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Sophie Murton: feeling like I belong


Until last year I had never left a ‘grown up’ job in my life. I joined my previous firm when I was 19 and progressed to Director there, changing to an annualised hours contract after my first child was born. From a lack of support which was exacerbated during Covid, I had started to feel like I didn’t belong there anymore. But when you’ve been somewhere your whole career it’s easy to stay where you know. When I looked at partners I worked with, they all seemed to work ridiculous hours and have no real work/life balance, which I knew wouldn’t work for me and my children.  

It was a well-timed phone call from Tim Broadway that led to me joining Grant Thornton. Norman Armstrong was looking to expand the TVS Partner team, I’d worked with Tim previously and when I said I didn’t think I would be what GT were looking for given my need to work shorter and flexible hours Tim put me at ease and said it was definitely worth a chat with Norman.   

From my first conversation with Norman my worries were alleviated. Everything he said about the culture at Grant Thornton really resonated with me, from the focus on people, to the importance of quality, I knew that this was a place I could feel that I belonged. I had a lot of conversations with people within the firm before deciding to enter the partner process as I wanted to be sure I was making the right decision. Everyone I spoke with gave me a good feel about the culture within the firm. Whilst I am one of only a few part-time partners, lots of us work flexibly and in particular I spoke with other parents who worked flexibly to allow them to do school runs and similar, to be there for their children. It was really refreshing to see how everyone can work in a way that works for them, their teams and the firm. Something that I’ve always believed in but never found to ring true at my previous firm.  

I was made to feel part of the team even before I joined Grant Thornton. Throughout my notice period I was really made to feel part of the team at Grant Thornton, whether it was check-ins from Norman or being invited to a TVS partner get together, it really helped to ease the transition and confirmed I had made the right decision. I was also paired with Amanda James as my buddy, and she was fantastic, we met a couple of times in person before I joined and she introduced me to people in the office. Being able to ask questions which may seem silly like ‘what’s the dress code in the office’ made the first day that little less daunting.  

I was clear throughout the interview process that I would need a part-time contract. As a sole parent all responsibility lies with me and with an anxious younger child and an oldest one who likes to do every club going I need to be able to do school-runs and deal with our after-school commitments. My core hours are 9am to 3pm with school holidays off with the children. So far it’s been working well. I am open with both my teams and clients about my working hours, and we arrange meetings at a time that everyone can do. Of course, there are times when a call may need to happen after 3pm or I need to jump back onto the laptop in an evening / after school pick up and with deadlines and unpredictability that’s the job. But I’m very open about my boundaries and non-negotiables when it comes to the children and what they need. 

Everyone in the firm has supported me to find the right balance. There have been times when I have worked longer days, or attended events that have taken place outside my working hours but it’s been my choice to attend and I’ve never had any pressure to be somewhere that I can’t.  I try to get into our Southampton office a couple of times a week, get out to clients and visit the other TVS offices in Oxford and Reading when I can.  I use my diary to show travel time and availability to make sure I can still drop and pick up the kids, and my PA Nicky is good at understanding my complexities!  

Over the years I have seen many women get to a certain level, have a family and then either stay at that level or move to internal facing roles. This has been so frustrating for me as I know that with our line of work we are in an ideal position to be able to use our flexibility to thrive both at work and home.  I want to show people that you can do both, you can be a really good partner, and a really good parent. I believe Grant Thornton is a great place to show that this can be done, everyone I spoke with through the joining process helped me see this. One question I was asked during my panel was ‘what would success look like after a year?’, my answer was along the lines of ‘having settled into the firm, met and built relationships with my clients and feeling like a part of Grant Thornton and TVS’. The partner that asked that question added, ‘and the children feeling happy?’ – adding that comment really showed they understood where I was coming from and genuinely supported me.