalities.

Weddings have moved away from hotels, churches and temples to venues designed for weddings that allow for the creation of a distinctive setting.

“Venues are very turnkey,” Hines said, “They’re made for weddings and reflect the bride and groom’s vision. Venues set the tone.”

This makes a lot of sense when considering how much effort a couple has to put forth to create their desired setting in a hotel ballroom. A venue is creative, more stylized and more special. A couple can decide on anything from a barn to a garden to a warehouse.

Additionally, Ruth Spirer, certified wedding planner for Weddings and Events by Ruth, has seen her own set of changes in the world of weddings. Couples have been leaning toward incorporating Orthodox traditions such as their separate, pre-ceremony receptions, “Tisch” and “Bedeken.”

Spirer says that “couples are adding important heirlooms into their Chuppahs such as a grandfather’s Talit or a grandmother’s dress.”

She works on a mix of Orthodox and Reform or relaxed weddings, finding increasingly popular reception additions at them all. Food stations are being chosen compared to plated meals or buffets; fun desserts are popping up along with the traditional cake; and, the sentimental, personal “first look” moment before the ceremony, showing the groom seeing his bride in her gown for the first time, are now trendy.

“The emphasis is on fun and [having] a party-atmosphere,” Spirer said.

You’ll find a lot of differences between the weddings you attend, as Randi Steinhart, Jennifer Hines and Ruth Spirer have described, but at least you know to expect a traditional ceremony at a Jewish wedding and one heck of a party that follows.

Today’s Jewish wedding trends showcase the bride and groom and what sets them apart from other couples. Unique touches will continue to be added to weddings, and you’ll just have to wait and see what people come up with next.