Later this year, Deanna Byrne will mark 30 years working at the same firm.
The 1992 Drexel graduate started her career in accounting at Coopers & Lybrand, which later merged with Price Waterhouse to form the company known today as PwC.
This anniversary is yet another milestone for Byrne: In 2017, she was named the first female managing partner in the 120-year history of PwC’s Philadelphia office, and she returned to LeBow last month for a presentation on leadership sponsored by the Accounting department and Drexel Women in Business where she reflected on this accomplishment and shared advice from her path to this pinnacle.
Byrne says she was first drawn to Drexel due to the co-op program, as well as by a spot on the softball team. Like many Drexel graduates who went from co-op to career at the same company, Byrne credits the early introduction to corporate culture and to working in a business environment that she received through co-op with her long-term success.
“When I went on co-op at C&L, I had just finished my freshman year – I hadn’t even had an accounting class yet! What they decided to do was put you not on a client services staff role but in an internal facing role so you could really understand the way the firm operated as a business,” she says. “Prior to that, I’d worked as a lifeguard and at the switchboard at a retirement home, so I felt that co-op provided me an introduction to the business environment. It gave me a leg up on my peers because I really understood not just the client services side but what our business looked like and how it ran. That was instrumental in determining what I wanted to do.”
That initial co-op experience led to her working and attending Drexel at the same time, deepening a professional connection that has lasted for decades. “The people I’ve worked with, both within the firm and at our clients, have been the friendliest, the smartest, brightest, most creative and intellectually challenging that I’ve known, and they’ve become some of my best friends. Working with great people and doing challenging work have been a constant, and that combination has just made it something I always wanted to stay with.”
In assuming the managing partner role last year, Byrne had the occasion to look back on her career and to take stock. She notes that she worked closely with the previous male managing partners and held them in high regard. “I had such respect for them, and so to be considered in their space was something I’m really grateful for,” she says. Though she admits at first she didn’t focus on the fact of being the first woman to hold her position, the responses from students, fellow alumni and others have made her reflect on the importance of attaining it. “I’ve heard from alumni who said they never thought this would happen. That’s very meaningful to me, and I take that as a responsibility that we continue our efforts in making sure we’re a really inclusive environment and that we demonstrate our commitment to diversity.”
Her advice to current students, both in accounting and in other fields? “Be confident: What you’re learning at LeBow and taking advantage of the co-op experience will provide you with such a great opportunity to springboard your careers,” she says. “Work hard, think about what goals you have and set a plan to achieve them.”