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THE LAST WORD

Shannon Stith, CPA, CGMA

Senior Planning Associate, Boise Inc., Boise, Idaho

April 2013

Shannon Stith, CPA, CGMAI wake up early and try to make the most of my day. I’m usually at work before 7. I don’t take a traditional lunch break. I make sure to get to the gym, then I pick up my son and spend a good, quality three hours with him. I might have an evening event with the Junior League of Boise, or I might work more if it’s the busy season.

My local volunteering takes about 40 hours a month. My role on the AICPA Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee (WIEC) is 10–30 hours a month, depending on travel. I think work/life balance was a big buzzword probably about 10 years ago, and I don’t think you truly have balance all the time. It’s all about integrating everything—work, family, and volunteering.

The biggest benefit for me in volunteering is knowing that someone is being improved. Maybe it’s the young girl who went through the Junior League’s “Especially Me!” training, which is a course where we talk to tweens about self-esteem, life changes, bullying, and social media. When I know that that girl wasn’t able to ask her mom a very difficult question, and we can answer that question in a safe environment, that’s meaningful.

Through the Junior League, I’m able to volunteer at The Idaho Foodbank, where we stuff backpacks for kids. We give them two evening meals, two lunches, and two breakfasts, so kids have food for the weekend. They don’t see us, but we know we’ve helped out a child. I know that I’m giving back to the community where there is a need, a need that people don’t always talk about.

I guess I got into accounting when my mom asked me to start looking at her checkbook when I was 12 or 13. She’s not financially savvy; she’s more the science side. I had opened my first checking account around that time—I had a paper route, so I needed to put my money somewhere. After that, she realized I could do math, and she had me balance her checkbook. Since then, I’ve loved doing accounting and numbers.

I originally was going to school to be in commodities or brokerage trading. I was a finance major. Later, I thought about maybe going to law school, so I got my paralegal certification and dabbled in the law. The attorneys I was working for said, “You know what? We need an office manager.” So I took that on and started doing their books and realized, working with the CPAs in town, that I really had a knack for it. I thought I should explore that side more. I kept working for them while I finished my MBA. I began studying for the CPA exam in fall 2008, and I received my certification in 2009.

I started working for an education company that was public and needed help with SEC filings. I was assistant CFO and got promoted to CFO a little more than a year later. I’ve also worked as a VP of finance for a pharmaceutical company, going through a divestiture, and now I’m working on a budget implementation program at Boise Inc. (which manufactures paper and packaging products). I went full circle from college to a CFO to now in a very large organization being part of the IT side. You can do pretty much anything with accounting.

Mentoring is important because I feel that a lot of individuals my age or younger—I’m in my mid-30s—often think we’re just pieces of a puzzle. We don’t meaningfully contribute to the overall picture, like we’re just here to keep things going, like a part of a machine. I think it’s important that we have mentors and serve as mentors. Just as the more experienced generation can help us grow personally and professionally, we can help them understand things, whether it’s technology, or work/life integration.

Boise Inc. and Boise State University had a mentoring program, and I was asked to speak about financial planning and budgeting. One of the individuals reached out to me about 18 months ago, and I started to mentor her on an informal basis. We probably meet once a quarter; we’ll have lunch, talk about how school’s going. She’s now an intern at Boise Inc., and she’s starting to make a decision on what she wants to do with her career. It’s been fun and rewarding to watch her grow and change.

As told to Neil Amato, namato@aicpa.org,
 a
JofA senior editor.

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