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Showpo CEO Jane Lu Reveals Culture at Big Four Companies Like EY After Aishwarya Venkatachalam’s Death

An entrepreneur who secretly quit her job at consulting giant Ernst & Young to start her own company has brought 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 company now worth $50 million after quitting the accounting job she hated at EY more than 10 years ago.

Struggling with allegations of a toxic culture, the company launched a major investigation after one of its employees committed suicide at the company’s Sydney office on August 27.

Aishwarya Venkatachalam, 27, senior real estate insurance auditor for EY, fell to her death from the 11th floor of her building after complaining to friends that she was being bullied at work and a victim of racism.

Speaking to Daily Mail Australia, Ms Lu said she often spent endless hours creating spreadsheets when she worked at EY and that her ‘heart wasn’t in it’.

Jane Lu, 36, who now runs online clothing giant Showpo worth $50 million, quit her job 10 years ago to continue her own business

Jane Lu, 36, who now runs online clothing giant Showpo worth $50 million, quit her job 10 years ago to continue 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, (pictured left) died on August 27 after falling from the Ernst & Young building in Sydney's CBD

Aishwarya Venkatachalam, 27, (pictured left) died on August 27 after falling from the Ernst & Young building in Sydney’s CBD

Aishwarya Venkatachalam, 27, senior real estate insurance auditor for EY, fell from the 11th floor of her building (pictured) to her death after confiding to friends that she was being bullied at work and a victim of racism

Aishwarya Venkatachalam, 27, senior real estate insurance auditor for EY, fell from the 11th floor of her building (pictured) to her death after confiding to friends that she was being bullied at work and a victim of racism

Aishwarya Venkatachalam, 27, senior real estate insurance auditor for EY, fell from the 11th floor of her building (pictured) to her death after confiding to friends that she was being bullied at work and 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 running Showpo,” said Ms. Lu.

“My mind and heart weren’t there, I realized I wanted something different for my career, so I built Showpo in the background.”

The mother of one, who is pregnant with her second child, has previously talked about working at EY and rival firm KPMG.

“I remember staring at this spreadsheet for hours. I had the moment when I realized I had wasted three hours. I was three hours closer to death and my life hadn’t improved,” she previously told the podcast How I Made It.

“I thought, I can’t do this for the rest of my life, I’ll never 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 like accounting work after she quit during the global financial crisis.

The mother of one, who is pregnant with her second child, previously spoke about her work at EY and KPMG.

The mother of one, who is pregnant with her second child, previously spoke about her work at EY and KPMG.

Jane said she didn't know how to explain to her parents, Queenie, 62, and Frank Lu, 68, that she just didn't like the accounting job at the giant firm Ernst & Young (now known as EY Australia), which she left. during the global financial crisis

Jane said she didn't know how to explain to her parents, Queenie, 62, and Frank Lu, 68, that she just didn't like the accounting job at the giant firm Ernst & Young (now known as EY Australia), which she left. during the global financial crisis

The mother of one, who is pregnant with her second child, previously spoke about her work at EY and KPMG

Jane said she finally told her parents about her decision to end accounting about two years after she did.  She told the podcast that they had finally accepted her decision by the time she was able to pay off their mortgage and buy them a car.

Jane said she finally told her parents about her decision to end accounting about two years after she did.  She told the podcast that they had finally accepted her decision by the time she was able to pay off their mortgage and buy them a car.

Jane said she finally told her parents about her decision to end accounting about two years after she did. She told the podcast that they had 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 as an eight-year-old with Ms. Lu.

They had encouraged her to take up accounting and work for a large company.

In 2010, a friend suggested to Ms. Lu to start a business selling clothes in a pop-up stall.

In 2010, a friend suggested Jane start a business selling clothes from a pop-up stall.  She quit her job, made the most of her credit card purchases, and shoved it into the garage of her parents' house in Balmain.

