'Sharing your plans shouldn't be scary ...'
Have a plan and make it known: I think accounting firms are really unique — the general preference is to hire someone and have them stay on to become a partner. Adopt that mindset in the beginning and invest in your plan. I started talking to other partners and learned I needed to speak up and let it be known that I wanted to be partner. Sharing your plans shouldn't be scary — they want to invest in you and they want you to stay. Ask for responsibility; don't just wait for people to hand it to you. If someone asks if you can do something, always tell them yes and then go figure out how to do it.
Advice to women who aspire to leadership roles: Find a mentor that looks like you. For me at one time, there was no one in the firm who looked like me in a leadership role. A male partner at my firm encouraged me to find a mentor outside the firm, which ended up being a partner in a law firm. Find a mentor who has achieved what you hope to achieve. If that person doesn't exist in your firm, expand your mindset. Be willing to have multiple mentors if needed.
Growing demand for client accounting services: A few years into my time at the firm I was working on QuickBooks consulting, which we considered a technology service. Over time, I found it really was client accounting services. I was a small business consultant to businesses who knew nothing about accounting, and I fell in love with it. Ultimately, we reimagined our services and combined technology and consulting into our Advisory team. Over the past 10 years, Advisory has become the largest department in our firm. When we began, it was viewed as filler work during quiet times, but we quickly realized we needed to place full-time emphasis on this work. We dedicated a group of employees, and it took off. If we didn't have work, we were tasked with finding ways to help our clients. For example, I co-branded a series of seminars with bankers. I would pick up five to six clients from those seminars and built my business. Once I built that externally, people internally saw the benefits.
Future changes due to the pandemic: When employees started working from home, there was a lot of talk that organizations would not need additional office space in the future. However, as time has progressed, I think that sentiment has evolved. For example, my audit department recently asked how we could get everyone back in the office at some level. I think we'll be more open-minded in the future to blended work options. We've learned employees can stay connected, and some are even more successful at home.
Favorite production: Hamilton.
Favorite app: Marco Polo.
Favorite item to keep on your desk: A talking stress toy that says "relax, calm down now, don't stress, take it easy." My kids loved playing with it when they were little, and it reminds me of them.
— As told to Lea Hart, a freelance writer based in Virginia. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Ken Tysiac, the JofA's editorial director, at Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com.