How to Succeed in a Transformed World
By Cathy Lockman
When Mark Goodburn, currently the vice chairman and head of advisory services for KPMG LLP, began his career in 1984, he was told that “it was an incredibly exciting time” to enter the profession. Today’s students weren’t so sure that “exciting” was an apt description after hearing from Goodburn that it was a time when there were few cell phones, there were no commercial websites, and the Apple Macintosh personal computer had just been launched.
“You can always count on the fact that what is considered ‘state-of-the-art’ today will be transformed tomorrow,” Goodburn told the audience of accountancy students and faculty at the last Lyceum presentation of the spring session. “The only thing you can predict about the future of the profession is that it will always be evolving. You have to be prepared for change. So much of what impacts the profession is what happens outside of it.”
Goodburn points to globalization, digitization, and regulation as three of those outside forces that have important implications for the services the profession provides and that “will put lots of demands on our skills to solve problems for our clients.” Current regulation reform proposals will be especially crucial says Goodburn, “and it’s essential that accounting professionals have a seat at the table. Not only do we understand the markets, but clients look to us as educators who help them navigate these waters, so there is an important role for us to play” as regulation proposals are being considered and implemented.
Goodburn, who has been named one of the Top 25 Consultants in the U.S. by Consulting Magazine, also shared with students his perspectives on where the profession is headed and how they can be successful in the field.
“One thing I really like about where the profession has gone in the last year,” he says, “is that documentation has really been enhanced.” He also points to the growing specialization within the profession as a positive. “There is so much sophisticated literature that we have people who are specialists in just one section of FASB 133, for example. You can’t be an expert in it all, so you have to take advantage of all the experts that are made available to you.”
He also points out the opportunities that advisory provides for aspiring professionals. “We’ve recently built a practice around infrastructure projects,” he says. “And I think there’s a big opportunity around cloud computing. The issues there are not just about technology. They’re also about risk and control, and our profession has a reputation for data security, protection, and integrity. No one else has that brand, so we have a lot to bring to the table.” Debt advisory is another practice development that Goodburn believes will grow.
But as one area offers opportunity, another may become obsolete, so it’s important to be forward thinking and ready to take advantage of the opportunities. “Twenty percent of our portfolio does not continue year after year,” says Goodburn. “In advisory, it’s always a renegotiated and evolving relationship. Our clients tell us where they need help; we listen to those needs, harvest ideas, and bring them to the clients to help solve their problems. That’s what attracted me to advisory in the first place. You’re really dealing much more with people, process, and technology. The risk and business interplay is very interesting, and the conductivity of linking it all together to get a better answer is challenging.”
Annie Lardner, a senior accountancy major who will be continuing at ILLINOIS next year in the master of accounting science program, appreciates Goodburn’s perspective on advisory services. “I hadn’t envisioned the opportunities available in that area,” she says. “The chance to advise clients in a way that helps tie things together and provides solutions seems like an opportunity that would be not only professionally interesting but satisfying. It seems like it would offer both flexibility and a chance where your specific skill set could be applied.”
Fellow accountancy classmate Sean Hostert, who will begin work with PricewaterhouseCoopers this summer, agrees that hearing from someone with a career path like Goodburn’s “who can also relate to what we’re thinking as we enter the profession is particularly helpful.”
“I also really appreciated the formula he suggested regarding how to assess your own personal progress in the profession,” says Lardner, referring to Goodburn’s advice that you look at a three- to four-year timeframe for examining and reevaluating your career goals and strategies.
“You will get opportunities all the time,” Goodburn told the students. “Don’t feel like you have to jump at each opportunity. I struggled with that because I thought I wouldn’t get another chance. But opportunity will knock every day. So you need to really think about where you want your career to go and take the strategic steps that will get you there. You’ve already taken a big one by choosing a university where you will be exceptionally well prepared. Just like in 1984, it’s a really exciting time to enter the profession.”