Don't burn bridges. Don't take any nonsense. Those were some of the curt, but significant nuggets of advice from a keynote by Nichola Holt, a partner within Global Employer Services at Deloitte Tax LLP, during the Association for Accounting Marketing New York Metropolitan Chapter's March meeting. At the session, titled, "Women's Initiatives: The Revolution to Bridge the Gender Divide," Holt shared her experiences of coming to New York City from London and her road to making partner -- first at Arthur Andersen in 1999 and then later at Deloitte --and how she lassoed opportunities, opening up doors for others in the process. "You've got to really ask and articulate the value when the opportunity comes up," she said, "Sometimes you have to focus on what's important rather than what's urgent on your desk." Holt, who has been part of her firms' committees choosing candidates for partnership, said she admitted to being a little embarrassed at times by what some of the women offered up as client presentations. She said men were more prepared than their female counterparts, who lacked punch and enthusiasm. "Their personality wasn't coming out," she recalled, adding that women need to know and then articulate to their firms how to win business and then present themselves in a polished and succinct manner. For personal and professional development, Holt suggested "paying it forward," finding role models, understanding how gender differences impact success, articulating your value, enhancing your personal brand and maintaining self-clarity. She said career planning should be focused and include asking for help, as well as seeking feedback. When considering someone for partner, Holt said that she wants to know how the person will build the business, how they will bring value to their business and how much revenue they are currently managing. While Deloitte has formal programs to enhance women's leadership, work/life balance and diversity issues, she said the firm also encourages informal interactions to keep people connected and inspired. "Dr Pepper breaks" or brief 15-minute meetings in places such as the break room or by the water cooler with mentors or others in the firm can keep people engaged without the commitment of a lunch or dinner meeting to catch up. During tax season, Holt said she offers food-centric breaks such as ice cream in the afternoon or pizza at dinnertime if people are still in the office. She said Deloitte would be relaunching their mentoring program once tax season is over. Holt added that younger women in the firm are asking for male mentors, especially if it's a senior member of the firm to find out their career experiences. Deloitte also introduced a "Junior Win" program with a specific focus on those at the manager level or lower. She said younger staff members are often interested in work life balance and "green" environmental issues, as well as, community-oriented volunteerism. "It's a journey and you have to focus or you won't get there," she said.

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