For many professionals, career satisfaction is years in the making. For Dot Proux ’86, a single meeting was the catalyst that sparked professional passion and altered the trajectory of her career.
In 2000, soon after entering the partnership pipeline in the tax division of Ernst and Young, Proux attended her first executive meeting. The youngest person and the only nonpartner present, she found that her perspective was completely different from the other attendees’; as a result, her ideas were quickly discounted by the group.
“For the first time,” she said, “I experienced how a corporate culture could impede me simply because I was different from the majority. Because my opinion was unique, the group-think dynamic made it seem invalid, effectively making my contributions disappear. I left that meeting discouraged and doubting my abilities.”
Feeling disenfranchised was new for Proux, who was already a seasoned tax professional and a leader in the company’s Grand Rapids, Michigan, branch. With eight years as a tax accountant at Arthur Andersen and five years as a senior manager at Ernst and Young, her insights were widely respected among her staff and supervisors.
Once the initial shock wore off, Proux attacked the problem with the logic of an accountant, researching the psychological motivation behind group dynamics and cultural change. “When I removed the personal, emotional aspect and considered the factors that were in play, I was able to encounter the resistance to change without being defensive,” she said.
Proux discovered that she hadn’t been wrong in the meeting—she was simply the minority, faced with the unwitting psychic resistance of the majority. After talking to women and other minority employees in the company, Proux had an “aha!” moment. “I realized that when more perspectives are heard, the solution is exponentially stronger.”
"For the first time, I experienced how a corporate culture could impede me simply because I was different from the majority."
This realization sparked a passion for diversity and inclusion that brought her work to life. “It is difficult to describe how fulfilling it is when you can pour the conviction of your belief into your work,” she said.
Proux became a force of cultural change at Ernst and Young, advocating the business sense of including a wider range of perspectives in the decision-making process. As the leader of the Midwest State and Local Tax practice, she served as the Midwest Sub-Area Gender Equity Leader and was a member of the Americas Inclusiveness Advisory Committee. “When more perspectives are heard, the energy in a room goes up dramatically, everyone feels accountable, and there is more brainstorming,” she said. “The end result is more tactical and robust because it is based on collective wisdom.”
In 2007, Ernst and Young created a new, hybrid position for Proux to maximize her abilities in both taxes and employee development. As the Americas director for EYU tax and resource management, she is in charge of tax practices and learning and development for the Americas. She oversees the staff pool and develops the strategy for learning and development, making sure that teams can lead inclusively in a global environment.
Proux is passionate about mentoring employees and leading cultural change initiatives that improve the environment and boost the success of the business. “The culture at Ernst and Young has changed considerably since that meeting in 2000, and I am proud to have had a hand in it,” she said. “The company has always been forward-thinking for women; now, we can maximize the potential of all employees and stay competitive globally.”
Proux credits her family as a driving force behind her success. Her husband, Dave ’87, a mechanical engineering graduate, gave up a successful career to stay home with the couple’s three children while she pursued partnership. “Without the support of my family, my career would have taken a different path,” said Proux. “They saw my potential even when I didn’t and gave me the courage to test my limits.”
In the time she has free from work, Proux enjoys her family and advocates animal welfare in her community. Inspired by her love for her own two dogs, she fundraises for the Puppy Mill Project, which aims to educate pet stores on the dangers of buying dogs raised in the abusive conditions of puppy mills.
Proux advises Michigan Tech students to begin preparing for their careers well before graduation. “College isn’t just playtime any more; it’s a tough job market and students must take advantage of everything that will differentiate them from other candidates,” she said. Crucial factors include a strong GPA, leadership roles, and work experience.
Again, Proux returns to passion. “Find something you are passionate about and find ways to be a leader. Great things happen when work meets passion.”
Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.