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Chief Accounting Officer at Nestlé
During a recent conversation Kathleen Carl shared her memories from working at PwC and discusses career advice for rising leaders.
What were your early years like?
I grew up in California, in the mecca of Hollywood. My father worked full-time and my mom was a stay-at-home mom. I’d say I had a typical childhood, but the only callout is that my parents had me later in life, so I was the baby—by far. I have a sister who’s 22 years older than I am, one who’s 9 years older, and a brother who’s 12 years older.
What drew you to PwC?
I knew I wanted to start working immediately after graduation, and I was just drawn to PwC when they recruited on my college campus. So PwC is really where I grew up, and I learned so much.
What stands out from your time at the firm?
Well, I traveled a lot, and I learned a lot—specifically about accounting but also about IT integration, manufacturing, oil & gas, and futures trading, and really about how to approach problems in general. Just as one example, for a full year, I commuted between Los Angeles and New Jersey, where I worked at a refinery in New Jersey, overseeing their post-acquisition IT systems integration. Honestly, my experience with PwC was just awesome and that’s why I stayed for five years, until I was a second-year manager. And ultimately, I left for personal reasons. I think my husband said something like, “If we’re going to get married, I’d kind of like you to be in the same city as me.”
How did you land at Nestlé?
I knew I wanted to work for a company in LA that made something I could interact with—so ideally, a food company. I wanted to go to a grocery store and interact with the products on the shelf. I wanted to understand how the company ran their factories. How do their lines run? How are the products made? I found all of that fascinating.
And now you’ve been with Nestlé for almost 30 years. What’s kept you there?
Every three to five years, I’ve had the chance to change roles and keep learning about different parts of the business, both as a financial leader and as an IT systems leader. I’ve also been able to find a balance of what's good for me and what's also good for my family. For instance, when we had the opportunity to move to Switzerland in 2011, so that I could lead the global IT design and build team for finance solutions, my husband chose to change his career so we could do the time abroad and our sons could grow up in Europe for a few years. Then, when I was ready to come back to the US, our CFO approached me to lead the company’s new chief accounting office. I could have never predicted this specific opportunity, but it was a really good next step for me.
How would you describe yourself as a leader?
For me, my ultimate level of success is if I can step away and know that my team can continue to organically support each other and help each other be successful. That’s the magic I hope to bring.
When and where do you feel the happiest?
If you’re asking where my Zen place is, it’s on top of a mountain, in the middle of the woods. No matter if it's in the sun or the snow or the rain, if I'm on top of a mountain, I'm happy.
What’s something about you that might surprise people?
I’m kind of an introvert, especially in big groups of people. Sometimes, in those situations, I feel like I don’t know what to talk about—and I think that surprises people who know me well and who I’m comfortable with.
What leading advice can you offer to others?
Don't look for a job title. Look for the next interesting job—something that you think might make you a little bit uncomfortable, something that's going to stretch you and make you work in ways you've never worked before. That's how you can progress into becoming a great leader, in my opinion. And don’t be afraid to use your network. Don’t be afraid to ask people to help you. Honestly, most of my job moves didn’t happen because someone came and tapped me on the shoulder. They happened because I took the initiative to approach someone and say, "I'm interested in your area. Do you think there'd be something I could do there with my skills?” And the thing is, I can't think of anybody I've ever asked for help who hasn’t helped me. People are usually very willing, and happy, to help.