I recently led an intimate roundtable discussion centered on how the #BeMore culture at GHJ has changed the way we think about our career growth at the firm.
Our firm believes every day is a chance to #BeMore. Not do more. Not work more. Instead, we encourage one another to be the best we can be and enjoy life to the fullest.
GHJ seeks to change the accounting profession by recognizing that in order to achieve the greatest success, we must encourage individuals to #BeMore for themselves. Our firm recognizes that our people bring their best to their clients when they are also empowered to achieve their individual personal and professional goals.
Part of our #BeMore culture is a focus on diversity and inclusion. Women are empowered to have successful careers alongside commitments outside the workplace. We feel empowered to create our own schedules and career paths.
The roundtable I led was comprised of emerging leaders at GHJ that included Rachel Aladdin (executive recruiter), Lizbeth Nevarez (tax senior manager in the Nonprofit Practice), Frances Ellington (tax senior manager in the State and Local Practice), Amy Eybsen (audit manager) and Jennifer Sullivan (senior marketing manager).
Please read on to learn more about how GHJ’ focus on diversity and inclusion has empowered us to #BeMore and how you can inspire your employees to do the same.
Benefits of Encouraging Growth and Development
Anita Wu: I want to begin by discussing why a prospective employee would select a firm like ours. In a marketplace where the war for talent is highly competitive and the talent pool is limited, what are some important reasons a recruit would choose GHJ? Rachel, as an executive recruiter, what are you seeing in the marketplace?
Rachel Aladdin: Culture is a topic that is always at the forefront of the conversation. People want to know if the firm’s culture aligns with their values. Something that sets GHJ apart for me is how the firm focuses on careers over the long term through mentorship and sponsorship. A strong selling point is our focus on elevating future leaders.
Jennifer Sullivan: Yes, something that sets GHJ apart for me is how the firm invests in its people through leadership training programs and a sales training academy. Learning and development is essential to the firm’s core values of growing great people.
Anita Wu: I agree as I have been with the firm for over 18 years and have been encouraged and inspired to deepen my knowledge base and expertise. Lizbeth, you have been with the firm for over 10 years and have a very specialized focus on nonprofits. Did you know you wanted to work in the nonprofit space or is that something you discovered at GHJ?
Lizbeth Nevarez: I was an intern while I was still in college and had an opportunity to work with the firm’s Nonprofit Tax Practice, and I really enjoyed it. After college, I was hired and worked on different types of engagements but always gravitated toward the nonprofit industry so I chose that as my career path. I was lucky to have been exposed to so many areas early on and given the opportunity to explore and discover what my passion was. My passion for nonprofits now extends outside of work and into the community as I serve on two nonprofit boards – Bienvenidos Children’s Center and Executive Service Corps.
Anita Wu: In addition to your community engagement, I know you lead many activities within the Nonprofit Practice, like being a co-presenter for several webcasts and writing blogs. Has somebody encouraged you to do that or is that something you sought on your own?
Lizbeth Nevarez: I think it is a little bit of both. I want to succeed and the firm wants me to succeed. The firm allows me to express myself as a thought leader and encourages me to bring new ideas to table. We are always looking for new ways to #BeMore and better serve our clients.
Anita Wu: The #BeMore philosophy is about your whole self, which includes what you do outside of work. For example, Frances I know you like teaching.
Frances Ellington: Yes, I teach part time in a Master of Accounting program and the flexibility the firm provides allows me to develop my own schedule so I can pursue this passion. I find it to be great exposure, not only for myself, but also for the firm. Coincidentally, there are students coming out of that program that the firm will be interested in recruiting in the coming years.
Impact of Our Women’s Empowerment Initiative
Anita Wu: I am so happy to be surrounded by very accomplished women. Amy is a fellow committee member for the firm’s Women’s Empowerment initiative that is motivating and providing the tools female employees need to succeed in the workplace. Inviting distinguished businesswomen to speak to the firm, the Women’s Empowerment Speaker Series is designed to foster and cultivate leaders, specifically women.
At our last event, I looked at the audience, and it was comprised of men and women who are supporters of women’s empowerment in general. Do you want to talk about how important that initiative is to setting the cultural feel for our firm?
