As Robert Frost said “And I, I took the road less travelled and it has made all the difference.” This message has served me well in my career at KPMG, since joining the firm more than 21 years ago.
I like to think of my career as a marathon rather than a sprint and right now, I am enjoying this part of the journey.
While everyone should have personal and professional goals that guide where they want to be in five or ten years, it’s important to be flexible with those goals in order to take advantage of opportunities that might come along. Taking advantage of those opportunities has changed me.
Typically, it takes about 10-12 years to become a partner in a public accounting firm after graduating from college. It took me longer – over 15 years because I veered off course more than once to pursue opportunities that helped shape me into a better leader.
The first opportunity was taking an assignment in Prague, where I helped establish KPMG’s Central and Eastern Europe training program and served various multinational corporations. It wasn’t part of my original plan, but it was an incredible experience. I traveled to 19 different countries, met with international clients and made wonderful friends along the way.
The second career-changing decision I made was to work part time when our two children were babies. This was an important and fleeting time in our lives, and I didn’t want to miss it. Again, it set me back in terms of my goal to become a partner, but it was well worth it.
I learned at an early age about taking chances and being brave. When I was seven years old, my family moved to western Africa. It turned out to be one of the true gifts of my life because it opened my eyes to a world I would never have known. The experience helped me understand the struggles other people face and to never take good fortune for granted. It taught me the critical traits of both empathy and sympathy.
There were times when I struggled with the decisions of diverging from my original path, and I would now say to others, “Take the chance, run with it and enjoy—things will work out the way they are supposed to.” For me, taking that less traveled road has indeed made all the difference.