Having a plan sounds like a good idea when it comes to your career, but John Peirson (BBA ’83) admits he never really had one. And that non-plan plan worked out just fine for him; it made him curious and resilient, traits that create a strong leader.
As CEO of Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory, John leads more than 15,000 professionals who help businesses navigate risks and opportunities to help them become more trustworthy, resilient, and secure.
Because if there’s one thing John knows, it’s that things happen—and not always good things. His career has coincided with 9/11, the shutdown of Arthur Andersen, the 2008 financial crisis, and now the pandemic. Having to be responsive to change built John’s resilience and leadership skills, and ultimately had a hand in shaping his professional direction.
“You have to deal with the crisis at hand,” he says. “You need to respond, you need to recover, and you need to thrive.”
John began college as an engineering major, but a conversation with an accounting professor led him to understand how accounting was the language of business and how important CPAs were. He first joined Arthur Andersen, where he worked for 13 years and made equity partner a year before the company’s shutdown. Three years after joining Deloitte as an audit partner he was asked to take a leadership role with Deloitte Risk & Financial Advisory.
“If someone would have asked me early in my career if I would be the CEO of Deloitte Risk & Financial Advisory, or of anything, I would have said no,” he says. “As I’ve thought about my career, I never really planned it out in terms of titles.”
John bases his leadership on trust, understanding his team, remaining inquisitive, a range of experiences, and a desire to always receive feedback. And if it means taking what seems like a lateral move, the end result is valuable experience.
“I never sought roles out, but I put myself in the position to be considered for them,” he says.
Learn about the Wisconsin Undergraduate Program.
Watch John talk about his career journey in a Badger Executive Talk.
Read about John’s leadership approach as part of the M. Keith Weikel Speaker Series.