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Not Your Typical Big Four Job

Not Your Typical Big Four Job

EY’s Rachel Russell ’16 stands out for her innovative approach to event marketing, wins three awards in 2022.

Not Your Typical Big Four Job

Rachel Russell '16

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Many USC Marshall and Leventhal graduates can say they work for the Big Four, referring to the top four accounting and professional services firms. But the work Rachel Russell ’16 does in her new role for Ernst & Young (EY) as assistant director of field marketing is a little different.

She’s the strategic and creative mind behind EY’s Entrepreneur Of The Year (EOY) Greater Los Angeles Award, a program Russell leads with Program co-director Scott Porter, who is also a USC alumnus and formerly served on the USC Marshall Partners board.

Her job puts her in touch with top business leaders of high-growth companies, like Jessica Alba of The Honest Company, Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia, and John Shields of Trader Joe’s.

“The network of entrepreneurs inspires me,” Russell said. “I feel so fortunate to build relationships with these transformative leaders in the Los Angeles market.”

There are a lot of entrepreneurs in Los Angeles, and the area is one of the EOY’s largest markets (EOY is held in 145 cities and 60 countries). Throughout the year, Russell manages the sponsor communication, judge selection, call for nominations, entrepreneur interviews, and EOY alumni events. The program culminates in EY’s annual black-tie gala at the Beverly Hilton.

A Numbers AND a People Person

Russell graduated in 2016 with a Business of Cinematic Arts degree, a selective undergraduate program that sends a cohort of business students through classes at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, with an eye toward training them in the business of entertainment. In 2022, Marshall and SCA announced the launch of a formal joint degree program between the two schools.

The degree helped hone her business skills and attention to detail, but also fostered her love of overseeing events from within the mix. “I am a people person and love interacting with attendees,” she said. “My job gives me the opportunity to work onsite at events and connect with others in person.”

The industry recognizes her particular talents. This year alone, she earned three awards: the Top 55 Event Experience Leaders by Bizzabo, Top 14 Event Marketers in North America by Eventible, and Female Employee of the Year by Stevie Awards for Women in Business. She’s also been nominated by Eventex as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the Events Industry.

In a twist, it wasn’t her people skills but her quantitative skills that prompted a professor to suggest she look into the Big Four.

“USC was the best preparation for my career...there is an innate pride in being a Trojan, and the USC network has been crucial to my success.”

Rachel Russell

“Zivia [Sweeney, associate professor of clinical accounting,] wanted me to work at a Big Four firm since I was adept at accounting and math,” Russell said. “I knew I wanted to pursue marketing, so she informed me of a market development internship with Deloitte.”

It was the start of great things. As an intern, Russell worked directly with the Los Angeles managing partner on Deloitte’s sponsorship of the Special Olympics World Games and a number of Los Angeles marketplace events. “After two summer internships, I started senior year at USC knowing that I had a job offer, which was an incredible feeling,” she said.

She went on to spend five years as a senior event planner at Deloitte, managing more than 250 marketing campaigns and working on events and marketing projects in partnership with Facebook, Ford, and the Dodgers. She also spearheaded the transition to virtual events during COVID and trained a team of Zoom producers.

An event she was most proud of? A webinar called “The Power of Women at Facebook and Deloitte,” which Deloitte’s leader of global technology, media, and telecommunications called “absolute magic.” The company recognized Russell’s exemplary performance three times with the Applause Award in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

She was recruited to work her magic at EY in 2022.

‘The Best Preparation’ at USC

Russell said her education and experience at USC have been instrumental in her success. As part of her Marshall experience in 2013, Russell was one of 20 business undergraduates to join an Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity trip to visit Warren E. Buffett, investor, philanthropist, and founder and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

“USC was the best preparation for my career,” she said. “The classes were top-notch and taught me the best ways to strategically think through tough situations, tactfully give feedback, and collaborate on projects. Even more than the classes, there is an innate pride in being a Trojan, and the USC network has been crucial to my success.”