“Always do your best — that’s all you can do. Focus on what you can control and don’t get carried away with the things that are out of your control. Things will work themselves out. What’s the worst that can happen?”
This is what Associate Director, Ana, had to say when inquired about the advice she gives to the individuals she mentors. When we think about our careers, many of us consider how each action and step we take will affect us in the long-term. To the best of our ability, we want to have influence on that progression. We want to shape our own careers. What we think about less often is how the people in our lives, both professionally and personally, often have a huge influence — from the seemingly small pieces of advice to the big jumps they encourage us to take, they help to mold our careers.
The story of Ana’s career growth is a special and unique one, but it’s one that is relatable on many levels. We had the pleasure of sitting down with her and getting to understand her personal path. How did she go from the young woman growing up in Mexico and dreaming of being a graphic designer to the Ana of today? The Ana who has climbed to great heights from her start as a #ProtivitiIntern to the leader and role model for others? By the end of our conversation, we were really moved. Our key takeaway: the people we surround ourselves with have the power to shape our careers in ways we often don’t even realize.
A graduate of The University of Arizona, Ana has grown her entire career with Protiviti, and is now based out of the Phoenix office. And while she ultimately ended up with her Accounting degree, that wasn’t always her intention. Entering college, Ana began her courses with intentions of gaining a graphic design degree, but she quickly realized that it was not her passion. She switched to Accounting after her first semester, which much better aligned with what her family was familiar with — business. Being a student in the U.S. from Mexico, Ana describes a tough start where she often felt homesick.
It is at this point that Ana makes her first mention of how people influence you. In this case, it was Ana’s father who urged her to stick to her commitment of one year at the university, despite her feelings of missing home. After that year, if she wanted to return to Mexico, she could. But she should take advantage of the opportunity in front of her in the interim. That’s the first big push that Ana recalls in what has shaped her career and life today.
Flash forward a few years to when (now) Executive Vice President, Brian Christensen, interviewed Ana on campus and ultimately provided her an internship opportunity and an offer for her first full-time job — with Protiviti. Here’s her journey:
You’ve grown your entire career with Protiviti. That’s pretty special!
“Yes! I’ve grown my career with Protiviti and it’s been wonderful. I should note that as part of my career, I did take a one year leave of absence to do my Master’s and live in Paris. That was a really tough decision for me at the time.”
Paris sounds like a pretty amazing opportunity. And you’re still at Protiviti… so you came back?
“I did! I had reached this point in my career where I felt like I needed a change. I think that’s very normal — kind of like a mid-career crisis! So, I knew I needed to balance out my life and I decided to go back to get my Master’s. I had been accepted to a school overseas, which was something I had always wanted, and I had this moment where I felt like I needed to do it for myself… but it was bittersweet. During that time, Brian [Protiviti Executive Vice President and Ana’s mentor] supported me. I think I was crying a little bit when I talked to him. My conversation with him opened my eyes to the possibilities. He let me know that there was always an open door back to Protiviti but also encouraged me to go and try something different. That was big for me.”
As someone who has grown your entire career with one company, how have you been able to keep your excitement about Protiviti and your work?
“I feel challenged every day. I’ve been at Protiviti for so many years, and every day I do something different and I learn something new. I’ve never been in a phase where I’ve felt bored with the work I am doing. That’s not to say every single day is always the most exciting, but with all the ‘hats’ we wear, I’ve stayed interested and engaged. Having that variety of things — the client-facing role, the management responsibilities, the advising and recruiting — they are all aspects we get to have involvement with, and that diversity feels well-rounded for me. It keeps things interesting.”
With all those ‘hats’ you’ve had the opportunity to wear and with all the projects you’ve been involved with, what has been your absolute favorite part?
“I’ve been lucky to have done a lot of international travel with Protiviti. I’ve been to more than 12 countries around the world, like Spain, Brazil, Germany, Israel, Turkey and China. Actually I went to Puerto Rico with two of my best friends at Protiviti on a work trip and we always talk about that trip
Aside from travel, I’ve also been very lucky to have mentors and role models who have supported and helped me to grow when I am expected to be growing. A key for me has been having those people who want to see me grow and who can help me to plan how to get there.”
How have those mentors played a role in your career growth?
“I’ve had mentors who have helped me through every stage in my career. I can remember back in the beginning of my career, I was put on my first international project and I was only a Consultant. I wasn’t sure of myself and what the team was expecting of me. At that time, my mentor, Christine, pushed me and encouraged me. I needed that at the time, and she was there to give me that confidence boost. That’s just one example of a time where a mentor made a lasting impact – by just simply believing in me.”
And now you’ve grown into a great leader! Along the way, you’ve seen your fair share of internal audit projects. Can you talk a bit about the connection you have to your work?
“Challenging and rewarding projects have been plentiful. For one of the projects I’ve been on the last three years, we’ve been helping our client prepare for their Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance program. As I look back three years ago, we felt unsure of exactly how we were going to navigate helping them. Now, we’re at the point where we’ve developed their whole framework and they are operating easily. We have such an amazing relationship with them, and being able to advise their leaders — being a go-to for their questions — it shows us that they do value us and they do want us there to make a difference. We’ve been recognized on an international level with this specific client and their leadership, and that feeling of being valued is why we do the work we do.”
Feeling like you’ve made a difference and a positive impact is really what it is all about in consulting — and certainly at Protiviti.
“Absolutely. Another example I can recall is a client that I worked with in Mexico. I think what really resonated with our client in that situation was our ability to put a team together that understood their culture and language. We communicated in Spanish, which made a huge difference when we were trying to explain something and they were processing. I think this is an example of how Protiviti goes above and beyond to provide the right assistance and not just meet the expected criteria of our clients.”
Absolutely. It explains why Protiviti clients keep coming back. But I have to ask, what keeps you at Protiviti?
“The people. I just love the people I work with, and I have really meaningful relationships here. I look forward to seeing those people as a part of my growing career.”
Over the course of Ana’s career, she describes the influence of others and attributes her success to those who pushed her. From her father encouraging her to stick with her education abroad to EVP Brian Christensen supporting Ana’s leave of absence to get her Master’s degree to all the other mentors who pushed Ana from her first project to the present time, people have greatly helped to shape her career. And now, she’s doing the same for others.