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Jessica Holleran

Jessica Holleran

Vice President, Global Taxes at Yum! Brands

Finding work that fulfills you

During a recent conversation, Jessica Holleran discussed what she learned by growing up on a farm, the importance of doing work that fulfills you, and what you might be surprised to know about her.

What were your early years like?
I grew up on a farm in northern Kentucky, where my family raised tobacco. We all worked on the farm, which I did until I was a teenager. In high school, I worked as the manager for the school’s basketball team. I think you could say I spent my youth basically learning the value of having a work ethic.

That work ethic must have served you well lately. How have things been for you during the pandemic?
As I’m sure most people would say, things have been both good and bad. On the positive side, video meetings have been a great advantage for communication with our global teams. And my own team has been working really well remotely. I’m fortunate to be at a company that's embracing flexibility and plans to continue offering it to our employees.

How did you get interested in accounting and business?
In high school, I took two accounting classes, and I found them pretty interesting. I’ve always liked the fact that accounting is very rules-based. So I went to college to pursue an accounting degree on a scholarship. Then, once I graduated, I got a job in accounting and I went to law school at the same time—ultimately getting my master's in tax and my law degree at the same time.

Wow. You were busy! What did you do after law school?
I knew I wanted to pursue a career in tax and public accounting, so a friend helped me get an interview at Arthur Andersen, where I worked for about two years—until the firm dissolved. From there, I moved over to Ernst & Young as part of the office deal.

What drew you from there to Yum! Brands?
Well, one thing you'll see as a theme for me is that most of my career moves have been life-based, not just career-driven. At the time, I was pregnant with my second child, and I knew that I was about to have two kids under three years old, so I wanted to travel less than I was. With that in mind, I interviewed at Yum!, which is based in Louisville, where I was living, but I didn’t get the job at first. It wasn’t until a few months later—when I was eight months pregnant—that they called me back and said, "Hey, we think you might be better for a different job. Will you come and interview?" So I did, and I ended up working there for four years, focusing on international tax.

That sounds like a great opportunity. So why did you leave and join PwC?
I got divorced and I moved to the Cincinnati area, where I had a family support system. So I reached out to a partner I knew at PwC and asked if he knew someone who might be hiring. I initially thought he would refer me to one of PwC’s clients, but instead, he said, "We think you'd be a great fit here. We'd like to talk to you." We started talking, and I could see there would be growth opportunities for me there, which turned out to be the case. I learned so much at PwC that has helped me on my career path. Even now, I still call my PwC mentors for guidance. No matter what, I’ve always felt supported by PwC.

You recently returned to Yum! How has that been going?
It’s been a great return. Once my kids were older, almost teenagers, we returned to Louisville so they could be closer to their father. At that time, I was ready to take on a job with more responsibilities. I didn't come back to Yum! initially as a VP, but they really invested in my development and I was promoted to VP about this time last year, thanks to great mentorship and career support.

Reflecting on your career so far, what makes you feel the most proud?
I’d say I’m most proud of how I've grown in terms of managing stress. Surprisingly, I think that moving into a role with more responsibility has actually made it easier for me. I’m a worrier by nature, so I’ve had to work on it, and with the help of some professional coaching, I can see the progress.

Outside of work, what makes you happy?
My boyfriend and I hike a lot. And of course, I love spending time with my kids, but now that they’re teenagers, they're not in the “spend-time-with-mom” mode as much as they once were.

What’s something that might surprise people about you?
I’m a huge concert junkie and I love hard rock.

What’s the best advice you can offer to others?
Do something you like. It’s not just about the money. I think you really should do something that fulfills you, and work to live, not live to work. Also, as you advance in your career, let things come when the time is right. Don’t rush. I think sometimes people get too hung up on moving quickly, but promotions come with a lot of responsibility and a lot of changes. You want to make sure you're ready.

This interview was conducted, edited, and condensed by Jen Swetzoff, founder and creative director of Closeup. Jen was formerly the deputy managing editor at strategy+business magazine.

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Kerri Murphy

US/MX Alumni Network Leader, PwC US

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