By AFWA National President, Karyn Hartke, CPA
Happy New Year! Once the holidays and New Year have passed, I start getting ready for tax season – yes I said it, Tax Season! As soon as one busy season ends, another one quickly and inevitably begins. I like the fresh start of a new season thought – new pens, crisp legal pads and a clean desk.
As I look back over the past forty years or so of tax seasons and new beginnings, I can chart a number of different stages in my personal and professional life. Most recently, I made some changes in my employment status and decided to become a contractor for two different CPA firms.
My Introduction to Accounting
I literally grew up in a family tax and accounting business. My grandmother brought me and my brother into her office when we were still in elementary school. One of the first things I remember being tasked with was opening the box of forms (when everything was still prepared on paper) and placing the forms in their correct place on the shelves. By the time I was in my teens, I was preparing simpler returns and at age 16 or so, I had my first client interview.
My mother, who was a bookkeeper for a local business introduced me to double entry accounting and green ledger paper. Even though I had on-the-job experience at an early age, accounting was never on my radar as a career. I never took a business class in high school and I didn’t major in accounting in college. My first two year degree was actually in Music Education!
I eventually realized that I enjoyed the tax side of the accounting profession and when my grandmother unexpectedly passed away, I took over her practice along with my mother. Being a small business owner allowed me the flexibility to be a working mother. There were times that my son was in a playpen next to my desk in the office!
By the time that I was a mother of two, I decided to return to college and finish my accounting degree with the ultimate goal of getting my CPA license. It was at the University of Illinois – Springfield that my accounting professor introduced me to the Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance. AFWA of course, would go on to become an incredibly important piece of my career journey.
I successfully passed the CPA exam about twenty years ago and since then, my career hasn’t always followed a traditional path. I have worked for large firms and small firms. I have worked full time during busy season and part time when the kids were off school during the summer.
I took a step back when we discovered that it would be best for our daughter to be home-schooled. Tax season became our summer and she brought some school work into the office. The firm owner, who was also a working mother and still a close friend of mine, made sure that I could still make my family my priority and get my work done.
Starting Fresh in a New City
Almost thirteen years ago my husband’s career took us from Illinois to Florida and I became a following spouse. Thanks to my accounting degree and experience, I was able to get a job quickly in my new city, and re-entered the job market as a full time tax manager.
I have been blessed by being able to make changes when needed and being a female in the accounting professional has worked well for our family. Each individual’s path is different. Now, grab that new pen and fresh pad of paper, and chart your own path!
AFWA is here to support you.