Life at Deloitte
Challenges are opportunities in disguise
“As a child I lived an impoverished life, but I didn't realize I was poor until I was almost an adult and came to the US, which is quite an accomplishment as a child of a single mother. The most influential person in my life was my grandmother. I spent a lot of time with her and I think that if I reflect on who I am as a person, my grandmother motivated me. She never had any formal education, but was perhaps the wisest person I’ve known. She was very clear that you need to live a life of gratitude and do whatever you can to be a rainbow in the lives of other people.” — T’Shaka Lee, Los Angeles Audit Partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP
- A valuable lesson about the importance of “people”
- T’Shaka’s key to success
- Challenges are nothing more than opportunities in disguise
- Career journey
- #T’Shaka Lee
A valuable lesson about the importance of people
T’Shaka Lee grew up on Montserrat, an island in the Caribbean. He learned early on from his mother and grandmother that “things” don’t make you wealthy. People do. That acts of kindness, giving time, and caring are types of currency. That what you should aspire to is to “be a rainbow in other people’s lives.” They were lessons reinforced after Hurricane Hugo devastated Montserrat and had T’Shaka bouncing back and forth between the US and the islands.
Now, as a partner, T’Shaka clearly brings that human perspective to his work. Ask him about his role and he’ll tell you that a big part of it is “expanding relationships.” That he needs to take good care of people. “We are nothing without our people.” And that recognizing and leveraging “business chemistry” is vital. “It helps you relate to people who may be quite different from you … so that you can have a quality exchange.” T’Shaka has learned to be a people person in an industry that many associate with numbers.
T’Shaka finished high school in the Caribbean and attended Pace University in New York. He worked his way through college while employed full time at Snapple Beverage Corp., and took the job at Deloitte after graduation because he thought a couple of years of public accounting would be good experience. “My only goal was to get my CPA license. I had no intention of being at Deloitte beyond a year or two.”
Given that disposition, his first engagement could very well have sent him fleeing.
It was a complicated pre-IPO engagement. The manager and senior manager on the team left Deloitte just as T’Shaka arrived. He seized the opportunity, impressing the client and lead Partner with his critical thinking. “It was difficult, but that first moment where I was given responsibility before I thought I was ready, left a good impression on me.” A career that T’Shaka saw little future in originally, now held him fast. He liked the challenge, the work and, you guessed it, the people. After three and a half years in Tri-State, he transferred to Los Angeles.
T’Shaka’s thoughts on leading from the front
“How do you lead, how do you get out in front? I truly believe that because we have some of the best people and minds, Deloitte will continue to grow into avenues that don't exist today.”
Challenges are nothing more than opportunities in disguise
Today, when T’Shaka thinks about his role as an auditor, he takes great pride in contributing to enhancing the trust of the investing public. “A fantastic thing about our work is that we are psychologists in some respects. Our input can help our clients move on, get through the decisions they need to make.” True to his start in the business, T’Shaka doesn’t shy away from challenge. In fact, he sees it as fulfilling. “If you avail yourself to the opportunities of clients who are challenging, you get to go on the journey with those clients as they grow.”
On the flip side, T’Shaka is happy to have less challenge in his family life. Of his three soccer-playing sons he says, “I couldn’t be more fortunate. I think my boys are very easy boys.” T’Shaka plays cricket, a nod to growing up in the Caribbean, and is treasurer for the Southern California Cricket Association. He also gives his time and support to charitable causes. It’s something that he sees as his responsibility - “a lot of the traditional institutions that form community have broken down.” No doubt his grandmother would be proud of the rainbow she helped create.