By AFWA National President, Linda Harris, CPA
My accounting journey began while I was in junior high, I loved numbers but knew that I didn’t want to pursue a teaching career and frankly didn’t know what other options I might have. I took my first accounting course in high school and knew that right away that I had found my career. My dad was an Office Manager for a regional concrete company. Every spring when the auditors showed up at my dad’s office it only re-enforced my new-found career path. After all the auditors were working in accounting and seeing the world (okay, maybe Helena, Montana wasn’t quite the world).
I started down a very traditional path, but took a detour to start a family. Once my son was in school I decided to go back to work. Who would imagine that my first attempt at finding a job was as secretary at a local CPA firm? I soon came to realize that I wanted to finish the education I had started years before. I went on to work full time, became a single mom, took at least 9 credits a quarter/semester and shortly before I graduated I remarried.
Shortly before graduation I had decided that maybe I really didn’t want to continue down the public accounting path. I had always been active with various organizations and thought why not put my accounting skills to use through my passion for a cause. An Executive Director for a non-profit seemed like a perfect fit (this still is my dream job), yet again another opportunity detoured me from my plans. My husband was offered a manager position at Absarokee Bank. So, we packed up our home and moved to the small rural community an hour outside the city of Billings, Montana. Not wanting to make the commute back into the city every day, I decided to open my own practice in Absarokee. In one year, I earned my degree, graduated my son from high school, moved to a new community, and started my own business.
For me there were no real hurdles to opening my own practice. I was fortunate in that my work did not need to support my family so I didn’t have that added stress. I had maintained some clients from my previous employer and I had them as a base to build on. Word of mouth and adverting helped a lot, and being in a small community didn’t hurt either. Everyone in town watched as we remodeled my new office and wanted to know what was going on. Also, being married to the town banker proved beneficially, if they didn’t ask him, they asked me.
One of the best decisions I made on my journey was to attend a student night event hosted by AFWA (ASWA then). I joined on the spot. AFWA has been there throughout my career journey. It helped me gain leadership skills, provided me with CPE opportunities and provided me with a nationwide network of accounting and finance experts. As my business grew, so did the needs of my clients. I can’t count the number of calls, some late at night, I have made to fellow AFWA members asking for advice about a client case.
Despite many detours, a career in accounting found me. My life changed in 1993, the year I opened my own practice. I now employee one full time employee and two part-time (all women I might add). And each day, I get to do what I love.
>> Want to hear more? Check out Linda’s interview on The Abacus Show podcast