Secrets to success: Tips from our partners

PwC is a partnership firm with over 500 partners in Australia alone. Often it can be hard to understand the pathway from graduate to partner so we’ve chatted to some of our partners across the firm to gather some key insights and learnings gained on their journey to senior leadership. Here’s what they said:

Matt Graham - Assurance

My three tips would be:

  • Stay in touch with all of your networks - friends, clients, alumni, targets. Great relationships are created early in our careers.
  • Understand the business issues of our clients and how our whole firm can help - breadth of business knowledge and ability to have broad business conversations will be differentiating.
  • Be yourself - authenticity is a gift that is worth keeping at the centre of who you are. 

Shad Sears - Risk Assurance

Firstly, don't be afraid to have the ambition to become a partner. I see a number of staff who seem reluctant to 'call out' that they aspire to become a partner, either because of perceived reaction from peers or a degree of self-doubt and not wanting to get ahead of themselves. I believe staff need to set this goal, communicate it with those who can work with them to map out the journey and take agency on how they are going to achieve that goal.

Secondly, becoming a partner is not just about sustained tenure. It’s about evolving yourself across a number of attributes. This can include skills in business development, networking, presentation delivery, interpersonal relationships and business acumen. Being a partner requires a commitment to prepare yourself to be as capable in the role as you can be.

Vish Padmanabhan - Consulting

Remember that it takes time to learn how to interact with people who view you through a different lens once you become a partner. Take the time to reflect on how impactful your actions are and the wonderful responsibility that you have to care for people and the society you live in.

“Don’t be afraid to put your hand up and ask if you’d like a new challenge.”

Norah Seddon - Tax & Legal

It’s important to choose something that you really enjoy. I’ve been blessed by finding an area of work that I really love and when I’ve needed a change or a new challenge the firm has always been very supportive. Don’t be afraid to put your hand up and ask if you’d like a new challenge. My other piece of advice would be to focus on developing your skills rather than grade. If you focus on skills, the grades will come. Alternatively, if you focus on grades, you risk missing out on the skills that will support you in the position you’re after.
David Wills
David Wills - Financial Advisory (Private Clients)

  • Focus on accumulating client, management and leadership experiences, rather than roles and titles. At some stage, we all need to pass the baton to the next generation, so enabling our successors to accumulate their own experiences is an important part of leadership. 
  • Your reputation is your greatest asset. It’s important to be aware of your actions and how they reflect on your character. Like goodwill, it takes time to build a good reputation, yet it can also be lost overnight. 
  • Back others around you. From a client perspective, there is always someone who can add value beyond your own lens or expertise. A good leader should create a vision that people can align to and encourage their team to realise their own potential and effect the change to achieve that shared vision. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

“Seize opportunities as they come up, even if they are outside your comfort zone.”

Justin Scanlan - Consulting 
  • Bring your whole self to work, back yourself and build on your strengths but don't be afraid to be vulnerable and explore your areas for self-development.
  • Connect with your own sense of purpose, let your values guide you and focus on your team and clients with passion, energy and determination.
  • Be humble. 
Nadia Carlin
Nadia Carlin - Clients and Strategy 
  • Be the best business person you can. This means being relationship focussed and commercial.
  • Get a broad range of experience and read widely. 
  • Follow your instincts - if something doesn't feel right, change it!

Sarah Butler - Health Leader and Consulting Markets Leader

  • Start investing in relationships from the very beginning of your career, in both your clients and colleagues. My strongest client relationship was one I formed as a young senior associate and we both grew together in our respective organisations from a foundation of trust established early on. Within PwC we have great potential to live our purpose by collaborating with each other bringing the best of our firm and network to all we do. 
  • Seize opportunities as they come up, even if they are outside your comfort zone. I volunteered to go to China for five years and it was such a wonderful opportunity for personal and professional development. It was very intense and there were so many new things to learn but it was an incredible experience and a great way to accelerate leadership skills. 
  • Learn what you need to do to recharge and navigate the inevitable ups and downs during your career. Take a positive attitude and if you don't like something, try to change it. What's the worst that can happen?
Nigel Smythe - Deals 

  • As a leader, listening and asking the right questions is usually more important than speaking.
  • Consult widely and find internal and external mentors. 
  • Be comfortable being vulnerable.
  • Be direct (with care) and don't shy away from difficult decisions or challenges. 
  • Stretch yourself and help others do the same. Coach people of all capabilities. 
  • Thirst for new opportunities. 
  • Create diverse teams and stretch your thinking.
  • Be yourself and ask for what you want.
  • Enjoy what you do. Change something if you don't.
  • Celebrate success.
Liza Maimone
Liza Maimone, Sustainability Executive 
  • Always be open to learning and challenging yourself. 
  • Seize opportunities as they arise, whether they be a move to a new city or new area of business.
  • Build your networks both outside of, and within the firm. 

Jonathan Malone, Tax & Legal Partner
  • Find something you are passionate about.
  • Be willing to take calculated risks.
  • Provide an opportunity for other people in your teams to contribute ideas. Teaming with others is a critical part of anyone's success. I have been lucky enough to work with great people that generate new ideas and think differently from me.

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