Lessons from San Jose

Be positive

A few weeks into my secondment, the novelty of California’s beauty subsided and I had immersed myself in the US business culture. Recently, my manager told me that at that time I seemed “lost” and he was being polite! I was thrown in at the deep end on five client engagements in a regulated startup world that was new for me, I was trying to establish a support network and I was unfamiliar with the work culture. Every day was filled with problems that I had never seen in my four years at PwC and the key to solving these was simplicity and speed.


Silicon Valley has a reputation for dynamism and it didn’t disappoint. I helped one client that was transitioning from zero to full SOX compliance, and every day I arrived at their office I would brace myself for a raft of overnight changes. More than once, I celebrated getting my grasp on the client, only to find out it had significantly changed a few hours later. Having come from a market with mature clients and established, stable environments, I found the pace of change dizzying.

At first I tried to anticipate and keep up with the changes, but then I realized that a better approach is to simply allow the changes to come to me. I crossed every bridge as I got to it and stopped worrying, and I found that the changes became amusing, the pace addictive and the clients fascinating and unlike anything I had experienced in London. 

Recently, I talked to Tim Carey (Market Assurance Leader for PwC’s San Jose office) and he shared some lessons with me from his 24 year career at PwC:

Careers are made where there is disruption

Tim believes that the best opportunities lie within the industries and companies that are in turmoil and experiencing a period of change. This is not an easy career route to take and it will require your dedication and enthusiasm, but seeking these opportunities will propel you forward and boost your growth.

Tim uses Silicon Valley as an example. The Valley’s networks and ideas accelerate the products pioneered by those Steve Jobs considered the ‘crazy ones’, i.e. those people with the vision and skills to change the world. 

Do not oversteer your career

Tim’s career has taken him from Detroit to London, from Silicon Valley to Helsinki. As opportunities have been thrown his way, he embraced them and pursued them with enthusiasm. Had he created a strict career plan, he may have missed one of the opportunities that shaped his career. Also, he discovered that his family thrived by engaging with different cultures overseas, and he strongly recommends living overseas for at least three years because the experience is priceless. 

Find what makes you tick

Tim suggests investing time in the early days of your career to identify what motivates you. Within five minutes of meeting him, Tim talked to me about how great his day was going because he got to engage with his client that morning and help them. I could see that doing this brings him joy. Tim also suggested that when you find what makes you tick, you should focus on this and try to master it. He warns against becoming a ‘jack of all trades and master of none’.

Tim’s passion and positivity are common across those individuals I met in the Bay Area and it is the single greatest lesson of my time in Silicon Valley, which I will carry with me as my career unfolds.