From Parkville to PwC: Liza Maimone’s career roadmap for success
In March 2020, as the impacts of the COVID-19 rippled around the world, University of Melbourne alum Liza Maimone stepped into the role of Chief Operating Officer at Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC).
Liza is no stranger to challenges. She was one of the only female chemical engineering students in her class in the 1990s. She forged her own path in environmental consulting when the field was embryonic.
The start of her career journey lies in a rather mundane moment – an overheard conversation as a young woman.
“My dad told one of my brothers he should be an engineer and that got me thinking, ooh, that sounds pretty interesting!”
A few years later, as a Year 10 student, Liza’s visit to the University of Melbourne’s Parkville campus sealed the deal.
“I think it was the beer making in the Chemical Engineering Department. It made me realise that [as an engineer] I’d get to learn about how things are made, real things. I thought an engineering degree could lead to lots of different options for me.”
After completing a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering with Honours (1993) and a postgraduate diploma in Energy and Resources Law (1998), Liza began her career as an environmental consultant at Egis Consulting (now part of GHD).
Climate conversation in the early-2000s did not happen at the same scale or with the same urgency as they do today. Nevertheless, Liza’s passion for the area led her to working with a broad range of energy and resources companies to discuss the future of climate change and their possible climate responses.
Not soon after, an exciting opportunity came up to specialise in environment consulting in professional services with Arthur Andersen.
“One of the main reasons I said yes was seeing the impact I could have at the C-suite level. For me, it was all about how I could actually create change and one way to do this is by having a high level of connection to the boardroom table and influence decision makers.”
This type of influence is exactly what Liza has gained since. Joining PwC in 2008, on top of providing professional advice and assurance services to clients, she has led PwC’s Canberra office, led the consulting business of PwC nationally and last year took on the role of COO.
In reflection of her experiences, Liza is filled with gratitude at both how far she has come and that she has not left the client work behind.
“I am so grateful for the experiences I’ve had. Even now, I still get to support clients and that is why I joined consulting in the first place! It’s about that opportunity to learn, grow and help others. I love it.”
Liza doesn’t gloss over any of the challenges she has faced as a woman in a senior leadership position.
[Saying yes to entering environmental consulting] was all about how I could actually create change and one way to do this is by having a high level of connection to the boardroom table and influence decision makers
“Something that I've tried to try to think about when I'm in the middle of a really crunchy conversation is that things are not personal. This is not about me, it’s about the issues, so how do we work through that together? That can make a real difference.”
Another key skill Liza emphasises as one being crucial to where she is today is staying open to new opportunities that came her way.
When she was approached to relocate to Canberra and work in an area of the business she was unfamiliar with, despite never having lived outside of Melbourne, she was soon packing her bags with family in tow.
“The opportunity came out of blue and the role required me to lead our federal government business. My background was not in government, but I saw it as a chance for me to learn. I learnt how politics works, how to take custody of an office myself, lead internally and drive external activity.
“I'm really proud of taking the opportunity because it put me out of my comfort zone in so many ways.”
By successfully growing the business in Canberra, the opportunities rolled on.
“I’ve always tried to keep stretching myself and to keep learning. The next thing will come because you let people know that you're open to try new things. Whenever I talk to people, I say take the opportunity that comes in front of you, whatever they may be.”
Liza admits that this isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Nor does she hide the fact that time is a very scarce resource in her life spread thinly between work, family and time for herself.
“Every step of the way has been challenging” she admits before she smiles and says, “but it’s not fun any other way!”