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Voice of Experience: Helena Yoon, Principal, Assurance, PwC

Helena Yoon

Sometimes you have to take risks and run toward the fire, says Helena Yoon, a Principal at PwC, a philosophy that has helped her create a rich and varied career.

Building an Agile Career at PwC

Yoon started as an intern at PwC more than 20 years ago. Although the common thread throughout her career has been a focus on clients, her roles have been in a wide variety of departments. Each time she left for maternity leave, she transitioned her portfolio to others on her team, and then would reinvent herself each time she returned, coming back to a different role. This allowed her to gain experience in compliance, regulatory audit and consulting.

“The strategy bolstered my career by forcing growth and change agility,” she notes, adding that her career success is proof of how she’s been able to handle the challenges.

“When I returned from my first maternity leave, I encountered some challenges and wondered how I could succeed professionally. Fortunately, I had a mentor who rallied around me and helped me work through how to balance and achieve what I wanted. Now, I see what a benefit it was to learn how to reinvent myself – the change agility has been invaluable to my career.”

Today she serves a mix of audit and non-audit clients in audit and consulting roles. The crux of everything she does is helping others maximize their potential, whether they’re clients or her internal team. “I’m proud that others can be more effective because of the work I do,” she says.

Yoon is fascinated by the changes that will be brought about by applying automation and analytics to her teams and clients, and seeing how business will be transformed as a result. Historically, large volumes of data sat in disparate locations, but now, there’s a way to pull the pieces together and turn data into meaningful information that can be applied to improving business.

Empowering Women in the Workplace

Yoon recommends women take the time to invest in relationships. “My tendency early on in my career was to put my head down and focus on the work at hand, and as a relational person, I wish I had known to nurture and invest in others right from the start.” Sometimes women tend to be comfortable in what they’re doing, but Yoon says we need to disrupt that, especially in professional services.

“A world of opportunity is open, but I spend a lot of time with younger women, and one theme I consistently hear is that they don’t see as many role models as males do, which makes it harder to envision the future three or four jumps ahead.” Fortunately, she says, advances are occurring that will make professional services more accessible to women. As one example, recently PwC announced the firm is expanding parental benefits, which will make a great difference for returning moms. The new and creative addition is that they will follow eight weeks of paid leave with four weeks of a reduced work schedule at one’s regular full-time pay.

“I creatively eased my way back myself, but now it’s an official program, which I think will really help retention,” she says.

As a wife and mom to four children ages 12, 10, 8 and 6, Yoon loves the dynamics and relationship between them. For example, her oldest went away for a youth group retreat, and the others missed him so much, they cried. Yoon was moved by the degree to which her children relied on one another and valued their time together as a family.

In addition to nurturing her close-knit family, Yoon says they love to entertain and take family vacations. She is also very actively involved in her church and is a board member at the Stamford Symphony.