Lynne Doughtie of KPMG has recently begun a new role as Vice Chair for Advisory in the Americas. Unique for women in the consulting and advisory business, Doughtie will be overseeing 6,000 employees. In this interview, Doughtie speaks about the changing work environment, getting started in the business, and balancing work and family.

Q. How did you initially get involved in accounting and advisory services?

Right out of school I started with KPMG in the audit business, and worked on a variety of clients. My career started in financial services as an auditor. I really loved it, and I set my sights on trying to become an audit partner at KPMG. My career progressed naturally, and something I share with a number of people I’ve mentored is that you never know what direction your career will go.

At the time when I was ready to make partner in the late 1990s there was major consolidation in the financial services industry. Unrelated to anything I was doing, the market was changing, and I was left to take stock of my own skills and do something different. I was fortunate to be a part of a firm like KPMG that allowed for this flexibility and growth. I took that chance with IT advisory services. It created a whole new experience for me, and it also made me realize a lot of the skills I had developed in audit served me very well on the advisory side of the business.

Q. Did you ever see yourself as an executive when you started out?

When I started out beyond the idea of eventually becoming a partner, my focus was really on shorter term goals. I tried to set my sights on what I wanted to accomplish five years out, and have used similar five-year increments since then to remain on track, which continues to serve me well. At the same time, it is important to allow for some level of flexibility in your career plans, so when a new opportunity presents itself, you’re able to switch course and take some risks. I’ve found that when I’ve done that, although it may be uncomfortable in the beginning, that’s really where you grow the most. I’ve never regretted when I’ve taken a different path than I originally sought out to do.

I always had confidence in my abilities. Much of that came from the example set by my mother, who had a very successful business of her own. Having this role model was so important for me, especially early in my career. When you are trying to work and have a family, although it’s certainly hard, when you’ve seen someone else do it, you know you can, too.

Q. Have you ever noticed any stereotyping or double standards as a woman?

I’ve never felt that, and I think that’s because I had the mindset of seeing other women succeed, not only at KPMG, but also within my only family. My mother worked, my grandmother worked, and my aunts worked. We all did it and we were all successful. I tended to not focus on perceived stereotyping. Instead I said, “I’m going to make whatever project I get the best.” From my standpoint, I didn’t see a double standard. Having said that, I think it’s a tough job and tough profession for women. It’s a lot of hours, it’s demanding, but today there’s so much more flexibility than when I was starting out. I think in this day and age there are certainly more opportunities and options to making it all work, particularly when you’re trying to raise a family.

Q. How do you think the workforce has changed since you began your career?

It’s so much more fast-paced. When I reflect back, my first five to ten years, we didn’t even have voicemail, much less a PDA or PC. When you went home that evening, you basically went home. When I look at how the business environment has changed, there’s total access all the time. In so many ways, that makes us so much more efficient. But in other ways, it’s very hard to unplug. The social impacts of technology and media are the most significant changes I’ve seen in the workplace throughout my career.

Q. What are your greatest blessings?

Definitely family. When I was traveling and my daughter was a young teenager, she resented that I worked so much, I questioned if it was the right thing. As a young woman now, with her own career ambitions, I asked her recently if she ever wishes I had picked a more traditional path, and she said “No! You love your job.” It helps to validate that you are setting a positive influence for your family. The other huge thrill from my job is watching the people I hire grow, excel, and reach great milestones in their career. That sense of pride in lifting up others throughout the organization is a huge blessing back to any executive.