Movers and Shakers: Elizabeth Diep, Senior Manager, Asset Management Practice, PwC

This week The Glass Hammer is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with profiles of senior Hispanic women in the financial and professional services. Check back all week long to read more.

elizabethdiepBy Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)

According to Elizabeth Diep, Senior Manager in PwC’s Asset Management Practice, it’s important to be open to new possibilities. “Be open minded. There is such a changing landscape in this profession. We are seeing growth in Latin America, while in Europe, there are challenges now but absolutely something different is going to come out of it. It’s about being open to opportunities and not hesitating to take on new roles.”

Diep is enthusiastic about the pace of change in the industry and how women can leverage that change to advance their careers.

“Every experience, whether good or bad, is going to help you grow. Don’t resist change,” she said. “Change will help you become a seasoned professional a lot faster and a lot better.”

Career in Public Accounting

Diep studied accounting and Latin American studies at Pace University. She was recruited directly out of college into the firm, where she began working in public accounting. “And I’ve been with the firm ever since,” she said.

In the twelve years since she began her career, Diep has steadily gathered more and more responsibilities, from managing one team to now managing many. As a manager, she continued, one of the things that brings her the most satisfaction is developing people. “In public accounting, you always work in teams, and being a senior manager, I lead multiple teams at a time. I’m proud of the individual teams I’ve developed and the people I have the opportunity to coach every day. Seeing people years later as the professional they have become makes me very proud.”

She also prides herself on the quality of her network and client relationships. “Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work with different types of clients, from small hedge funds to large multinational clients. This is a heavy client services business, and I have the opportunity to work with C-suite executives like CFOs and individuals all around the world.”

To Diep, the global nature of the industry and the pace of change make her job even more attractive. “You’re always learning. And I enjoy being active in the industry itself. Yes, I work in accounting and auditing and that’s important, but I’ve learned so much about the alternative investments industry at a very detailed level. I feel like I’ve got an MBA in finance just through working with my clients. It’s been great.”

Currently, she is energetic about beginning a project with a new client. “They just moved their office to New York from an international location,” she explained, so she is working to help align their operations and structure. “I’m working side by side with them as they are thinking how to set up in New York. I’m able to provide best practices on what we’ve seen work and what the pitfalls are. I feel like I’m able to have my fingerprint in the structure and that’s very exciting.”

She added, “As they grow, I will grow with them and that is rewarding, in addition to the sense of newness and the sense of adventure.”

Challenges for Professional Women

“We as women have multiple roles in life that we generally assume, but I think the accounting profession provides great opportunities for women. It’s very project based, so you don’t have to be in front of your computer nine to five. At PwC, it doesn’t matter where you get your work done, just that you get it done. In this business model, the flexibility is there.”

“You have to, of course, have supportive supervisors but it can certainly be a win-win for all,” she added.

Diep says that family responsibilities can be even more consuming for Latina women. “As a Latina, and this is a generalization, but I feel we take on a large  family role – not just your husband and children , but to your extended family too.”

When it comes to work life balance, life encompasses so much more. In my case, my mother-in-law lives with us, which is fantastic, but it’s an additional element that I consider when I balance my time.”

“It’s an additional element that we have to learn how to balance.”

Career Advice

Diep emphasized the value of career planning. “I always had a lot of one-year plans,” she said with a laugh. “I never thought about the next step, I enjoyed myself and liked what I did, so didn’t really stop to think about the big picture.”

“I’ve been lucky. The chips have fallen in a good place, and I’ve had great mentors along the way who have guided me.

She continued, “One book that really struck me was The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which talks about the concept of ‘Beginning with your end in mind.’ I think that’s absolutely true and helpful as you think about your career plan.”

“Think about where you want to be five or ten years from now. There’s so much opportunity – whether here in the US or abroad. Think about where do you see yourself in ten years? What will make you happy? Take advantage of the opportunities that will get you there.”

Diep is enthusiastic about PwC’s initiatives to support the advancement and retention of women. “We do a lot in this area, which is fantastic. One I’m very passionate about is our partnership with ALPFA, a not-for-profit professional organization for Latinos in accounting and finance.”

“Very recently I led a program for the Women of ALPFA summit for women with ten years or more of experience. It was a fantastic program that enabled women to come together in a forum that they may not generally have exposure to, and gives them a chance to develop their business acumen. And it’s exciting to see other women leaders in the industry as role models to follow.”

She added, “I’ve participated for the last few years and I’m very proud of it.”

In Her Personal Time

“One of the pieces of me that I always considered important is being active in my community  and in professional organizations,” Diep said. She has served on the boards of ALPFA’s New York chapter and a group called COAP (Career Opportunities in the Accounting Profession).

“It’s a five-day residency program for high school students to expose them to accounting early in life. I’ve been part of it for 14 years, ever since I was a student at Pace University. It’s a joint program between Pace and the New York Society of CPAs,” she explained.

“We want to show inner city kids the different possibilities and the potential they have.”