Jan 7, 2019
Women in Public Affairs to Know: Mary Moore Hamrick
This interview is part of a series on “Women in Public Affairs to Know,” by the McGuireWoods Consulting Women in Public Affairs initiative. To learn more about the initiative or recommend a woman for a future interview, please visit our website.
Mary Moore Hamrick leads Grant Thornton’s public policy and government affairs efforts, based in Washington, D.C. She is the firm’s primary liaison with members of Congress and other policy makers, regulators and the accounting profession’s standards-setters -- ensuring that Grant Thornton’s policy positions are well represented. Hamrick is a member of Grant Thornton’s U.S. enterprise leadership team and chair of the firm’s Political Action Committee. Hamrick has more than 25 years of experience working for and with Congress.
The interview below was conducted by Michele Satterlund, senior vice president on McGuireWoods Consulting’s state government relations team.
U.S. Capitol Historical Society (USCHS) Board Chair, Don Carlson; National Managing Principal of Public Policy, Mary Moore Hamrick; Ways & Means Committee Chief Trade Counsel and Trade Subcommittee Staff Director of the U.S. House of Representatives, Angela Ellard; Democratic Tax Counsel, House Committee on Ways & Means and Democratic Staff Director, Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures, Aruna Kalyanam; Chief Tax Counsel for Ranking Member Ron Wyden’s staff in the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, Tiffany Smith at a USCHS panel
Q: Tell me about a “day in the life” of working in public affairs and government relations at Grant Thornton?
Mary Moore Hamrick: I am so fortunate to work for an accounting firm like Grant Thornton. We are one of the global six accounting firms and we have fantastic partners, managing directors and a wonderful public policy team here in Washington. I have the best job in the firm as an ambassador in Washington and beyond. Each day is very, very different. I am probably traveling half of the year because half of my time is spent sharing information with clients about what is going on in Washington and the other half is spent working with our team in Washington to create a better business environment for Grant Thornton and our clients.
Q: I first heard you speak at a health care conference a year ago. I was so impressed with your presentation and delivery that I knew I had to profile you. Can you talk about your very first public speech and how you prepared, and can you share what you’ve done to hone your public speaking skills?
MMH: You know, I have to smile. My very first public speech was at the request of my dad to speak to his Rotary Club in Shelby, North Carolina, my hometown. I had just finished my first job working in Cleveland for International Management Group. And I probably just wrote out my speech and asked my dad what his fellow Rotarians would want to hear. Today, I would probably do the same thing – ask the person requesting my speaking skills, “What does the audience want to hear?” and really give them something that they would want. I have tried to become more authentic in my speaking and to know my subject material as well as possible. That often means speaking from bullets or seeing a slide of background material that I’ve studied so I can speak directly and in a conversational manner. One of the best speakers in Washington is David Rubenstein, the CEO of the Economic Club of Washington. I am a member of the club and have watched him interview CEOs like Jeff Bezos. I’ve learned from the questions that David asks, which are very good and authentic.
Q: You mentioned that you learn from others and I’m curious how that translates physically? Have you learned to hold your hands in a certain position or stand in a certain way? Do you think about these physical elements when you speak publicly?
Mary Moore Hamrick speaks with Diane Swonk at the CPE Conference
MMH: Yes. I have spoken before our firm leadership meeting for many years now and had coaching from some of the best. It is often making eye contact with someone at the back of your audience and with different people within the audience. It is being thoughtful about moving from one spot to the other in a natural fashion, then standing at that one spot. But it is also being comfortable as you are giving your presentation. If you don’t have a little butterflies before you go on the stage, then I don’t think you are human. You should get yourself psyched to do a good job for your audience. I think it is very natural to have some butterflies or minor nerves. But I think it is having the confidence in your subject matter, knowing the group that you are speaking before and knowing that you are there to entertain and educate. There is nothing more poisonous than going to a very boring speech. It can be the smartest speech in the world. But if it is in a monotonous tone or you’re not entertaining your audience, they are not going to hear your content or grasp the good thought leadership you are trying to share.
Q: Moving on from public speaking, can you talk about the biggest disruptions or advancements within your industry and how Grant Thornton is preparing?
MMH: I think that technology in general is the biggest disruptor, not only of the accounting profession, but of all industries in general. The successful firms, companies and businesses are going to be those that understand how technology either changes or disrupts your business and how you can harness that to do a better job or change the way in which you do your job going forward. In the accounting profession, we’ve got to deal with how more and more data is being processed on a quicker basis and how that will change how we audit, do consulting work or tax work. For me personally, in the public affairs world, I approach my day very differently. I have tried to look at how technology can assist me in what I do because there is more published in a day than I can read in a lifetime. I have to figure out what news I need to consume and how to get it in an efficient and effective manner.
Mary Moore Hamrick with Charlie Cook
I now have an Alexa that I get a news feed on. I listen to The Washington Post Daily 202 and get an instantaneous download of all of President Trump’s tweets from the day before. I also listen to the Wall Street Journal Minute, and the Harvard Business Review tip of the day. Because Grant Thornton is the professional service provider for the PGA Tour, I always like to end with the Golf Channel. We partner with Ricky Fowler, and I am an avid golfer. So as I go about my learning, I try to make it fun. There is no reason we can’t make technology and learning fun and enhance our skills and our knowledge set.
Q: If you knew what you know now, what would you have done differently at the start of your career in public affairs?
MMH: The first thing that comes to mind is that our world is so much more global than I conceived of when I began my career coming out of UNC’s business and law school. I was very domestically focused. I speak English and can barely read a French menu. If I was starting over, I would certainly develop my language skills. I would have developed an understanding for more countries and their economies and their populations at an earlier point in my career. I am very focused now globally. We have trade issues that impact not only the United States, but many of our clients doing business overseas. Our economies are interconnected. I would encourage people to understand and to think about the interconnectedness, to read the Financial Times, The Economist and to really think more globally as we consider geo-politics and the worldwide economies in which we operate.
Peter Slone, Kris Morris, Charlene Lake, Mary Moore Hamrick, Doug Pinkham, Peter Segall, from the Public Affairs Council Executive Committee
Q: And lastly, if you had several hours of alone time in a bookstore, what section would you visit?
MMH: Being a lifelong learner, I like to learn from other people and hear what other people have to say. From a fun perspective, I like to read authors like Michael Lewis, who wrote Money Ball and The Big Short, because he writes in a fun, educational and entertaining manner. We recently had Malcolm Gladwell speak at our firm leadership meeting, and I loved his book, The Tipping Point, because it provides a different point of view on things. I like learning from people who have varying points of view. But to build on my global theme, I would probably go to the travel section. I recently was in Paris for the 100th anniversary of World War I with a bi-partisan congressional delegation. I would like to go back to Paris, so I would probably look at some tour guides for Paris, but also for Tuscany and Africa. I would love to do a safari in Africa at some point. I would spend some time in the travel section after I picked up some books with interesting points of view to take with me on those travels to other continents.