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Voice of Experience: Kathryn Kaminsky, Partner, PwC

Kathryn KaminskyKathryn Kaminsky will be a panelist at theglasshammer.com’s 4th Annual Navigating, Negotiating, & Building Your Strategic Network Event on February 26th.

“There is a lot we can learn from men in the workforce,” says Kathryn Kaminsky, a Partner at PwC. “When they leave early to attend one of their kid’s sporting event, they do it with pride. They don’t slink out of the office — they’re excited, and women should behave that way too.”

Kaminsky, who started her career with PwC in Canada before moving to the firm’s New York office, has always been cognizant of the fact that she works in an organization where only 19 percent of the partners are women. “Male relationships are critical so I have always tried to build my relationships to be gender neutral,” she says.

Going on her tenth year as a Partner, Kaminsky has appreciated that during her 20-year tenure at PwC, she has been constantly challenged, noting the opportunity to be in a career where she can do different jobs at the same place. She’s moved from the asset management space to banking and capital markets.

“Being admitted to the partnership is definitely the professional achievement I am proudest of,” she says, adding that she is always looking forward to the new experiences and new engagements that she will undertake as she moves up the partnership ranks.

The industry is constantly changing and she is fascinated by where it might go. “Ten years from now, will we all bank via cell phone??” she muses. She sees huge potential for disruption in the financial services industry, especially with tech companies that can stay nimble and entrepreneurial since they are not hampered by the regulations that banks have to grapple with.

Confidence Builds Careers

Kaminsky sees confidence as a trait that women need to learn to develop as they progress in their careers. “It can be hard to be in a room where you are the minority but you have to speak up – you can’t be in a meeting and not talk.”

That confidence translates into knowing how to discern among competing priorities. “You have to evaluate internal versus external focus,” she says, noting that in a client-based business, you often need to choose the client side.

One thing that Kaminsky has learned over the course of her career is that “this too shall pass.” She says there are times that she wishes she’d had a thicker skin and realized that what seemed like a big deal at the time wouldn’t be in the long run. “I wish I hadn’t taken things so seriously and lost sleep over things that I shouldn’t have cared about,” she says.

She knows from experience that you have to have a stellar work performance, but success is based on more than that. “Aim high – don’t just put your head down. Get out and meet people – growth comes from experiences and relationship building, both internally and with clients. Business books alone won’t tell you what’s going on in the world, you have to get out there.”

And while you’re out there, she advises having some fun. “In the 20 years that I’ve been at the firm, I definitely could have had a little more fun!”

Lessons to Be Learned from Men

“Many people don’t like to hear it, but there are lots of things men do very well that we could emulate,” she says. For example, she appreciates that men are more open in how they talk about things. She says they’re more apt to admit they’re having a bad day, or discuss something they’re struggling with rather than sit behind a closed office door by themselves.

They also are more likely to own the career decisions they make. Currently, she works in the New York office while her family has relocated to the west coast for her husband’s job. “Men commute all the time, and don’t have any problems with it. I have found that my schedule allows me to focus on work during the week and home on the weekend, which is a benefit for everyone, but somehow that is not as accepted with women as with men.”

As part of her desire to create a gender-neutral network, Kaminsky has worked within the wide range of programs PwC offers – some specific to women, and some geared toward general career development. In particular, she has benefitted from an Advocacy and Sponsorship group which matches professionals with more senior partners. Over the years, her male match became a friend, sponsor and advocate, someone she confides in on a regular basis. Kaminsky says that women don’t necessarily need to be sponsored by women – it’s more important to just make sure it’s the right person.

And she finds that at PwC mentorship is inherent in a wide variety of day-to-day activities even aside from dedicated programs.

Still, she says that there is competition even as you climb the ranks, and she feels fortunate that even though she has great male friends and sponsors, she has a network of four to five women who are the ones she calls upon for the closer friendship that everyone needs. “It’s important to remember that not everyone is a competitor.”

Weekends Are For Family

Mom to three boys – an eight year old and seven year old twins, Kaminsky in many ways feels her dual life allows her more focus than if she was home every night. Throughout the week, they FaceTime and talk, and she is able to have “me time” on the plane each way. That allows her to focus exclusively on her kids when she is home. This fall she was the association treasurer and team mom for her twins’ Pop Warner football team. “Our weekend is extremely active with family time with the kids,” she says, always ending with Sunday night dinner. “That’s what weekends are for me – 100 percent focus on my family. They know all about my work life and are very involved with it. But when I’m home, I’m home.”

By Cathie Ericson