When I look back over my 23-year career, I know there has been one overriding theme to my success: Make each day count because you never know what the next day will bring. I learned this lesson early on, first when my first husband died at 21, and again when I lost one of my twins, and the other was born two months prematurely.
In business, as in life, there are unexpected surprises. The trick is to do the best you can each day. Deal with problems as they come along but be open to new opportunities, and let your values, including a dedication to ethics, open and honest communication, and respect for others, guide your decisions.
My first mentor at KPMG showed me the real power of these principles when I was asked to lead KPMG’s western-region trust tax practice. It was a huge opportunity that would place me in front of important clients and the firm’s leadership. I wasn’t sure I had the right background and skills for the job, or that I’d be able to manage my family life as well, which then included a two-month-old baby. But after learning more about KPMG’s flexible work culture and having a long discussion with my mentor about my concerns—and her encouragement to be open to the challenge—I took the assignment. The job also prepared and positioned me for other challenges and new assignments, including my current role as KPMG’s national partner in charge, operations.
Developing and nurturing strong relationships are essential. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support I received from my mentors, clients, and teams. I advise my own mentees to focus on caring for their teams as well as their clients, and I encourage them to network. KPMG established six national employee networks, including KPMG’s network of Women (KNOW), to foster a diverse and inclusive work environment that helps employees build their careers. As a current KPMG Women’s advisory Board member, the relationships I’ve made with both groups have been professionally and personally rewarding.
Another thing I tell my mentees is to volunteer. I always raised my hand when there was some odd job to be done. Volunteering can take you out of your comfort zone, improve your skills, and help you stretch. It’s also a great way to give back to your community, one of my core values, as well as KPMG’s.
In the end, it all comes back to being true to yourself and your values, and open to new ideas. While we can’t always know in advance the hand we’ll be dealt, we can decide to play that hand by a set of principles.