Name: Erika Tusen
Hometown: New York , NY
Current Title: Tax Managing Director at Deloitte
Industry: Professional Services - Tax Consulting
Education: University of Pennsylvania
What is the number one skill or trait that you have found in successful leaders throughout your career, and why?
Be genuine. Whether dealing with clients, peers, or other staff, I’ve found that leaders who are genuine get the best results and are better able to gain trust. I work in a business that requires relationship building and repeat interactions. As such, building authentic connections, inside and outside of the organization, is key to success and actually making an impact.
What has been your biggest professional failure to date and what have you learned from that experience?
Being passive about my promotions. For a long time, I believed that my hard work should “speak for itself” and while it did, this only worked until a certain point in my career. Six years into my career I began to realize I needed to be more vocal about my expectations and the value that I was bringing to the table. There is a delicate balance between self-promotion and bragging but ultimately being able to clearly and convincingly articulate your strengths and why you deserve the next title, role, or opportunity can make or break your career.
How were you able to breakthrough and enter the C-suite/partnership? What obstacles did you face as a minority/woman of color?
Last year, I was promoted to Managing Director, which is essentially a non-equity Partner/Principal at Deloitte. My biggest obstacle making it to and through that process was figuring out the best way to articulate my value proposition (see answer to prior question!). I knew that I did the work and that I had the clients and the team to support me. I just wasn’t very comfortable talking about myself and everything that I was doing, and had done, to bring value to the firm. I worked with an external coach who taught me how to do just that, in a way that was genuine and comfortable for me. I saw the results immediately and I still believe this is what made the difference!
How important do you think it is to have a professional mentor?
Getting a professional mentor is the most important thing that you can do for your career. I suggest getting various mentors, both inside and outside of your company, and even connecting with people outside of your specific industry, because all of those perspectives will have value. There is so much to learn from others and so many of the things that you will go through have been experienced by others. Having a strong professional mentor can help you avoid making the same mistakes those before you made and put you on good footing to excel faster.
How have you maintained and strengthened relationships with your mentor(s) throughout your career?
I’ve learned to not be afraid to reach out to my mentors. In the beginning of my career, I was worried about wasting their time or bugging them because good mentors tend to be busy people. But I’ve learned that it’s OK to ask for a coffee break to talk about an issue or a lunch when it's something that will require more time/attention. If I find that I haven’t connected with a mentor for a while and I come across an article that they would be interested in, I forward it them with a nice note. This usually results in a catch up call/meeting during which I often get advice that I didn’t think to ask for.
What advice would you give a young adult who is about to start their first job post college?
Attitude is everything. I am more willing to invest time to train or help someone that has a positive attitude and shows up to work ready and eager to learn. Leave the defensiveness and pride at the door. We all need to roll up ourselves and be prepared to hear feedback