DuPont has a history of looking to the future, guided by transformational leadership. It’s a culture where EY alumni feel right at home.
As Vice President and Controller for DuPont, EY alumnus Mike Goss has navigated wave after wave of change. He spoke with Connect about what it takes for organizations — and people — to thrive in this transformative age.
Describe your journey from EY to DuPont.
I joined EY in the Philadelphia office right after graduation in 1997 and had a great experience there, working with some terrific people. It was at the 14-year mark that I began to think about doing something different. It was the right time for me to start a new chapter, continuing to grow professionally while leveraging my experience to that point in my career.
As I began to explore and pursue opportunities, I hadn’t initially thought about DuPont, but the more I learned about the company, the clearer it became that this was the type of organization I was interested in. The culture, very similar to EY’s, is one of the main aspects that attracted me. DuPont is a company that promotes innovative thinking and true leadership. Being able to work with a team of people who demonstrate that, in an environment that encourages it, motivates me every day.
When I joined DuPont’s finance team, there were only a few peers who had joined from the Big Four firms. I was one of the first to join from EY, and I was a bit of a “test case.” Many of the people I met in those early days had been with DuPont for 20 years or more, a clear indication of the strength of its culture and history. But DuPont’s comfort with hiring from outside has evolved, particularly those joining from professional services and consulting firms. Over the past several years, I am proud to say that a number of EY people have joined our team, as DuPont understands the value of an EY professional — that the firm builds transformative leaders — and that certainly makes me proud.
What lessons have you learned along the way that have helped you become the leader you are today?
EY prepared me so well to work in industry, and I’m grateful to the firm for that career foundation. It took a little while, but sometime during that first year at DuPont, I started to get that feeling that we all want when we get up and go to work: the feeling that DuPont wasn’t just my “new house,” but rather my “new home.” The transition to DuPont felt natural because of the EY foundation that I was able to carry with me.
The real-life experiences and training that you receive at EY provide core elements of leadership from a very early stage of your career. First and foremost is the importance of listening. Being able to talk to clients and our teams, and really listen to what they’re telling us, is critical.
Second, adaptability is extraordinarily valuable. At the firm, you work with a great variety of clients and colleagues. To be successful, you need to learn to handle different situations and adapt to individual styles. Given all the transformation that DuPont has gone through over the past few years — completing the merger with Dow Chemical in 2017, and then spinning Dow as well as Corteva in the same quarter this year — adaptability has been essential.
Finally, you have to be able to work well with different levels of leadership within an organization. At EY, you’re asked to connect with stakeholders at all ranks across client companies, and that ability has really enabled my growth at DuPont.
Who are some of the EY people who had or have a significant impact on your life and career?
So many EY people have helped and continue to positively influence my life and career, and chief among them are Chris Bruner, Gerry Emery, Pat Pruitt, Greg Doyle, John McGonigal, Brian Ford and Bob Ford.
The power of the EY network has always been clear to me, and it continues to make a difference in my career. In fact, EY’s relationship reach never surprises me. I was at an event recently that included more than a half-dozen people who were remarking that their common ground was that they all had worked for Bob Ford at some point in their career. And the kicker was that the final person to speak up happened to be Bob’s own son! That special moment reflects the fact that the firm’s culture is so strong around those enduring and meaningful relationships.
The importance of relationships has been a theme that’s continued here at DuPont. I’ve truly benefited from all the dynamic change that’s occurred, and relationships have been central to that.
Can you tell us the top issues the new DuPont faces as it evolves in the transformative age?
First is the impact of technology on everything that we do, and we’re not alone in this. We’re very focused on digital transformation, especially using robotics to do things better, faster and cheaper. It’s not easy for an organization to gauge its progress, but I recently attended a conference with several peers from other organizations, where we talked about the impact of technology, and on the basis of the conversations I had there, I’m proud to say that we’re doing pretty well. We’re heading in the right direction, but we need to maintain that focus and accelerate our digital transformation.
Second, we’re taking a hard look at how we are building, sharing and expanding our knowledge base. Things are changing so rapidly, and we’ve got to make sure that our people have the right skills and experiences to be successful.
Versatility and agility are also becoming more important than ever before. With all the change that we’ve gone through organizationally, that ability to share and build knowledge and capabilities in a consistent way has been and will continue to be a critical success factor.
What’s your North Star as you navigate through all this change?
We’re moving beyond our history as a chemical company and focusing on something broader: how we’re transforming industries, and the world, as we transform ourselves.
We’re proud of our 200 years of innovation, and in this new era our focus is on transforming everyday life and doing the right thing organically. That means creating smarter homes, enabling healthier lifestyles, improving worker safety — real-world solutions that help people thrive.
If there’s a key to the role EY has played as DuPont explores innovation, what is it?
We’re especially interested in fresh perspectives, and Rob Myers, Sue Chevins, Anna Bourne and the rest of the EY team are helping us examine the ways that we’re getting things done, asking better questions to help us innovate as we live our values.
What makes you so passionate about what you do, and what gets you excited to conquer the next challenge?
It’s all about having an impact that is bigger than myself. The cultures of DuPont and of EY are fundamental in inspiring us to think about that bigger picture and lead our teams down new and exciting paths. We’ve got an important role to play, and we’ve got to hang on to that strongly.
Where do you find fulfillment away from DuPont?
Family is number one. Beyond doing special things together like traveling, I’m happy just focusing on the kids’ ongoing growth and enjoying all the stages of life.
What do you hope your legacy will be?
I’ve never liked the concept of a legacy, so I try to keep it simple: I hope to leave the organization better than I found it. So, I work to improve everything I touch, and I do so as part of a team, always thinking about my impact on DuPont and our people.