Terri McClements

Terri McClements

US Human Capital Leader

Washington, DC

PricewaterhouseCoopers

When I look back at how hard I struggled with the decision, I wonder whether a man would have felt so daunted by the unknown.

As a member of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) assurance practice, I rose from an associate to partner in 10 years. My career path was clear and my goal was to lead increasingly complex engagements. So I was very surprised when our senior partner asked me to take on a strategy role that focused internally on the future of the firm.

Although I was honored to be considered, I hesitated. I questioned why the firm would want me to develop strategy when my passion was client service. I was also reluctant to give up my clients since this new role was only a temporary two-year assignment.  In fact, I was worried about what I would do next. The personal sacrifices required were equally daunting. I lived in Washington, DC with my husband and young son and would be commuting each week to New York. But despite these concerns, I wondered: Would I ever have another chance to contribute so directly to our company’s future?

I agonized for weeks and asked advice from everyone I trusted. My advisors universally agreed that this was a fantastic opportunity to work with key leaders on challenging issues. I decided to lean in, but conditioned my acceptance on two key points: I negotiated to keep one client, and I insisted on flexibility in my schedule so I never missed a school performance or parent-teacher conference.

Saying yes to this opportunity was an absolute turning point in my career. I gained an understanding of the entire firm and a much broader perspective of our business. I worked with an incredibly talented group of senior people whom I never would have met otherwise. I had no idea how valuable that network would turn out to be; yet almost a decade later, I still rely on contacts I met then. Those two years laid the foundation for the wonderful variety of positions I have since held, including my current role leading human capital for the U.S. firm.

When I look back at how hard I struggled with the decision, I wonder whether a man would have felt so daunted by the unknown. For me, it was a big leap, but once I made it, I never hesitated again. The best advice I received at that time was from a male colleague who told me to find my voice and not be a note-taker. I thought of him often when I was the only woman in the room and automatically expected to take notes. I found the courage to refuse politely and made sure I contributed to the substance of the dialogue. Now, almost nine years later I no longer ask, “Why me?” when offered an opportunity. Instead I reply “tell me more” and embrace whatever the next chapter might bring.

Read more stories

Before you go, sign up for our emails to get helpful articles, inspiring stories, and more.