Dear Younger Me,
You never imagined you would be where you are today, working for a Fortune 500 company. Since 2013, you have been the Chief Risk & Audit Executive at S&P Global, working in New York City, and managing the Risk Management, Internal Audit and Ratings Risk Review functions. If I could tell you everything I have learned through my experiences over the past 30 years, then perhaps you could be one-step ahead of the challenges and difficulties that I faced.
You’ll begin your career in Texas, as a Staff Auditor with Coopers & Lybrand LLP. It will quickly become your dream to be a partner in a public accounting firm, and you will be determined to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal – little will you know what this will entail. After nine years with the Firm and limited growth opportunities in the small Texas-based office where you will work, one of your mentors will encourage you to move to New York City to participate in a Rotation Program that will give you more exposure and opportunities.
At this point, you’ve never been away from Texas, and you won’t want to move away from your family. Despite your career aspirations, you’ll initially consider quitting your job. Thankfully, voices of reason will speak to you, and you’ll move to New York, a city you had considered a “foreign land,” where you knew no one. It won’t be easy. But, over time, you’ll adjust. You didn’t know it at the time, but the move to New York City was part of the “master plan.” I would advise anyone in a similar position to step out of your comfort zone and take the chance. I not only grew in my career, but I learned so much more about myself – that I could truly be independent and function on my own.
In New York, a partner with the Firm will become a key mentor to you. One thing will lead to another, and you will be admitted to the partnership of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in 1998. You achieved your dream! But, after being a partner for a few years, you’ll start to realize that your dream wasn’t what you expected it to be. The role of a public accounting partner was more than you realized, and you will begin to lose your passion for going to work every day. Through an agonizing thought process, and after 20 years with PwC, you will decide to leave public accounting to head the Global Internal Audit function at Avaya, Inc. Through this experience, you’ll learn not to second-guess yourself, to seek advice from others and to ultimately follow your heart.
After six years at Avaya, your career will take another surprising turn, and your position will be eliminated due to a change in the company’s operating model. What will seem devastating at the time is just the next step of your career journey. You will have the opportunity to join McGraw Hill Financial (now S&P Global) as the Chief Audit Executive to transform the Internal Audit function. There, you will get to work with a wide variety of leaders and be given the opportunity to take on additional leadership responsibilities, which will be both challenging and rewarding, and will enable you to grow and develop in new ways.
As I reflect on my 30-plus-year career, what I remember most are the leaders and mentors, the experiences, and the decisions in my life that helped to shape who I am as a leader. I see now that the moments that once seemed negative were really just necessary steps in my career journey. So my advice to you is don’t fight what seems difficult or impossible, but embrace the experience and trust that all things work together for good.
Both men and women mentors have been instrumental in determining my career path, so I would advise you to seek out different perspectives that can provide unique insights and advice for your professional development. It has not always been easy being a woman in the business world, but I would not be where I am today without the diverse leaders who took a genuine interest in me. They each prepared me for what I am doing today at S&P Global.
The support and counsel that has been given to me over the years is invaluable, and it is not something I take for granted. I understand now why the difficulties and struggles I experienced were necessary. And, I keep all of this in mind in how I lead my teams and provide guidance to those I mentor.
We can all be agents of positive change, and I encourage others to inspire change by mentoring the next generation of leaders.