Laura Fulton ’85 wears many hats: she’s a mom, a wife, a Sunday school teacher, and also the general auditor of one of the top three chemical companies in the nation. Fulton returned to her alma mater recently to talk with students at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School about a career in accounting and about finding a work-life balance that makes that career worthwhile.
Laura Fulton ’85 recently spoke to Mays students about finding a balance between one’s personal and professional lives.Fulton spoke to an auditorium full of freshman in an introduction to business course, as well as ten Business Honors students over breakfast. To both groups, her message was the same: don’t make a big salary the number one priority that drives your career. Instead, find a job you like, with coworkers you can learn from, and a company you respect and that respects you.
“If you work hard and do your best, those opportunities will come to you, and the salary will follow,” said Fulton, who is currently the general auditor of Lyondell, a chemical company headquartered in Houston.
In the 11 years Fulton has been with the company, she has seen it grow from a $5 billion local operation, to a multinational conglomerate worth more than $20 billion, with facilities in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Fulton manages a team of auditors in Houston and in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. She spoke about the challenges of working with employees with a different culture and a seven-hour time lag. “You’ve got to be very open-minded, and respectful of other cultures,” she said, in addition to having great communication, which she sees as the key to successful leadership. “When you have a common vision, it is possible to be very, very successful,” she said.
Fulton told how the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) legislation of 2002 has changed the accounting world and her job as an internal auditor. Accurate and detailed reporting was already part of the company’s procedure at Lyondell, she said, so the new regulation was not as hard to adjust to for them as it was for some other companies. Instead of a hardship, Fulton viewed SOX as a chance to shine as she set about creating and implementing a new process without disrupting the day-to-day processes that kept things running. “It was really a tremendous opportunity for me to sit down with the CEO and CFO and discuss a process created by my team that personally benefited them, giving them the understanding needed to sign the required certifications,” she said.
Prior to her time at Lyondell, Fulton spent 11 years working at Deloitte & Touche as a CPA. She serves on two Mays advisory boards: the Mays Fellows program and the Department of Accounting.