Role models: Amity Millhiser

Using your strengths as an asset

I joined Price Waterhouse in 1985, in San Francisco, having majored in English Literature at the University of California at Berkeley. At the time, it was very unusual to be hired without having taken accountancy as a major. I went into accounting as it was put to me, even then, as a good area in which women can work.

I joined the Small Business audit team and I worked on winery audits, which was great. It gave me fantastic exposure to a wide range of businesses and sectors. After five years, I went to Switzerland on tour as a manager. I spoke no German at all—which was a huge problem for someone who wanted to work on Swiss banking roles! So I worked on American clients instead. I knew I needed to learn German if I wanted to become a Partner; the firm sponsored many German courses for me and my team helped me learn, too. I am now completely fluent in German.

I became a Partner in 1995, when the first leveraged buy-outs were happening in Switzerland. I'd done more due diligence than anyone else and so I set up the Transaction Services (TS) group. It was an unknown commodity in the market—it was much more about educating the market as to why they needed to do due diligence … creating the demand before we could fill it. Twelve years later, we’d moved from three part time people to 40 full timers and a 50% market share.

Returning home

I returned to the US in October 2007. I have a daughter, Katie, born in 1999 and we came back so that she could know our family over here and grow up rooted in our own culture. I was admitted as a Partner into the US firm. I’m now based in San Jose and I work in the Silicon Valley Transaction Services group; I am surrounded by such smart and dynamic people. The business leaders here are changing the world as we know it. We are building the technology industry deals practice in San Jose, which is an exciting place to be.

Driving change

Silicon Valley is a great example of how diversity and inclusion work in practice. The market is filled with examples of bright and deserving leaders who happen to come from different cultures and lifestyles. Diversity is just "business as usual" here and likely a big reason for the success of the region.

Reaching out for help

My advice to other women is to reach out—there are so many people who are interested and want to help you. I have benefited my whole life from visionary mentors and leaders who recognized my potential and helped me to reach it. There’s guidance and coaching available to you—take it! Being a woman can be a tremendous advantage; use your strengths as an asset. Be yourself.