Carol Sawdye, Vice Chairman and CFO, PricewaterhouseCoopers Turns Risk into Opportunity

Carol Sawdye, vice chairman and CFO, PricewaterhouseCoopers addresses attendees as she is interviewed by Dan Ryan, chairman of Financial Services Regulatory Practice and Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP

From the age of 12, Carol Sawdye said she knew the importance of making money. Still too young to get a part-time job, she convinced her father to pay her to paint the windows of their home, ultimately negotiating $30 a window. After six weeks of work, she concluded her project and informed her father that he owed her $900. With her mother brokering the deal, she used the money to start investing for her future and ended up with nearly $20,000 in savings by the time she finished high school.

The initiative Carol demonstrated at an early age has served her well in her career. After earning an accounting degree at the University of Virginia, Carol joined Price Waterhouse and worked her way up to partner. After nine years – and wanting to “run something” – she switched gears, accepting a job as chief financial officer (CFO) of a prestigious law firm. Then, she moved on to a role as CFO of the National Basketball Association before returning to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as Vice Chairman and CFO.

At a recent event sponsored by the Financial Women’s Association and hosted by PwC, Carol shared her inspiring story and explained why she believes women must take big risks in their careers in order to advance.

Sense of Urgency
What was the impetus for the major career moves Carol made? Being diagnosed with and treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma at 25 gave her the courage to take some risks and change her life. “Don’t be passive about your career; instead be proactive and look a couple of steps ahead,” Carol encouraged the audience.

So, what advice does Carol give to those looking to have a long-term, successful career?

1. Spearhead changes– If you’re in a position where you can help make changes for the better in your organization, ensure you’re helping to lead these initiatives.
2. Recognize the power you have –Keep your skills honed. Put your best foot forward so that your employer realizes what an asset you are and what you can bring to the table. Also, always try to help your organization succeed so that when you are looking for flexibility, a credible foundation has been laid.
3. Your differences are vital– The same career path is not right for everyone, Carol said. “Feel confident about things that make you stand out,” she added.
4. Be willing to fail – Sometimes trying new things won’t work out. The important part is to learn from each and every experience and then pick yourself up by your bootstraps and carry on.
5. Maintain a strong network – Even if you decide to dramatically change your career path, maintain your relationships. “Don’t let your networks die when you change jobs, “Carol urged.

When faced with a challenge, Carol says she tries not to worry about failing. Instead, she thinks, “This is an opportunity I can’t pass up.”

Special thanks to PricewaterhouseCoopers for hosting this event and the Distinguished Speakers Committee.