Author: Dina Barabash, Content Development & Web Specialist
Even after Women’s History Month ended, we couldn’t help but take a moment to celebrate and discuss the women who changed the world for the better. Most specifically, the world we work in most often – the accounting profession. NASBA has always celebrated women and has proven this by placing them in leadership roles throughout the association and its board. In fact, in the last few years, NASBA celebrated women being named chair of the board two years in a row.
To continue honoring women and all that they do, we decided to have a little bit of March spill into April. Five outstanding women, who work in different capacities for NASBA, were recently interviewed. Their answers were so compelling, insightful and powerful, we decided to break this blog up into two parts. This is part one..
Take a moment to read and be inspired by the highlights shared by some of NASBA’s incredible women leaders, including: Katrina Salazar (KS), CPA; Jessica Luttrull (JL), CPA; Jeannette Smith (JS), CPA, CGMA; Connie Sheppard-Harris (CSH), CPA; and Lynn Hutchinson (LH), CPA, CGMA.
Tell us a little about yourself.
KS: I was appointed as a member to the California Board of Accountancy in 2012, where I served as president, vice president and secretary/treasurer. Today, I’m the CFO of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. I was drawn to being part of a profession, but love that this license opens doors to every industry…something few careers can boast of. When the opportunity arose, I was excited to serve my region on NASBA’s board.
JL: I have been with NASBA for 11 years and currently serve as the associate director of the National Registry of CPE Sponsors for NASBA, as well as staff liaison to the CPE Committee, the CPE Standards Working Group and the Regulatory Response Committee.
JS: I am the partner in charge of the Rio Unit of Carr, Riggs & Ingram LLC and managing partner with a focus in tax. My interest in joining the NASBA Board is a direct result of being a member of the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy.
CSH: I am the president of Sheppard-Harris & Associates, P.C., a privately owned accounting and consulting firm that I proudly founded in 1993. Additionally, I am chair/board member of the Alabama State Board of Public Accountancy, the Miles College Advisory Board and I volunteer my services to other civic organizations.
LH: I’ve served as CFO for Lincoln Builders since 1992. I joined NASBA’s board because I wanted to lead by example as a representative of the State Board of CPAs of Louisiana to show them that taking an active role in NASBA is important and good for our board.
What advice do you have for women starting out in their careers?
KS: Seek to be well-rounded in both your professional and personal life. This will look different for everyone, and change depending on where you are in your personal life and career. For me, when I started working, it looked like volunteering on a firm committee to help with an internal need, joining a professional organization, volunteering in the community, or brushing up on communication skills. You don’t have to do everything at once but make small amounts of progress each month in one or two areas. I think keeping an open mind to growth and change will help you recognize opportunities and give you the confidence to step forward.
JL: I would encourage female professionals starting out in their careers to keep an open mindset and take advantage of every opportunity for different experiences. One of these different experiences may open the door to an entirely different career path that you may never have otherwise considered.
JS: Stay true to yourself. Know your value. Hard work, perseverance, and listening will all lend to achieving your success.
CSH: I would advise females in this profession to make sure this is their passion. If it’s a passion, you’ll keep going when things get rough. I would also advise them to have a solid business plan and revise when necessary. The main advice would be to make time for family and realize that you don’t have to be perfect.
LH: Get involved in a group of your professional peers. The experience teaches you so much about your profession, your colleagues, and yourself. Make the time and take the opportunity to allow yourself to grow your communication and leadership skills as well as your professional skills. To advance in your profession, you will need to prove that you have more going for you than just book knowledge.
Who do you look up to for inspiration or mentorship?
JL: I have had a variety of mentors and people who have inspired me throughout my career. One of my current mentors challenges me to take on tasks that are outside of my comfort zone, which pushes me to learn continuously and take risks.
JS: In my career, I was lucky to work for a kind and gentle CPA who took me under his wing when I needed reassurance the most. He is now retired, but he always had a way of looking at the good in a situation. He was my mentor. My inspiration was my dad. A great person who would always say “everybody has an angle,” “just be smart and be true to yourself.” Dad always saw the good in a person and believed that others might just need a bit of help. He inspired me to lead by example, stay true to myself, treat others fair, and at the end of the day, just let it go. In my daily routine, I find inspiration in my two sons and daughter-in-law. When I am having a bad day, they provide my balance. Professionally, I continue to seek mentoring from within my profession, including from my partners.
CSH: My mentors are the ones who give me the most inspiration. My grandmother was the person in my life who continues to give me inspiration. She was an entrepreneur, and I watched her manage her business. She exposed me to being creditable and being trustworthy. This has been a trait that I carry on to my employees and interns. They get satisfaction the of knowing that you don’t have to cheat or be dishonest to make it in the business world.
LH: My twin sister has always been my inspiration. She’s at the top of her field professionally and she’s insightful, thinks beyond today, and then leads accordingly. She knows how to ask the questions that lead me to step out and take a chance on something new and face a challenge.
What is a challenge you face today and how have you overcome it?
KS: I had a very typical fear: public speaking. The first time I had to speak publicly was after high school, and I quickly realized being terrified to speak in front of a group would close a lot of doors for me. So, I found a newly forming Toastmasters group and started practicing. I participated for several months to get some of the basics but continued to work on it for years to get to a point where I am comfortable. Part of my strategy was to say “yes” if asked to speak and try to do so in as many different forums as possible. Today, whether in a meeting, a classroom, a live news show, webcast, or a conference, I’m much more comfortable. This idea of repeated exposure has worked for me in other areas as well. I’m also afraid of heights when they involve mountains. Snow skiing has helped me acclimate to both altitude and steep slopes. When I started, I couldn’t even look down the mountain to the base for a photo, but today, I love the views. More recently, my husband’s passion for off-roading got me “Jeeping” in western mountains where cliffs and ledges are common. I even drive quite a bit as well at these locations. I’ve also been a passenger in Colorado, but I’m not ready to drive on switchbacks at 12,000 feet…those drops are still stressful, but I’m working on it.
JL: I haven’t overcome the challenge but working to develop different skills to adapt to leading/managing a hybrid workforce. I am learning that I need to be more intentional about connecting with employees and relationship building – which happened more organically when in-person. Also, there needs to be deliberate focus on developing team culture and team building.
JS: Currently, our biggest challenge is finding competent staff for our current job openings. We continue to be faced with a shortage in labor force, a smaller pool of accounting candidates, while trying to avoid head hunting from outsiders. To overcome this trend, we have decided to make our CPA firm the best CPA firm in the area – especially when it comes to how employees are treated and rewarded. We have increased and improved our focus on the human aspect of the job allowing a better work/life balance.
CSH: This profession is forever changing – new standards, technology, etc. I overcome these challenges by keeping an open mind and by hiring young professionals.
LH: Today’s challenge was getting out of bed and pushing myself to get to the office. I hate the first few weeks of Daylight Savings Time when it’s so dark in the mornings. I would much rather have the sun encouraging me to start my day. That’s more important to me than having extra hours of sunshine at the end of the day.
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