Career Wisdom from Tim Ryan ’88
On April 6, Tim Ryan ’88, PwC US Chairman and Senior Partner, returned to Babson to have a discussion with Professor Jay Rao on how disruption, innovation, and diversity are affecting companies all over the world.
Tim opened with a statement that took most of the audience by surprise: he was jealous of us, for our position in the room and what that signified. As soon-to-be graduates, he said, we have an unprecedented opportunity to shape our futures and careers over the next few decades. This exciting opportunity stems from a new phenomenon of disruption affecting all industries at ever-increasing speeds, and the recognition of diversity’s importance within the workforce.
Babson students had a chance to ask Tim questions, and many focused on topics related to the professional services industry. While tax and audit is just a fraction of the work that PwC does to solve big problems for corporations, Tim shared sage wisdom on the future of the industry. As artificial intelligence continues to disrupt traditional jobs, one student asked how the use of AI in the audit line of service would affect the audit associate position, a common role for new graduates. Tim reiterated the need for the associate position, but added that the day-to-day tasks will change significantly. Instead of completing repetitive, lower-level tasks, associates will jump into more analytical and cognitive roles.
Similar to how the process of an audit is transforming under today’s new tools, Tim shared how the process of tax preparation is changing as well. While the field of tax has a stigma of not being terribly creative, he explained how the data PwC analyzes from tax preparation allows the firm to provide higher service to clients. This benefit allows, for example, a tax employee to recommend potential new deductions based on analysis from other filings completed by the firm. Value is thus created for both PwC and the client, which Tim reiterated is the ultimate goal.
Across all industries, employees share a common concern: having their work be replaced with some form of technology, ultimately leading to unemployment. Tim reinforced his notion that technology used correctly will instead be a job enhancer. The key component that allows for this distinction, he said, is continuing one’s education around different forms of technology. At PwC, he committed to the workforce that as long as they continue to increase their technological literacy, there will still be positions for them because they will be ahead of the curve.
As technological innovation and increased social awareness continue to change the world, it was fascinating to hear Tim’s perspective as someone who focuses on the long-term prospects of PwC. Tim’s recommendation to embrace change and continue education beyond graduation left a lasting impression will certainly benefit us in the years to come.
Campbell is an undergraduate student at Babson, who will also earn a Master of Science in Accounting in Babson’s graduate program. For another student reflection on Tim’s visit, read Lessons from Tim Ryan ’88 of PwC by Emma Paulides MS’18 »