Alumni Spotlight

Perseverance Leads Alumna to a Successful Career at KPMG

Jeannette Wistner ’94, M’99

Jeanette Wistner, Philadelphia University, KPMG

Jeannette Wistner ’94, M’99 arrived to Philadelphia University knowing she wanted to major in accounting. Wistner liked the University because it had reputable accounting program, offered smaller classes, and had the attributes of a college campus which allowed her to integrate into college life and not feel like a number. She took her first tax course with James Solano, CPA, Associate Professor of Accounting and “absolutely loved it”. She went on to take a second tax class and was hooked. During that time, Wistner decided she wanted to pursue a Masters in Taxation. She earned her undergraduate degree in accounting. Her interactions with professors and the ability to find and work various internships led Wistner to her career in taxation. “I wish she was still in my class,” said Solano. He recalls Wistner as a great student who was very smart and always prepared. Today, Wistner is partner at KPMG.

Getting to where she is today took a lot of hard work and perseverance. Early on, Wistner learned the importance of making connections. She was part of Delta Sigma Pi, a co-ed business fraternity which integrated college life, helped her build relationships, but most importantly, exposed her to the business world. Wistner began her career in Philadelphia with a Big 4 accounting firm right after graduation. She left the firm two years later and moved to KPMG when she was told she would not be considered for an international assignment until she became manager. At KPMG she started to work in the area of expatriate taxation. Wistner thought it was essential for her to become an expat herself in order to obtain first-hand experience. Shortly after she started with the firm, she was on an assignment in Paris. She returned to Philadelphia and worked a few years before she found herself on the move once again. “As I progressed through the staff and manager levels to partner, I found opportunities to grow and develop in various KPMG offices,” said Wistner. She has also worked in Seattle, Miami and currently in Orange County, California.

Having the opportunity to travel for work allowed Wistner to appreciate the people and culture. “Every place is so different and presents its own set of challenges both personally and professionally,” she explained. Wistner admits she gets bored easily so a challenge is exciting. She also spend a significant amount of time traveling internationally for clients in Europe, Africa, South America and Asia.

People are what make Wistner’s job rewarding. “Working with a client to achieve better results or simply to help them understand is a great feeling,” noted Wistner. Having the ability to grow and develop staff into managers and managers into directors is also rewarding.

 Wistner has come across a few challenges throughout her career but one of the greater challenges she faced was when she moved to Miami. At the time, she was a senior manager and was given the opportunity to lead a small group of people who had recently lost their leader. The individuals in the group were all native Spanish speakers who moved to the U.S. from Central and South America. “As a non-Spanish speaking female, the cards were stacked against me,” she said. Although business was conducted in English, the group was very close and were not open to non-Spanish speaking outsiders. “I figured the only way I was going to gain their acceptance and trust was to first start learning Spanish, and two, try and spend time getting to know them as individuals and not as employees.” That took a lot of time and effort, and by the time Wistner left Miami, she had established some of the strongest relationships she had ever developed in her career. She is still in touch with each of the team members from that group, even the ones who have moved on from KPMG.

When Wistner is not working at KPMG, she spends her time with United Cerebral Palsy of Orange County, a non-profit organization that provides therapy to children with all types of disabilities. “As a member of the board and executive committee, it is amazing to see the work that can be done, and the success that children can have when the right therapy is provided at the earliest stages.”

Wistner is someone who can’t sit still. She does not like a schedule that is exactly the same everyday so she needs to balance her weeks. There are days that are more work focused and others when she focuses on her personal life. “It comes down to what is really important to me, and if it is important, I will find a way to fit it in,” explained Wistner. Sometimes, that means saying “no” to another work dinner, meeting or event, which she finds difficult to do. When balancing her personal life, she enjoys traveling with her husband, running, skiing and reading.

Wistner has reached success by doing the right thing and perseverance. “At the end of the day, I need to feel good about what I have done.” Her advice to others, “Don’t ever be afraid to take on a new challenge. You never know where it may take you and what you may find, but at the very least, you are likely to learn something new about yourself.”