In celebration of Black History Month, we share a lively conversation with one of DHG’s superstars – Keon Stevenson. Keon shares with us how mentoring has helped him progress in his career and what he is doing to help others through formal and informal mentoring opportunities. Keon is a manager in our Metro DC market.
Episode 30 Transcript
AGH: Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode of our DHG podcast series. I’m Alice Grey Harrison your host and I love this venue because we get to hear from our team about the things that matter the most to them: flexibility, careers, and people. Our life beyond numbers. We’re celebrating black history month and DHG’s keen focus on inclusion and diversity. Today I have with me Keon Stevenson. Keon is a manager in our metro DC market but I had the pleasure of getting to know Keon when he began his career in our Greenville, South Carolina office. It’s been a great pleasure of mine to watch Keon grow and progress in his career. Truly it has. Last year, Keon and I had the opportunity to hang out and catch up at the National Association of Black Accountant’s annual conference. He shared with me how much he enjoys being a mentor. I thought, “You know what? That’s the perfect topic for Black History Month.” I invited him to join me and share his perspectives with us. Welcome Keon.
KS: Hey Alice Grey, pleasure to be here today, looking forward to talking with you.
AGH: Awesome. What attracted you to DHG?
KS: Well, I guess for me, it was just the people. On the recruiting trail when I was in college, all the people from DHG, they were just so genuine to me and once I did my internship, I realized that that was the entire identity of the company. We were Dixon Hughes at the time and, you know, this extended from the administrative staff all the way to the partners, and I realized early on that this wasn’t just a job, it was actually like an extended family. So from the internship, I remember just saying, “Man, I really hope they give me offer. Because I really love this company,” and I guess the rest is history.
AGH: It is like an extended family. Everybody here in Greenville is always cheering for you and wishing you were still here. For example - Susan Burrton, one of our administrative assistants, she always asks about you.
KS: Yeah, I miss Susan also.
AGH: You abandoned us and moved to Metro DC. Just kidding! What did attract you to move to a larger market and work in our metro DC office?
KS: Great question. Well, it was just a great opportunity. I worked in the healthcare industry, mainly on audit clients. I had a chance to work with some of the biggest healthcare audit clients in the Carolinas and I had a chance to interact with various partners throughout that footprint and a very unique opportunity arose in the Metro DC market. We acquired a small, healthcare accounting practice and we were in need of a manager. So I was approached by some of the partners to see if I would be interested in going up for a few months to see if I would like it and see if I could potentially transfer up there. It was the winter of 2015 and, you know, the first week or so I was up there it snowed twice so I was kind of like, “What did I get myself into?” You know, the clients in this area, just the people I was working with, I just felt like it was a too good of an opportunity to pass on. I decided to relocate full-time and it definitely was a tough decision but it’s one that I definitely don’t regret at all, and it’s been a great opportunity the past year and a half since I’ve been up here.
AGH: Wow, it is a great example of DHG finding opportunities for our stars like you. As I mentioned, you’ve been so successful here. What would you say is the secret to your success in being able to navigate forward in your career?
KS: So to be honest with you, it’s not just one secret. It’s probably more like 20 secrets.
AGH: Spill the beans.
KS: For the purpose of the podcast, you know, I’m just going to narrow it down to about two or three.
KS: One of the first things that I learned early on is that providing great service to our clients is our top priority. To do that, really is an art, it’s not a science. So my first secret was just learning to be a great communicator and being a great communicator isn’t just about talking all the time, it’s about actually listening. I just make it a point on every audit engagement, I listen to my clients and their concerns, and I try to identify ways to alleviate those concerns. I guess my first secret is having great communication skills in order to provide great client service. The second secret that I have is, you know, it’s going to sound somewhat cheezy, but I just make it a goal to stay positive and keep a smile on.
KS: Alice Grey, I know you remember when I first was in Greenville, every time you saw me, I always smiled and I always just tried to be positive and that’s just a mindset that I have and, you know, does that mean that I never have bad days or any dull moments? No, that doesn’t mean that. But I just make it a point to find solace somewhere outside of work, something that’s going to bring me happiness even if I have a bad moment. That to me has been great secret of mine to just make sure I’m always positive and keeping a smile on. The times that I don’t, that I’m not very positive or I don’t have a smile on, I have to look toward something that’s going to make me eventually get back to being positive.
AGH: Good, very good.
