Career Lessons Learned By PricewaterhouseCoopers Senior Partner Natasha Granholm

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Natasha GranholmAs of 2015, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is the 6th-largest privately owned organization in the United States, and is one of the Big Four auditors. PwC is a network of firms in 157 countries, 756 locations, with more than 208,100 people.

Despite its enormity, the accounting industry is actually one of the least diverse industries in America. In fact, according to a 2010 study from Howard University School of Business Center for Accounting Education, only 1 percent of public accounting partners are African-American.

Natasha Granholm is a rarity in the industry as well as in the PwC family.  Granholm, who is Black and Latina, is a senior partner at PwC, one of the world’s largest accounting firms. Granholm’s journey is a true success story–she is first in her family to go to college.

She began her career at PwC as an intern and worked her way up to partner.  Granholm, who graduated from DePaul University and also has a BBA, with a concentration in accounting, from Robert Morris University (summa cum laude).

“Having the opportunity to work at a big accounting firm has provided me with unique opportunities that I would not have had, such as traveling. I did not travel as a child but through my work I have had the opportunity to live in different parts of the U.S. I have also had great opportunities to do things I enjoy like public speaking and mentoring–I take great pride in participating as a coach in our leadership program for women, Women in Leadership program,” she says.

Mentoring is very important to Granholm, who had a challenging childhood being raised by a mother who worked hard as a maid.  “I have been very fortunate for throughout my career I have a lot of mentors–and I have had different types of mentors in different areas of business and also very diverse mentors. I have had white mentors, Black mentors, men and women. Today, even some of my clients are mentors. I learned a lot from them. And I think having mentors in different areas of our lives and from different backgrounds gives you a broader view of life and work,” she says. “I am very passionate about having a strong mentoring network and this is vital to success. So I spend a lot of my time mentoring and coaching.”

What advice does Granholm, a mother of three, give to young female professionals? “I’d tell any young woman entering the field today not to limit herself…look at the bigger picture,” she said.

During the course of her career, Granholm has faced various challenges. “There have been various challenges at different stages of my career,” she shares. “Early in my career, the challenge was becoming comfortable in a new environment. I was the first person in my family to graduate from college and no one in my family had had the white collar experience. And I didn’t come from an educational background that were part of the big recruiting schools, so I don’t have those connections. As such, I didn’t have anyone to help me maneuver the new surroundings of Corporate America. Of course, I stumbled. I would be the first one to admit that at that time, I was not operating at my full potential because I was trying to figure out how to operate. There was definitely a time in my career that was a challenge being surrounded on a day-to-day basis in an environment that is foreign, to be surrounded by people who don’t look like me,” she says.

“One of the turning points was five years into the firm when I moved to D.C. for a two-year duty and it was the very first time I saw a Black partner and a manager–I had never met any before. And it was just life-changing to see this; it just opened my eyes to the possibilities–to my possibilities,” she adds.

She continues, “Mid-career, the challenges came after I started my family–I have twin daughters and a two-year-old son. Starting a family was not easy for me; I struggled to find the right balance because I knew the highly demanding nature of my job. I made a strategic decision to take a good amount of time off. With the twins, I was out for a year, including a period on bed rest. After my son, I took six months. I know how much my demanding job is and also how much newborns need their mother. I felt the bonding time was important. I am very pleased to work at a place where I could take the time off; I had the full support of my partners, team and clients.”