Emily Carlson

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Humans of CEMS

Today, in our Humans of CEMS series, we meet CEMS Alumna Emily Carlson. (Home school: London School of Economics - Host: The University of Sydney Business School)


1. Tell us about yourself and what has led you to work in your particular field of digital accessibility.

I'm originally from the US and graduated with a bachelor of English literature. After completing my CEMS program from 2016 to 2018, split between my home school LSE and my host school Sydney, I aspired to work in consulting and stay in London. I began my career in technology consulting at KPMG. While I didn't find it to suit me, my attachment to KPMG and its people kept me there. Later, I transitioned to the data analytics team but felt something was still missing.

I explored opportunities at other consulting firms but my leads didn’t work out. During this time, I stumbled upon digital accessibility through KPMG's internal events. This sparked my interest. While applying for various jobs, I received a message about an opening for a digital accessibility role at KPMG. I applied and got the position.

Today, I'm the KPMG digital accessibility lead, managing a team of three with plans to expand. Our mission is to ensure that all technology is accessible to people with disabilities.


2. Could you talk to us about the work experience programme designed for young people with special needs that you have recently led?

The program is a work experience initiative for students with special needs, and we collaborate with several schools across London. Once a month, we host a SEND class (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) for about four hours at our KPMG office. During their visit, we provide insights into a variety of roles they might not associate with a company like KPMG.

We take them on a tour of our office, showcasing different aspects, including our client dining area, event rooms, and even our broadcast studio. Our goal is to demonstrate that the jobs they see in London, such as those in cafes or restaurants, also exist within our building, regardless of their educational qualifications.

Over the past year, we've had approximately ten classes of students participate in the program. Some of these students are now engaged in supported internships at KPMG, working three or four days a week with the assistance of a job coach. We primarily collaborate with SEND schools, but we plan to expand to mainstream schools with a SEND provision.

This program has been an eye-opening experience for me, as many of these SEND students have never had the opportunity to visit an office building like the KPMG one in Canary Wharf, whereas this experience is very common for mainstream schools. The program aims to provide them with exposure and experiences they may not have had otherwise.


3. Tell us about your CEMS experience. How has it helped you to achieve your career goals and supported you since you completed the program?

My CEMS experience has been instrumental in shaping my career. I was drawn to CEMS because of its purpose-driven and ethically focused nature, aligning with my desire to make a positive impact. The program also equipped me with valuable hard skills, which paved the way for my entry into a major company like KPMG.

Working for a large corporation offers numerous benefits, enabling one to drive significant change from within. I've had the opportunity to connect with influential players which has fueled my sense of purpose and allowed me to work towards my goals.

Furthermore, the CEMS network within KPMG has been a valuable resource, providing me with immediate connections for advice and support. In London, a vibrant alumni group regularly gathers for networking, making it even more advantageous.


4. What was a memorable project that you worked on during your time as a CEMS Student Board Representative? 

One of my most memorable CEMS projects was organizing the Startup Challenge. It was a significant effort, given that it spanned multiple countries and was only in its second year. This project felt like a real-world experience, dealing with “clients” in various countries and striving to satisfy many stakeholders. What made it exceptional was the open-ended nature of the project, mirroring the working world—your success depended on your drive and effort.


5. What are you looking forward to? Do you have any advice for other CEMSies?

Currently, we're focused on expanding our team, and the accessibility field is gaining momentum with new EU legislation set for 2025, making it an exciting time to work in this space.

For fellow CEMSies, I'd advise you to be open and try everything. Many people only fully understand roles like consulting or investment banking once they experience them. There are also numerous unexplored roles within these categories. So, stay open to new experiences and be willing to explore, as that's how you'll discover your passions.




Published on: 22.11.2023