I’ve made it my mission to be the Black mentor I never had

When I stepped inside the PwC Houston workplace 22 years in the past as an intern, it solidified that public accounting was for me. Unknown to me at the time, a highschool accounting class would set me on a path towards public accounting. I loved it and I was good at it—even competing at the state stage in accounting contests.

Ultimately, destiny would draw me to PwC as a result of they have been prepared to take an opportunity on me as a younger intern. Throughout that internship, one thing simply clicked; I was drawn to the folks, tradition, and work, and I additionally felt like I was really part of a workforce. However one thing additionally struck me as a possible setback: I was one in every of simply two Black folks on the flooring.

Practically 17 years later, I grew to become the first Black male promoted to accomplice in our Houston workplace. The day I made accomplice was life altering. To comprehend that, with that title and the sources afforded to that position, I may make important and impactful choices not just for myself and my household however for different folks, their family members, and communities, was nothing in need of superb.


Changing into a accomplice wasn’t one thing I initially envisioned for myself, and as soon as I acquired on that path it definitely wasn’t with out its challenges. My mother and father raised me to work onerous, get the job finished, and transfer on to the subsequent process, and I had to put myself on the market extra—increase my hand, construct my community, and stay assured that I had what it took, which was tough partially as a result of there have been only a few leaders who seemed like me. Fortuitously, I had advocates who have been invested in my success. As well as to my personal onerous work and efficiency, I credit score these mentors with serving to me to get to the accomplice monitor and thrive there.

Constructing illustration doesn’t occur in a single day

Worker diversification has improved inside public accounting however, like many industries, it nonetheless has a good distance to go—particularly when it comes to hiring and fostering Black expertise. In 2018, minorities represented 29% of all professional staff in public accounting corporations. Nonetheless, solely 4% of recent graduates employed by CPA corporations that 12 months recognized as Black. Range gaps stay most obvious once you take a look at management—in 2018, 91% of companions employed by CPA corporations have been white.

Constructing illustration takes time, and easily hiring racially and ethnically various professionals will not be sufficient. For a company, it requires commitments to accountability and leadership-driven initiatives. For people, it requires a assist system: Firms may help retain Black expertise—and advance them into management roles—via improvement alternatives, frequent suggestions, and, above all, intentional mentorship.

I outline a mentor as somebody who makes use of their skilled and social capital to open doorways for another person. I consider mentors are important for making the office extra equitable. If corporations need extra various senior management, it’s on all of us to sponsor our Black expertise into these roles. 

When I was a second-year senior affiliate, a accomplice at the agency mentioned he revered my work ethic and he took me below his wing. That was the begin of an essential mentoring relationship, and he taught me a number of lasting classes that I now move on to my mentees.

  • If you rise up and go to work, you’re representing your self and your organization. I had to be taught to embody government presence. My mentor taught me that once you step right into a room, you might have to be aware of the method you current and carry your self. In different phrases, gown for the circumstance, comply with cues from senior leaders, and hold your bag organized on the inside and clear on the exterior once you carry it. To me, government presence is dressing for the position you need in addition to the position you might have and taking satisfaction in it. 
  • A great chief coaches, teaches, and encourages. A great chief will work simply as onerous as his or her subordinates and provides them the instruments they want to be profitable. I am very pleased with a renewed PwC commitment that won’t solely give Black and Latinx school college students digital and profession readiness abilities to assist them start their careers however may even give our folks the alternative to mentor and encourage these college students alongside that journey. 
  • Listen to the particulars. As an auditor at knowledgeable companies agency, I discovered to perceive the weight of my written counsel and opinions—phrases that the complete world can entry. Particulars matter. Each comma, each phrase, and each sentence issues. Written phrases are simply as highly effective as spoken phrases, if no more so, due to their permanence. Take the time to craft them effectively.
  • Stay calm in the face of challenges. My mentor taught me that each drawback has an answer, even when it appears unsolvable, which is why I coach my mentees to hold their composure always. Errors will at all times occur, however you could stay calm and assured even amid a disaster.

It’s also vital for mentors to perceive that every particular person comes from a special background and never assume that their experiences are remotely the similar or totally different from another person’s. My greatest recommendation to mentors is to actually take these preliminary conversations simply to hear to your mentee and discover out extra about them. I additionally warning that mentoring is one thing you might have to need to do. Typically mentoring doesn’t include a wage, trophy, or formal recognition. You will have to really feel fulfilled figuring out that the fruits of your effort and assist will possible be handshakes, hugs, thank-yous, and watching that individual excel. I say that to reinforce that the path of being a mentor will not be for everybody, and that’s okay. 

Mentoring our future leaders

All of us want to do our half at work and in our communities to assist advance Black expertise. Our future leaders aren’t simply our extra junior colleagues at work. They’re additionally in class, discovering their passions and forging their profession paths. My profession path began at Texas A&M College, the place I acquired an internship at PwC throughout my junior 12 months. I take into account giving again to be a calling, which is why I have mentored college students at Texas A&M for greater than a decade.


Nonetheless, since the pandemic started, mentoring has gained extra obstacles. I’ve had to be extraordinarily versatile in when and the way I talk with college students, and we will’t simply meet at the similar espresso spot on campus like we used to. For one, mentoring somebody, particularly remotely, will educate you the significance of persistence. College students can typically be juggling work, tutorial golf equipment, sports activities, household obligations, volunteering, and school and internship prep all at the similar time, and if they’re late to a cellphone name or digital assembly, you shouldn’t maintain it towards them.

The important thing to profitable mentorship, total however particularly just about, is giving grace and being 100% engaged in the dialog. I flip off my cellphone, exit chat home windows and e-mail, and, lastly, shut the door. You need the scholar to perceive that she or he has your targeted consideration and is the most essential individual at the moment.

I love having this chance to mentor Black freshmen and sophomore college students, who’re so keen to determine the place they match and the way they will succeed after they’ve graduated. It’s really a present to join these college students to working professionals who can mentor and assist them.

Finally I was ready to see the path ahead thanks to those that believed in me and have been dedicated to my success at the agency. Mentors matter, not solely due to the recommendation and expertise they share but in addition as a result of they assist their mentees notice their potential. There’s nothing extra rewarding than reminding a gifted, formidable Black scholar or younger skilled that the sky’s the restrict.

Sammy Miller is an vitality audit accomplice at PwC, servicing multinational private and non-private corporations in the vitality, utilities, and industrial merchandise and repair sectors. He’s the first Black male accomplice in PwC’s Houston workplace.