Twenty years ago, John Zamora, senior audit partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP, was like many of today’s students: juggling work and school, eager to graduate yet trying to figure out what came next.
The juggling and hard work paid off handsomely. Zamora is the National Managing Partner of the East Region of Deloitte & Touche. In that role, he oversees an audit practice that extends across the entirety of the east coast from Boston to Miami. He also serves as the lead client service partner for global private and public companies, focusing on the tourism, hospitality and leisure, real estate and private equity industries. Zamora, who earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting at Florida International University’s College of Business, is also focused on giving back to the community and has served as Deloitte’s chief diversity officer.
Zamora spoke to students, alumni and faculty on October 9 at the semester’s second Herbert A. Wertheim Lecture. His thoughts on leadership, career success, the future of accounting, as well as the preparation he got from his alma mater, were appreciated by the audience of over 100.
“One of the biggest impacts of my career are the lessons I learned at FIU,” he said. And that included not only a strong academic component but also professional mentoring and examples of leadership.
“Working and going to school helped me learn how to do a lot of different things (at one time),” he said. “It was really hard, but it helped me prepare for life.” He now looks for those same qualities when evaluating talent.
Teaching the lessons of leadership.
Along with his personal journey, Zamora distilled for his audience lessons learned on leadership. They are: have a purpose; make the tough decisions; effect change; be a steward; and build relationships.
Purpose, Zamora said, encompasses an appreciation of the role the accounting profession plays in protecting capital markets and the investing public, along with the satisfaction of mentoring less-experienced colleagues.
Making tough decisions could entail standing up to bosses or clients; effecting change means pushing the status quo; good stewardship focuses on leaving things better than you found them. But building relationships is key. “Invest in each other. The power of relationships will remove the barriers to what seems like an impossible task,” he said.
Still, the hallmark of leadership is putting others’ needs before oneself, he emphasized, advising students not to think – or talk about – the next rung on the ladder, but double down on the current opportunity. “True leaders worry about everybody else,” he said. And, in turn, people will help you when they get the chance, and doors will open.
Students took the opportunity to ask him about the nuts-and-bolts of life as an audit partner, his top challenges and the future of accounting, which like so many fields, is being transformed by technology.
“I would incorporate technology and big data analytics (classes), it’s the best thing you can do,” Zamora told students. Employers are wooing those with an understanding of data engineering, or information technology. Auditing and accounting, he explained, are increasingly moving toward using real-time transaction data rather than the traditional statistical sampling model.
Zamora had an appreciative audience interested in both his career path and insights.
“I really enjoyed hearing about his personal experience, and the way he applies leadership, and finding out more about the company itself,” said Zsofia Labady, who is working on her master’s of accounting degree.
Added Clifford Jean-Baptiste, a marketing junior, “As John explained what he overcame as a student and being the first to go to college – it was very inspiring.”