In 2010, a friend suggested Jane start a business selling clothes from a pop-up stall.  She quit her job, made the most of her credit card purchases, and shoved it into the garage of her parents' house in Balmain.

In 2010, a friend suggested Jane start a business selling clothes from a pop-up stall. She quit her job, made the most of her credit card purchases, and shoved it into the garage of her parents’ house in Balmain.

She quit her job, made the most of her credit card purchases, and shoved it all into the garage of her parents’ house in Balmain.

But when her partner withdrew and the start-up faltered, Ms. Lu feared she had made the wrong decision.

“People were just trying to get rid of everyone, so I couldn’t have been more at the bottom,” she said.

“I’m like ‘how do I even tell my parents?'”

It took Ms. Lu two years to tell her parents that she had decided to leave accounting.

She told the podcast that they had finally accepted her decision by the time she was able to pay off their mortgage and buy them a car.

In November 2010, she and her partner opened a permanent store in Broadway under the brand name 'Showpony', which eventually changed to 'Showpo' after dropping the 'ny' to avoid trademark disputes in the US.

In November 2010, she and her partner opened a permanent store in Broadway under the brand name 'Showpony', which eventually changed to 'Showpo' after dropping the 'ny' to avoid trademark disputes in the US.

In November 2010, she and her partner opened a permanent store in Broadway under the brand name ‘Showpony’, which eventually changed to ‘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 said, ‘We don’t have anyone really entrepreneurial in our family. How did you know how to take that risk?'”

Eleven years later, she is widely regarded as one of Australia’s most successful self-made businesswomen, whose social media marketing talent created a clothing website that grossed a reported $85 million in 2019 alone.

She has been on 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 spotlighted by the tragic death of Ms Venkatachalam.

The Sydney employee was on the job until about 7.30pm on Friday when she left her office in the gold EY skyscraper before returning around midnight.

Neeti Bisht (left) is pictured with her good friend Ms Venkatachalam during her trip to Sydney in April this year - the last time they saw each other in person

Neeti Bisht (left) is pictured with her good friend Ms Venkatachalam during her trip to Sydney in April this year - the last time they saw each other in person

Neeti Bisht (left) is pictured with Mrs Venkatachalam during her trip to Sydney in April this year – the last time they saw each other in person

She was also originally thought to go to work for drinks between 5:30pm and 7:30pm, but Daily Mail Australia now understands that she was in the office until 7:30pm.

Daily Mail Australia revealed on Tuesday that the Indian national had complained to friends about racism she had suffered in Australia and “mean colleagues” at work.

EY has vowed to investigate the allegations and take whatever action is necessary to stamp it out, and pledge “zero tolerance.”

And close friend Neeti Bisht revealed that Ms Venkatachalam, a bridesmaid at her wedding, has struggled to fit in since she moved to Australia 11 months ago.

Ernst and Young bosses have launched a major investigation into claims that Aishwarya Venkatachalum (pictured on her wedding day to husband, Nakul) died after being bullied at work and a victim of racism

Ernst and Young bosses have launched a major investigation into claims that Aishwarya Venkatachalum (pictured on her wedding day to husband, Nakul) died after being bullied at work and a victim of racism

Ernst and Young bosses have launched a major investigation into claims that Aishwarya Venkatachalum (pictured on her wedding day to husband, Nakul) died after being bullied at work and a victim of racism

“She was a happy soul and found her way in Australia… She told how mean some of her colleagues were,” Ms Bisht told the Daily Mail Australia.

Ms Bisht said Ms Venkatachalam told her she was dealing with bullying and racism at work but was otherwise doing well in Australia.

“I think it was just starting to brew then… Her colleagues and the racist angle played a part,” she said.

An EY spokeswoman this week told the Daily Mail Australia that the company has “a zero-tolerance response to bullying, harassment and racism, and we take all allegations linked to these issues very seriously.”

“The review we launched last week in response to this tragedy is ongoing and it would be inappropriate to comment further until it is complete,” she said.

‘We will continue to provide guidance and support to all our people.’

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