Podcast Episode 1: Teamwork, Support and Flexibility

What does it take for a new mom to be successful managing career and life? According to DHG Senior Associate, Katie Howard, it takes a great deal of teamwork, support and flexibility. Katie has chosen to work a reduced schedule so that she can best manage her career and her 15 month old daughter (as an added bonus to the interview, we get to hear about how her husband also integrates life and career - He's with DHG too!). Whether you are new to accounting, a new mom, mid career or even partner, catch a glimpse of Katie's life and you'll surely be inspired!


AGH: Hi, it's Alice Grey Harrison, your host of the DHG Podcast and I'm here today with Katie Howard. She is an audit senior associate in our Greenville, South Carolina office. Welcome Katie. 

KH: Thank you. I'm excited to be here. 

AGH: Awesome. Okay, so we're celebrating Woman's History Month and that is why I asked you to speak with us today. You have been very successful here at Dixon Hughes Goodman and are a fairly new mother. Katie and I have children that are pretty close in age. Tell me about your life, your family life beyond Dixon Hughes Goodman. 

KH: Well I'm married to a CPA who also works for DHG, so it's hard to get out of this life. Like Alice Grey said, we have a one year old daughter, and we have two dogs and we live in a very old house that we're fixing up in our spare time, which is infrequent these days. 

Katie Howard - Working MomAGH: I can imagine that would be the case. So one thing that's different about Katie is that her brain works on both sides and she not only is a great accountant, but she is also very creative. So that's how she and I bond, over creative things. So tell me what your typical day looks like.

KH: Well my husband and I, we definitely consider ourselves to be coffee enthusiasts, so it all starts there. And when I'm working at a client, it's just about getting everybody dressed, everybody fed, and everybody out the door on time and then I take our daughter to my parent's, which is a huge blessing. I don't know what I would do without them right now. And then off to clients, constantly checking the clock - it's so easy to work past your pickup time, which I'm sure you know about. And then picking up Everly, feeding her again, never thought you'd feed a one year old so much. And then the routine, the bath, bedtime, all of that. And then working some more and going through checklists for the next day and then to bed. So it's busy. When I first started back from maternity leave I found myself still wearing my high heels at 10 PM at night. And I've calmed down since then, but it was a lot to jam into one day in the beginning. 

AGH: Yeah, it's really hard in the beginning. I remember-talk about list. I had list upon list, upon list and it was the only way I knew if I was going or coming. 

KH: Right. 

AGH: So talk about flexibility. You came back and you chose to add some flexibility to your life so maybe you wouldn't in heels at 10 o'clock at night. 

KH: Yes. And I'm currently flex-time 50% on a project basis, so that may look like one week I work 50 hours and then I might not work the next week at all. So it's just really on a job by job basis.And in addition to the flexibility of that arrangement, really everybody involved with us has to be flexible, even our daughter. I mean her routine is constantly changing, my husband’s, my parents’. So if there was a word that really represented our family right now it would be flexible. 

AGH: Yeah, so you have a different perspective because your husband works for Dixon Hughes Goodman. What's flexibility look like for him and his job? Because he works a lot more than 50%. 

KH: Right. He's not got the deal that I do. He is great about being there when he has to be and just trying to make it all work. I mean everyday looks a little bit different. He does bath time pretty much every night. But that might mean that he's online pretty late. It's just about sacrifice. We kind of pick out what we want to do as a family that week together and then you just make it happen. 

AGH: That's awesome. So going 50%, do you feel at this point empowered by Dixon Hughes Goodman to continue to progress in your career?

KH: I do. I feel like I'm at a different phase right now in my life, and DHG's given me the opportunity and really the space to try and figure that out.

AGH: I love hearing stories like yours because I think that for all of us, men and women, we go through lots of phases in life where we gear up and gear down and it is a blessing to work for a firm that enables us the opportunity, or gives us the opportunity to gear up and gear down. So a major part of this is a lot of support-you mentioned it earlier. How does DHG support you?

KH: Well I think that answer has really morphed from year to year just depending on where I am. But I'll speak to the phase I'm in now, and I think starting a family can feel really overwhelming at first because you don't know how it's all going to work out. And especially in this professional world, there's a career track that we all, by nature, are measuring our success on. And giving your employees the opportunity to hit the pause button and just step back is invaluable. I think having that understanding could prevent a lot of women from just hitting the stop and eject button all together in their career. And it's definitely a step in the right direction for retaining female talent as people grow. Or male, I don't want to exclude them.

AGH: Yeah, that's very true. So what do you think's been your biggest challenge in terms of career?

KH: Just learning to juggle and being really realistic about the number of hours that are in a day.

AGH: Yeah. I think we all face that, right? So we as women tend to be very relationship focused. Who has, at Dixon Hughes Goodman, played a major role in your career? And how has that person helped you explore the possibilities in terms of career?

KH: Professionally speaking I really support our mentor program, and Scott Yandle has mentored me and he's always set the foundation that your career can really be whatever you want it to be. It comes down to what you decide to put in and the amount of grit that you really have about it. Working mom speaking, there are several ladies who set the examples of how it's done and when you look across all of those people, I think the common theme in all of them is that they extend themselves a lot of grace, and they have a good sense of humor.

AGH: Yeah, we all at Dixon Hughes Goodman have to have a good sense of humor, especially here in Greenville, right?

KH: Yes.

AGH: We have a very fun office. So what's inspiring you right now?

KH: Lately it's my Instagram feed. At the start of the New Year I really paired it down to only things that I found to be inspiring and it's just beautiful pictures, art, positive messages, and people who seem to be getting it right. And I follow just several moms who are in different seasons. As simple as it sounds, really just kind of a curated Instagram feed, maybe when I'm having an overwhelming day, these strangers keep me grounded.

AGH: Yeah that is a great way to think about it and think about Instagram. I'm inspired. And I'm inspired by the things that you post.

KH: Oh that's sweet.

Katie Howard LunchAGH: Like yesterday, what you had for lunch. Which was, for those of you who didn't see her Instagram post, a heart shaped donut that had sprinkles on it.

KH: Yes. So healthy.

AGH: If you could give someone out there perhaps an intern, an associate, one piece of advice, what would you say?

KH: I would say, know what your strengths are and work those to the bone. And get your weaknesses up to par, but don't waste all of your energy trying to be perfect at everything. I think we're all given so many different talents and can really be a force to be reckoned with if we're smart about how we utilize our team members.

AGH: Good. That's awesome. And our leaders who are listening today, what kind of advice would you like to give them?

KH: Don’t lose sight of why you're doing what you're doing. I think it's really easy to get caught in a day to day routine and we really all should check in with ourselves and ask, "What is my passion? And are the things I'm doing every day really driving that, or am I just going through the motions?"

AGH: Very good. Well I know that you are busy, you took some time out of your day to spend with me and I really appreciate it. And thank you very much for participating.

KH: Thanks so much for having me.

AHG: And until next time, I bid you farewell.

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