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Glass ceiling a 'mindset,' Deloitte exec says

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Even after a 25-year career at one of the Big Four accounting firms, Helen Adams has found ways to keep life stimulating.

The Deloitte partner reflected on a career at a certified public accounting firm during the “In the Executive’s Chair” course Wednesday at Cal State San Marcos.

Adams asked, “How do you keep yourself fresh and amused?”

Personally, she has found humor in a hobby to “feed the part of the soul” that work does not: country western dancing. Such a social outlet will make a person a more well-rounded professional, according to Adams.

Professionally, she has jumped on opportunities within Deloitte and others resulting from the changes in the industry.

Since joining the firm’s San Diego office in 1982, she has served as chair in the Real Estate Construction Group, a recruiting partner and an inaugural member of Deloitte’s Initiative for the Advancement and Retention of Women.

It is a common misconception that women leave jobs for family reasons and, according to Adams, the issue of retaining workers is not gender-specific.

Instead the initiative found people simply did not feel they belonged in the environment.

Adams added she sees herself as a business executive, not a woman.

As for advancement, Adams believes success is not tangible. “The glass ceiling isn’t a place, it’s a mindset,” she said.

Additionally, Adams currently keeps motivation by serving on the board of Athena, a professional organization for executive women in science and technology sponsored by the University of California, San Diego.

A self-proclaimed busybody, Adams did not have intentions to stay in the industry but found it challenging.

In comparing public accounting to a puzzle, Adams said she likes to be involved in solutions and problems.

As industry regulations continue to be modified, rapid changes have caused it to evolve into specialties. Adams has carved her niche and increasing interest in the alternative energy sector.

She advised students to be open to specialize in something for its potential opportunities.

The industry encourages Adams to stay one step ahead.

“I love that the world changes around me, it keeps me fresh.”


Online Videos

* Helen Adams' class discussion

* Interview with Helen Adams

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Deloitte LLP

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Deloitte LLP Executive(s):

Ken Weixel

  • San Diego Managing Partner

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