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Luck of the draw
Chance encounters and connections jumpstart a career in asset management.
As an accounting major, Mary Miley’s career could have gone many directions. But it was a chance assignment during her tenure at PwC’s San Francisco office that pointed the way. When her manager suggested she pick three potential audit clients on which she would like to work, Mary, a new college intern, came back with a client in the energy industry as her top choice. “I really had no idea,” she recalls. “I think it was the only name on the list I actually recognized. But then my manager came back and said ‘You’re going to be working on a financial services client.’”
The investment management industry—a new world for Mary and one she would come to know and love. Seventeen years on, she is now a PwC alum, still in San Francisco and enjoying the city’s resurgent tech culture along with her role managing financial reporting for exchange-traded mutual funds. Today, she serves as a director at BlackRock, a large publicly traded company that acquired the financial services client where she began her career in 1999.
Having graduated from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Mary came into PwC at an exciting time. The merger with Coopers & Lybrand occurred the summer of her internship, and a major celebration in Los Angeles added to the excitement of the new organization. Today, Mary values the personal and professional network she acquired during her PwC experience. “All those connections have been a great help,” she says of her transition into the role at BlackRock.
Indeed, Mary believes people are central to success in accounting. She points out that academic coursework, while critical for accounting’s technical side, doesn’t always prepare students for the real-world task at hand. “Auditing really has to be learned on the job,” says Mary. “You can be technically proficient in accounting, but you have to be a people person to gain trust during an audit and get the information you need.”
Mary’s PwC experience was key in developing those kinds of interpersonal skills. Being a good manager, she believes, is a constant evolution, without a single trick that works in every case. Mary says she tries “to bring her whole self” into her work, listening and caring for people at a personal level. PwC, she says, was a great place to practice those values.