Stepping outside of one’s comfort zone almost always results in growth. The professionals that advance the most in their careers are often masters at pushing their personal comfort zones. These people welcome situations that are novel, high-stakes, or challenging, recognizing that these situations will lead to growth. Within minutes of meeting Russell Mifsud, it is abundantly clear that he embodies this type of growth mindset.
Mifsud, a director and the head of gaming at KPMG Malta, credits his career progression thus far to his ability and desire to grow from discomfort. In fact, his move to KPMG roughly eight years ago from an affiliate role within the industry was driven by his desire to shift from a position that he was comfortable in.
“After having done the affiliate role for about three and half years I was quite comfortable,” explains Mifsud. “I wasn’t getting butterflies.”
After taking some time off to reflect and re-energize, a fortuitous introduction to KPMG by a friend sent Mifsud down an unexpected career path.
“My immediate reaction was, ‘KPMG, isn’t that an accountancy firm?’” jokes Mifsud.
After having conversations with two key partners and realizing that he could leverage both his professional experience within gaming and his formal education as an economist (Mifsud received a bachelor of science degree in economics and management with honors from the University of London), Mifsud started feeling the butterflies.
“I recognized it was a unique opportunity to be a part of a big organization and have the power of a strong brand but, at the same time, it’s almost like running your own business,” says Mifsud.
This dynamic setup at KPMG and the ever-changing nature of the industry has kept Mifsud on his toes, and allows him to continue to grow from discomfort.
When asked about mentors, Mifsud notes that while he didn’t meet him until roughly four years ago, Richard Schuetz has had an outsized impact on how Mifsud thinks about his career and the industry moving forward.
“The fact that he comes from the operational side of the industry, having held a number of senior-level positions while also having the regulatory appreciation and experience, provides an avenue of insight that I have never quite experienced,” Mifsud explains. “He’s a regular source of information and point of reference for me.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Mifsud challenges young professionals he interacts with to embrace discomfort and accept new challenges.
“You can’t be afraid to throw yourself into the deep end,” he says. For younger professionals working in larger organizations, like KPMG, Mifsud adds, “you’ve got a lot of smart people working there. You’ve got to find your niche, because that will allow you to set yourself apart from the rest of the organization and become that go-to specialist.”
Rather fittingly, Mifsud is most looking forward to learning more over the next 12 to 18 months.
“You learn one thing, you realize you don’t know a lot more,” says Mifsud. “The buzz of the ‘aha’ moment and being able to predict what could happen next is what makes it fun.”