Last week, I got an email from a member of the Plante Moran management team congratulating me on my promotion to associate: “Congrats on the well-deserved promotion. Let me know if you need help writing an acceptance speech.”
It occurred to me, then, that although associates don’t give speeches like our new partners do (out of necessity—can you imagine having to endure 60+ new associate speeches?) that I have a built-in platform to do just that. So if you’ll indulge me, I’m going to take a break from posts like “You and Your Semicolon.” Instead, I’d like to talk a little about what this promotion means to me and thank the two people who most made it possible.
A Brief History of Plante Moran & Me
I came to Plante Moran after teaching freshman composition at both Eastern Michigan University and Washtenaw Community College. Although I loved teaching, it wasn’t lucrative. I always had at least three jobs simultaneously, and after a few years, I craved the simplicity of a single job. I saw an ad for a proofreader position at Plante Moran (in the newspaper—that’s how people looked for jobs back then), and in May 2000, I joined the firm.
I told my manager, Ron Reed, about my writing and teaching background, and almost immediately he came to me with an opportunity to write an article about fraud for Dave Wells, a member of our forensic & valuations services team. I spoke with Dave, wrote the article, and he loved it. He actually said he felt guilty about putting his name on it. That article was the beginning of my writing career at the firm. Funny how the action of one single person can make such a difference; if Ron hadn’t recognized my potential and uncovered that opportunity, I doubt I’d be at Plante Moran today. (Proofreading can be painfully monotonous. I’m talking to you, due diligence reports.)
As word got out that the firm had a writing resource, I got more and more opportunities. I started writing articles for our firm magazine, Universal Advisor, and even the occasional internal communication. After three years or so, I changed positions and moved from the graphics department to the marketing department where I still work today. There it was all writing, all the time, and I loved it. Eventually I became the editor of Universal Advisor and had opportunities to work on everything from management team communications to speeches to video scripts. In January, I was promoted within the department to “supervisor of content marketing and internal communications” and, effective tomorrow, I will become an associate at the firm.
My Two Most Significant Mentors
I met Donna Smith within a few weeks of joining Plante Moran. I remember going out to meet with her in Auburn Hills so we could discuss the edits I’d made to a document she was working on. “I can’t believe she’s questioning my edits,” I grumbled. (My ego loomed much larger then than it does now.)
It wasn’t long, however, before she trusted me and even began letting me work on her “baby,” Universal Advisor. She knew I was growing tired of proofreading and really wanted to focus on writing, and she became my greatest advocate. She spearheaded an effort to get me noticed by key people within the marketing department, and I will always believe that the primary reason I was brought into the marketing fold was because she campaigned for me so tirelessly. Before I joined the department, there was no “writing” position; it was created for me. Thank you, Donna, for everything. For 15 years, you’ve been an amazing mentor, confidant, and friend. Somehow I managed to come to the firm without being assigned a “buddy,” but as far as I’m concerned, you’ve always been mine.
And then there’s Teresa McAlpine, who’s been my manager since I joined the marketing department. It’s hard to narrow Teresa down to a paragraph, so I’m going to do a top 3 things I love about her instead:
- Her poker face. Teresa is the consummate professional, and her emotions rarely betray her. Whether in group meetings or one-on-one, she has this look that manages to be simultaneously interested, supportive, and devoid of judgment. Until, that is, you do something career-limiting like try to give the firm’s managing partner talking points you’ve scrawled illegibly on a wrinkly scrap of paper. And then she saves you from yourself.
- Her candor. We have a saying at Plante Moran: “Candor is kindness.” Teresa was feeling particularly candid one day when she gave me some “feedback” about something I’d written. She said—and I remind her of this often—that it was “turgid and constipated.” And she was right.
- Her selfless leadership. I can’t think of a single time in more than a decade where Teresa was too busy to listen/help/counsel/comfort/talk me down off a ledge/etc. This woman gives new meaning to the phrase “open-door policy”—there’s always someone in her office; it’s a wonder she gets any of her own work done. She puts her team ahead of herself, and she epitomizes the kind of leader I strive to be—kind, compassionate, supportive and, of course, candid.
Thank you, Teresa. If I could play the Plante Moran “wind beneath my wings” partner song for you right now, I would. Instead, you have to settle for this.
It Is Kind of a Big Deal
Although there are hundreds of associates at Plante Moran, it’s much less common to be promoted within an internal department (marketing, HR, technology, etc.) because we don’t generate revenue directly for the firm. What makes this year even more noteworthy is that there are three marketing staff that share this promotion—my friends Dan Tines and Laura Kopsch were also promoted. Congratulations to Dan and Laura. It’s a pleasure working with and sharing this honor with the two of you. Today’s song of the week is dedicated to you both. (And no, Dan, it’s not Jim Brickman.)