UIC Business Alumnus Honored as 2017 Business Leader of Color

Mike Maali at PwC

Mike Maali speaks to UIC Business Scholars at a 2016 event hosted by PwC.
Mike Maali, BS ’88, is a Partner and the Midwest Regional Leader in Risk Assurance at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in Chicago. UIC Business caught up with Maali after he was honored by Chicago United as a 2017 Business Leader of Color.  Maali talked about his time at UIC, the importance of diversity in the workplace, and his advice for current students. 

 

Maali came to UIC in 1984, eventually earning a degree in Accounting.  For Maali, a first generation American and college student growing up on Chicago’s southwest side, navigating college admissions and career development was a challenge.

“It’s hard to coach someone in something you haven’t done yourself before,” Maali says, “I will say this though, that my parents, for both not having college educations managed to make sure that all four of their kids went to college and graduated, and never made it optional.” This experience as a UIC student has inspired his continued involvement in guiding and coaching current students.
 
“Any chance I get to talk to students or groups of students to share my own experiences, I take, because I really do believe that a lot of them are in the same boat I was several years ago,” says Maali.

During college, Maali dedicated much of his time to class and working at his family’s business, but has fond memories of playing with his intramural softball team in three championship games, one of the many campus activities that he knows have only expanded since his time at UIC.

“That’s one of the things that I really enjoy seeing when I come on campus now. It’s changed a lot with more opportunities now than there were then. There is a strong campus feel to the school,” Maali observes.

Maali now leads PwC’s on-campus recruiting program with UIC Business that has evolved throughout his 17 years as a partner at the firm.  The PwC Honors Program, targeted at Chicago university freshmen and sophomores, gives students the opportunity to come to the PwC office three times throughout an academic year and learn about the profession.  The goal is to introduce students to the field of accounting and get them thinking about internships as early as possible.

“We have just got to get to these kids and make them aware that this starts freshman year,” Maali suggests, “You can’t wait until the spring semester of your last year to start thinking about a job.”  Maali spearheaded the creation of the formal PwC recruiting program at UIC. He continues to be impressed with the quality of applicants he interviews at on-campus events powered by a strong relationship with the Business Career Center.

Talking about a recent recruiting event, Maali remembers, “I interviewed eight students. If I had the numbers, I would’ve invited all eight of them back for a second interview.”  From his continued involvement on campus, Maali has seen the expansion of UIC Business student services, including the formation of the Business Scholars program and formalization of the professional development curriculum completed under Dean Michael Mikhail’s direction. 

“I think the college has done a phenomenal job of educating people and really being there,” says Maali, “The number of touch points that are available over the course of the year is huge.” Maail emphasizes that with the availability of these excellent resources from UIC Business, it is up to individual students to take advantage of them. 

“Start positioning yourself from freshman year with all the resources that are available to really educate you and to plan your life after school,” Maali suggests. Asked to share advice with UIC Business students just starting off in their careers, he recommends learning to be flexible and embrace change.
 
Maali says, “Be flexible in the way you view potential experiences. It’s not all about a straight line. Sometimes you’re going to wander off the line and experience things that are not necessarily directly related to what your end goals are, but those experiences will make you better as a whole.  Be open to opportunities that will make you a well-rounded individual.”

This October, Maali was named to the list of 2017 Business Leaders of Color by Chicago United.  Biennially, this group is selected to represent remarkable professionals who drive transformational change in the city’s business community.  Maali was nominated as a result of his community involvement, recruiting work at UIC Business, his leadership in PwC’s diversity program, and his individual professional success.

Reflecting on this accomplishment, Maali says, “My view is that diversity is not just an initiative. To me it is about an acceptance that we live in a world that is comprised of all different people and you don’t all have to be the same to be successful and relevant. When I think about being part of [the Business Leaders of Color] group, I look at that as evidence of that belief.” 

He sees the diversity of UIC’s student body as predictor of future success for alumni and a strength to be highlighted by the school.

Maali says, “To be successful, organizations must attract talent that is diverse: diversity of experience, diversity of ethnic backgrounds, diversity of religions, diversity of gender. When I think about the student population at UIC along all these points, it’s an incredible group of kids.”