Name: Maria Dårstad Perez
Title: Senior Manager
Degree: MSc in Information Technology
- Introduce yourself, and share a fun fact that makes you unique!
My name is Maria Dårstad Perez, I’m 43 years old, and I have a Masters of Information Technology from Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia.
Despite being Norwegian I really don’t enjoy skiing. Believe it or not, it makes me pretty unique back home!
- What does a day in your life look like as a Senior Manager at KPMG?
I’ve been a consultant for almost 20 years now, and as a Senior Manager at KPMG, the type of tasks I have vary greatly depending on what type of role I have within the client engagement. If I’m the Project or Programme Manager on a client engagement, my days primarily consists of being available for my team, preparing and conducting various status and progress meeting with steering board committees or the client leadership team, as well as participating in various work meetings where my input is needed. Otherwise, if my role at the client is more of a Subject Matter Expert, I spend my days analysing and working out solutions to the client’s challenges. In addition to my client tasks, I also work on various proposals to other client engagements, as well as coaching and helping with knowledge sharing among my colleagues.
- What motivates and excites you the most about your career path and the leadership position you hold?
My primary motivation is the complex challenges we help clients solve, combined with working with colleagues who are dedicated to delivering high quality work. Also, I enjoy the fact that I get to work on different types of projects at various clients while having my base at KPMG.
- Share with us the biggest lessons you learned on your journey to where you are today.
The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that it matters how you treat people. There is a saying around people remembering how you made them feel and not so much what you actually did, and I found that to be true. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t focus on learning how to do things, but it’s equally important understanding that your approach to people also matters. You will meet idiots on your path, and sometimes you’ll discover that you are the actual idiot, so my advice is to approach people with an open mind and curiosity, and to treat them as you would like to be treated.
- Tell us about a (female) role model who inspired you to become the leader you are today, and how (s)he impacted you personally or professionally.
The biggest role model I had was on a client engagement 12-13 years ago where I felt I didn’t have the skillset needed at the beginning of the project, and I opened up to her about it. She was great in sharing her own experiences and gave me the confidence, and ongoing support throughout the project, so I felt safe and was able to deliver. She was highly intelligent while also very warm and friendly. She even bought me a gift on behalf of the project when I got married. She later went on to various leadership roles in the financial sector and today she is one of the directors at a large financial institution. I’ve heard from others who work with her today that she is just as smart and friendly as she was with me back then.
- If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, or to other young female students today, what would it be?
My advice to my younger self would be to focus on trying different things in the beginning of your career, because the things you become good at are the things people will keep asking you for help with. So, make sure it’s something you actually enjoy doing.
- How do you see STEM education shaping the future?
STEM education has always been important, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Having a strong foundation within STEM gives you many opportunities to solve complex problems in various industries and companies.
- Why is it important for you to promote diversity and inclusion within STEM?
If everybody has the same background and/or experience, it’s difficult to think out of the box. That’s also why I believe it is important that people with both technical and no technical backgrounds help solve the various issues in our projects, because they have different ways of viewing challenges.
- What steps has your company taken to promote a more diverse and inclusive workplace, and which one has been the most effective?
At KPMG, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is highly prioritized. Looking at our DEI efforts, we aim to make a positive impact through the work we do, both internally and externally. We want people to thrive with us and to make room for differences. Therefore, in 2022 we partnered with the Sunflower Scheme to show our support for people with hidden disabilities and to educate and bring more awareness on these disabilities amongst our employees. Internally, through the Balance Initiative, we have partnered up with Inspired Beyond Babies for the past years. This initiative is a network that allows people on parental leave to stay connected to the work environment, to get inspired by different speakers and grow their network. We also continue our partnership with Above and Beyond, and through this organization, we are members of the Diversity Council. Also, in 2022, and for the third year in a row, we were the proud partners of Copenhagen Pride. Internally, KPMG QueerSpace, our employee-led organisation that focuses on creating an inclusive workplace and equality for all, has focused on further educating our employees on good allyship through videos, newsletters, and articles.
It’s difficult to say what has been the most effective, as each effort gives great value both internally and externally.