Samantha McNeilly's story

Prior to working at Grant Thornton, I worked at another major firm and, while I found that a very rewarding experience, I didn’t always feel like I had the time to truly enjoy the things I’m passionate about outside of work. In particular, being active — whether that be finding my inner peace at a yoga class, sweating my way through an intense spin class, or hitting the trails on the weekends for a relaxing run or ride on my road bike.

Working for Grant Thornton feels like I’m coming to work on a daily basis with a couple hundred of my closest family members. Each person takes a vested interest in not only your professional well-being but also your personal well-being. We are encouraged day in and day out to prioritize and pursue the things that we are passionate about, both in and out of the workplace. Grant Thornton even takes their encouragement to the next level by not only preaching concepts like work-life balance, but also walking the walk of their commitment to those concepts.

Samantha with group

In our local office we have walking machines where you can set up your laptop and walk during the middle of the day; we offer lunchtime yoga; we have a local running club; we offer local sports teams (e.g., softball, flag football, basketball, volleyball, etc.); and we host personal enrichment classes including rock climbing and golf, and do seasonal outings to our local SoulCycle. All of these benefits are available to all local office employees, and I’m very blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in most of these personal enrichment activities throughout my past three years with Grant Thornton.

Last summer our local office announced that Grant Thornton was sponsoring the Tough Mudder Half Long Island race with our client, Tough Mudder, and asked for anyone interested to reach out. I signed up without hesitation, though I had never participated in a Tough Mudder competition and wasn’t familiar with the competition’s various obstacles. Tough Mudder races are a team-oriented obstacle course event designed to test physical strength and mental grit. The Tough Mudder Half is a condensed 5- to 6-mile version (ours was 5.2 miles) of the standard 10- to 12-mile course. Tough Mudder puts camaraderie above finisher rankings, and is not a race but a team challenge. A Tough Mudder can be completed by anyone, at any fitness level.

To prepare for the Tough Mudder race, I kept to my traditional routine — running, spin class, riding my road bike and taking the occasional high-intensity interval training (HIIT) class at my local gym. Since 75 of my colleagues had either signed up to be a spectator or competitor for the Tough Mudder, I was even fortunate enough to spend some of my routine training time connecting with my colleagues on a more personal level. We broke a sweat together over East River afternoon runs and commiserated over how intense the HIIT classes really were. But most importantly we pushed through the training together, as a team.

Race day was a truly unique experience and one that I will forever be grateful for, having had the courage and perseverance to be a part of our CLEARRly1 Grant Thornton team (yes, we tied our culture concepts into our name). The Tough Mudder experience started with a team huddle meant to motivate us and get us pumped up for the challenge ahead, and then we were off. You would think the most intimidating portion of the course would be the 5.2 miles, but my training and active lifestyle had adequately prepared me for the miles. I even found some of the obstacles less challenging and more fun than others. For example, one of my favorites included Kiss of Mud, where you crawl through mud and stone under tangled rows of barbed wire.

Samantha crawl

However, there were some (OK, many) obstacles that I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish without the help of our Grant Thornton team. Pyramid Scheme was a perfect example of one of these obstacles. You arrive at Pyramid Scheme about halfway through the course, muddy and nearing exhaustion, and you’re expected to scale a slippery and steep wall. You quickly realize that there’s physically no way to scale the wall without climbing on top of your fellow team members until a couple of people are on the other side of the wall able to pull up the rest. Climbing up a wall of Grant Thornton colleagues to get to the other side of the slippery and steep wall is much easier said than done, but we all made it because we were focused on the team, not self.

In my opinion, the most intimidating obstacle came at the very end — Everest. When you’re thoroughly muddy and past the point of exhaustion, Everest tests your perseverance and asks you to dig deep within yourself and find that last ounce of energy to propel your body over a 15-foot-tall slick quarter pipe with a curved top. I still remember rounding that last bend with Everest standing there between me and the finish line. I very nearly decided to call it a day and walk around the obstacle, but I didn’t want to let the team down. We had come all this way and we needed to finish as a team, so we persevered. Fortunately, with the help of some colleagues who had already made it to the other side of Everest and were able to grab me and pull me over when I fell a little short of the top, I was able to finish it on the first attempt. We all then ended the day by celebrating our collective success and taking a team photo at the finish line.

Samantha team

Throughout my life I’ve participated in an array of teams, from sports teams to engagement teams at work, and I’ve never felt more fulfilled or as grateful for a team as I did that day. Collectively we leveraged each individual’s strengths for the greater good of the team, not one single person. We started as a team, we competed as a team and we all finished as a team. I know I personally wouldn’t have been able to say I finished all of the obstacles that day had it not been for my Grant Thornton family. I’m incredibly grateful, inspired and motivated to be a part of a firm that encourages and supports us in all of our passions.