New KPMG Chairman (and US CEO since 2008) John Veihmeyer told the Washington Post about growing up to ascend the public accounting ladder and if that’s something you’re looking to do with your life, be sure to check it out.
Since some of us would rather sip on Molotov cocktails and scratch our eyeballs out with sharpened #2 pencils, we can merely press our faces to the glass to see how public accounting really works. According to J Veihm, it’s something like this: once you’re jumped in, there’s no getting out.
One of the very best pieces of mentoring advice I ever received was to “view a challenge as an opportunity” and then “take it on and do it better than anybody else.” I recall one specific moment, when KPMG’s leadership asked me to consider accepting a particular position that, at the time, I thought would be something of a roadblock to achieving one of the goals I had set for my career in public accounting. I shared my concerns with a trusted colleague, who I have long considered to be my professional mentor, and his response has stayed with me over the course of my 33 years with KPMG. He said, “look at this challenge as an opportunity, accept it, and then do it better than anybody before you ever has.” I took his advice, and he was right. In hindsight, the experience I gained in that role did more to prepare me for the rest of my career than anything else I could have done.
Translating that, if you express concerns about the gang shoving you up the corporate ladder by sending you on your own drive-bys or whathaveyou, one of the higher officers will reassuringly pat you on the shoulder and remind you that there’s one way to go and that’s up. Accept it, there is only one way out (for gang members, that usually means getting shot to death; in public accounting, it might mean a heart attack at 45). Creepy.
KPMG knows all about challenges so it’s probably a good thing that Johnny V was groomed in advance for his duties as KPMG Chair.