Amy Eybsen: It is important to make sure women feel included in an organization. This committee is an opportunity for us to empower and grow future women leaders and show them how the firm supports them in their successes. The younger staff really looks forward to the events, and the topics are timely and relevant to both those just starting out in their careers as well as those with experience.
Anita Wu: Also, the #BeMore message goes beyond women and is about empowerment in general. We do not have to fit a certain mold in the accounting profession any more.
Amy Eybsen: Yes, there is a much more customized approach to your career path these days for everyone. Men and women. Let’s face it – topics like flexible work schedule, focus on family and customized career pathing aren’t just “women’s issues”. Men need this too. But at GHJ we recognize that the approach and support for women may be different, and we aim to ensure there is equity in how we achieve successes.
Anita Wu: Jennifer, how do you balance the high-pressure demands of being on the marketing team with also being a new mom?
Jennifer Sullivan: High pressure and tight deadlines will always be part of a career in marketing, but the tools I have been given at GHJ help me to better navigate my career while still having balance in my life. I really appreciate how our #BeMore culture gives me the opportunity to flex my schedule or work from home. Coming back to work after being on maternity leave can be really daunting, and leveraging wisdom and guidance from my boss, mentor and other female leaders has been essential. If you ask for help and guidance, the firm really is there to make sure you succeed and become your best self. An important factor is the ability to be transparent about the issues and needs, and not fear negative impact on career ambitions. GHJ has worked to eliminate the taboos about being a new parent – and dads benefit too!
Anita Wu: Amy, how are you adjusting to your latest promotion to Manager with becoming a new mother?
Amy Eybsen: To be honest, becoming a mother this past year has been a huge adjustment — much bigger than any promotion at work. So that has been really challenging, but it has been great. The #BeMore culture here means that I have many of the same opportunities that Jennifer does: working from home and having a flexible schedule. I think lack of flexibility is one of the main reasons that women leave the workforce. It is great that there is so much flexibility and you can carve your own path to success. We all have years in our career where we’ll need to dial up, and dial down. Life works that way! At Deloitte we called it the “corporate lattice”, rather than ladder. And at GHJ we can authentically rely on the support to move forward through the ups and downs without losing stride.
Importance of Collaboration and Teaming
Anita Wu: I think the culture of the firm is that we really uphold the team environment and encourage the mentorship of others.
Frances Ellington: During the mentorship process, I find it is very important that the goals are attainable and realistic even if they are a bit of a stretch goal. I have always tried to focus on setting both short-term and long-term goals. When mentoring others, it is important to take a customized approach so the individual can build confidence in their achievements and still strive to grow beyond their comfort zone.
Jennifer Sullivan: I agree. It is also important to have internal and external mentors outside of the firm so you are able to get a clear and unbiased perspective. Ask for feedback from those you admire and trust as you build your expertise and network both inside the firm and in the marketplace. We talk a lot about building our “personal board of directors” who will give us that tough but nurturing guidance.
Rachel Aladdin: Mentors are excited about their mentees’ growth – constantly thinking about ways to make them better. For yourself, you can be thinking about ways that you could do things you have not done, and that could spark ideas about how you can grow.
Anita Wu: How do we guide people to build on their individual strengths?
Lizbeth Nevarez: We make sure the staff at all levels gets out to visit more clients, and they have enjoyed the meetings and exploring the client experience. It is different if you get to see the offices. Ultimately it makes us all better advisors to our clients. Our approach is to create future leaders at every level by handing them the tools and seeing if they are willing to take action.
Rachel Aladdin: I think that goes back to the first question we talked about: culture fit. When you are in a good culture, you have people who are genuinely excited about your growth. You can even look at something outside the “typical” promotion ladder. As an employee, I try to put my best foot forward. I work really hard, and I am lucky enough to have a mentor who sees that and is inspired by that and wants to see me do more and more.
Overall, I see how the #BeMore culture at GHJ has helped us do an impactful job of celebrating each individual’s success and supporting one other as we grow. The more women, and men, feel empowered, the better equipped we are to help others reach their own goals and #BeMore. It creates a more supportive work environment and, in turn, a more productive firm that can better serve our clients. I am proud to be a part of everything GHJ does to #BeMore for its employees.