A 27-Hour Commute Can’t Stop Dominique Drake

When Dominique Drake dreamt about becoming an accountant as a little girl, she never thought she’d one day uncover a massive, international Ponzi scheme.

Ethan Ham from Charlotte Bell Studios

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Most people don’t grow up dreaming about becoming accountants. But Dominique Drake isn’t like most people.

From a young age Dominique knew that she wanted to join the global professional services firm EY. She watched her father run two successful franchised restaurants and absorbed his management style, while receiving early mentoring from his accountant. And growing up in Cleveland, then the headquarters of EY, she had an early idea of what a “Big Four” firm did.

“There’s actually a picture of me doing a presentation that my parents have. It was on Career Day and I was talking about why I want to be an accountant,” she says. “It’s very cute.”

In addition to watching her dad run his business, she enjoyed a close relationship with her parents, two sisters and a brother, as well as the Cleveland community.

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“Growing up, my friends teased us and called us ‘The Black Brady Bunch’ because we were super close,” she says. “Everyone knew who the Drake family was, and we were well-known in the community. If you saw one, you knew the other was right behind.”

Dominique attributes her commitment to both her clients and the community at large to her strong upbringing and her ongoing community volunteer work.

“My parents always made sure that we were involved with the community. Every year for Christmas we’d make luminarias. We’d light candles in bags and leave them around the community sidewalks.”

Dominique’s parents were active in the PTA and mentoring with Big Brothers and Big Sisters. “My parents instilled that value set of being there for other people, always helping out, and helping someone before you help yourself.”

Now, as a manager on the Houston team of Ernst & Young LLP’s Fraud Investigation & Dispute Services, she’s taking that attitude to the global stage. She joined the Houston office in September 2008 and in January of the following year, she was picked to join the investigation of a massive Ponzi scheme spanning multiple countries and dozens of fake companies.

For Dominique, this was a key moment. Here was a young woman from Cleveland about to make a difference all around the world through her role at EY. While the investigation started in Houston, managers and senior team members from across the firm—and across the United States—came to work with the Fraud Division’s Houston-based investigation. According to Dominique, this team of nearly 60 people allowed her to meet individuals with a myriad of professional skills and business backgrounds. She took this opportunity to complete what she calls her biggest accomplishment while at EY: the creation of a global network she plans to call on as she continues to grow in her career.

“It is not an experience that I would’ve had, had I worked for a local firm,” she says. “It’s not something I would’ve had, had I not been identified [and] nurtured along the way as someone with potential. Today, I can easily pick up the phone and call the EY Americas director of inclusiveness recruiting, Ken Bouyer, and he knows who Dominique Drake is.”

But she’s never forgotten where she started, and makes it a point to reach out to every level in the organization—from interns to partners. “You have to remember that it’s not just the people above, it’s the people all around you who create that network.”

Most recently, Dominique has been involved in an investigation and remediation project in an African country (that she can’t name because the investigation isn’t public yet). She was asked to be on the team not only because of her performance in the Ponzi scheme investigation, but also for her Spanish and Portuguese language skills, and her experience working in non-English business environments.

When she’s not investigating corruption in Africa, Dominique spends much of her spare time working as the Student Affairs chairperson for the Houston chapter of the National Black MBA Association, which aims to help young African Americans strengthen their leadership, academic, and interpersonal skills while exposing them to careers in diverse fields.

But spare time is something that’s in short supply. She estimates she has spent more than 80 percent of her career traveling. “I’ve only worked on one project in Houston since I started in 2008,” she says. The investigation in Africa keeps her there for three weeks every month with a one-week turnaround back home.

“It’s really more or less a 27-hour commute,” she says.

With such a rough travel schedule, she freely admits she’s married to her work right now. But for Dominique, it’s all part of the bigger plan.

“On day one, I knew I wanted to be a partner. And that is still my goal. That is still what I’m working towards,” she says. But that’s not the only thing. “What can I learn, what is my growth opportunity for this year, how can I get to that next level?” she asks.

Dominique’s drive to make a difference, to do good work, and to make partner all come back to one central idea for her—legacy.

“My bosses know that when they receive my work it will be review-ready, top-notch, ready for the client,” she says. “And so my legacy is: not only will I work hard--Dominique will give her all. And she will do it at a high level of quality, exceptional client service at all times.”

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