Carl Allegretti, chairman and CEO of Deloitte Tax, may not be an Aggie, but when he spoke to a group of Mays’ Professional Program students, he demonstrated leadership and passion that any Aggie would be proud to emulate.
Allegretti grew up on the south side of Chicago, where his father was a business owner. After graduating from high school, he had plans to work in the mills in Gary, Indiana along with the majority of graduates from his high school. However, he had a scholarship offer to play college football, and after a long, hot summer of working in the mills, he decided that college would be a good option, after all. Allegretti started that fall at Butler University. He demonstrated his strong work ethic by working to pay his way through school while also playing on the football team.
After graduating, Allegretti went to work for Arthur Andersen and stayed for the next 20 years before transitioning to Deloitte.
During his address, Allegretti encouraged students to be prepared for continuous change, because he said change is guaranteed to happen in any career. The keys to thriving in the midst of change are to be willing to change, be aware of and understand what’s happening, and then prepare to stay in front of the change and capitalize on the opportunities it creates.
Another message Allegretti shared was the importance of continuous learning. He told students, “You’re going to have a long career. Where you are right now is just the start, so never stop learning.” His own experience demonstrates the value of learning from mentors. When Allegretti started in accounting, he had no plans of becoming a partner. In fact, he actually tried to quit at three different points in his career. Each time, his mentor encouraged him to persevere and he chose to stay. As a leader now, he encourages people beginning their careers to not give up too quickly or assume early on that you know what your career path is going to be. Clearly, his personal success speaks to the power of perseverance and learning.
Allegretti highlighted four areas for students to focus on now and in their careers:
Approach your job with passion. Do something that you love and that inspires you.
If you start somewhere and don’t enjoy it, move into something different. Focus on what you enjoy doing and find creative ways to do it. It’s important to remember that there are multiple places to be successful in a large organization, so look for opportunities where you are.
• Work-life balance
Know what your priorities are and figure out how to make them work. Remember, you define what’s important to you. Allegretti has two sons and doesn’t miss a single one of their wrestling matches, despite travelling about 45 weeks out of each year. When his oldest son was diagnosed with cancer, he was able to be with him for every treatment he had. There is always time to do what matters most to you; it’s about prioritizing. Most careers can be very demanding, so if you’re struggling, talk to someone about it. It’s likely they’ve experienced many similar challenges.
• Staying Connected
Relationships are critical, so it’s worth the time it takes to stay in touch with people. Don’t underestimate the significance of face-to-face communication. It’s easy to get caught up in social media, but don’t rely on that. While it may get the job done, it does little to actually enhance a relationship. The best place to start establishing lasting connections is here at Texas A&M, because these relationships may be priceless to you in the future.
• Giving Back
Find what’s significant to you and invest there. Allegretti has used his passion for football to begin a program for more than 800 students from kindergarten through eighth grade to play football; some of those children have even gone on to play college and professional football. As you experience success, it’s important to use your resources to do good in your community. Start today by finding somewhere to invest yourself.
With his focus on service, passion, learning and connectedness, Allegretti left the Professional Program students with inspiring thoughts and valuable lessons. His final comments were in response to questions students asked about differentiating themselves as they seek to advance in their careers. He advised, “Do what you can to be competitive, but more than anything, always be fair. Always take the high road.”
About Mays Business School
Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.
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