KS: My last secret, you know, I thought about this - just being myself. I’m just naturally a people’s person. So I stay true to myself at all times and that’s with clients, that’s with coworkers and I think that makes people feel comfortable because they know that I’m genuine and they know I’m always going to be myself. Those are some of my secrets that really have helped me throughout the years of being here at DHG, and it’s actually helped me in life.
AGH: Yeah. Those are great pieces of advice and I love hearing you talk about just being yourself. That is part of our culture - people can be themselves and we accept and embrace and celebrate lots of differences here. One thing you and I talked about at NABA was mentoring. You talked about how important mentoring is to you. Why is it important to you to now serve as a mentor to others? You shared with me stories when you moved to Metro D.C., you took it upon yourself to serve as a mentor to some of your new colleagues. Talk about that a little bit?
KS: For me, mentoring is something that I’m very passionate about and mainly because, you know, times when I can reflect on my life, I look back and I realized that certain people in my life took me under their wing and kind of helped guide me and I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if it weren’t for people taking the time to mentor me from an early age and even still to this day. For me, anytime I can mentor somebody else, I really run with it. That means some of my coworkers that are just starting now and I let them all know from the first day that they start, I say, “Listen, me and you work together but you could talk to me about anything. If it’s just stuff about life in general. I have a 24 hour policy. Let me know and we can talk about anything,” and also too, I just know that all it takes is just one word of advice to impact somebody’s career and for me, I got to do a lot of recruitment events for the firm, I also extend that invite to some of the college students that I come across. Even some of the high school students that I come across also. One of my main goals this past year was to get more involved in my community. So specifically in the Metro D.C. area. The organization that I actually chose to be associated with is one that’s called INROADS College Links. One weekend out of the month, typically on a Saturday, it’s about two to three hours, I spend time with high school kids, have lunch and I’m a mentor to them. A lot of these kids are going to be first time, first generation college students and it’s just one way for me to tell them about my experience and so this is something that I am very passionate about.
AGH: Yeah, you know, you said something that reminded me. I’ve always been struck by NABA’s motto what is it? “Lift as we climb” — and I think that’s right. Or “Lifting as we climb”, and I always feel like that is what mentoring is all about as we progress forward, we are helping bring others along with us and I think that it’s really special that you have made that a main mission for you and it is part of our inclusion and diversity programs because we do realize that we need mentors. Sometimes we need mentors that we feel look like us and have backgrounds like us and that’s part of one of NABA’s main mission. So here we are celebrating Black History Month and so I can’t help but ask, why is it important to you that we as a firm and we as a country celebrate Black History Month?
KS: That’s a great question. This is one that actually I’ve put a lot of thought into. Going back to the same thing that I have been talking about throughout this podcast - I just thought about my own life and I realized that for me- I thought about my family and I thought about it wasn’t until I was the age of 12 or 13 that I realized that my grandfather couldn’t read or write. He just knew how to count his money and sign his name, which my grandmother taught him. So I thought about it and I remember asking him, “Why did you never take up school?” And I was so naïve at that time. He said, “You know our nearest school was 10 miles away and we didn’t have transportation like they have these days.” He said, “It was something that I just couldn’t do.” Then I thought about myself. I’m the first person in my family to graduate from a four year college. So I thought about that journey, that’s two generations- my grandfather who couldn’t read and me- a graduate from college. I just thought that, you know, this aligns with Black History Month, which tells everybody’s story about people, how they came from very desperate times and how the stories came to be a very important part of our country’s infrastructure. So I really think that Black History Month is a great way to tell everybody’s story and celebrate people in the black community that really contributed to the overall set of our countrymen. It’s something that actually - something that really made me think about myself and how these people inspired me along the way. Black History Month to me is a very important month and one that I think that everybody should reflect on and understand how it aligns with their own personal journey.
AGH: That is terrific, thank you. Talk about sharing stories, thank you for sharing your story and I think, you know, I’m a huge fan of you Keon and I’m just like, every day, cheering you on and so proud of your success and appreciate you being on this podcast with us.
KS: Anytime. Alice Grey, great talking to you.
AGH: Yeah, thank you all for listening to Life at DHG and joining us in our celebration of Black History Month. If you like what you just heard, we hope you’ll tell your friends and colleagues. Be sure to check out our DHG blog for more great stories about our life beyond numbers. Join us next time for another edition of Life at DHG. Keon is an Assurance Manager in the Metro DC market. He is a member of DHG’s Healthcare and Not-for-Profit team and is a graduate of the University of South Carolina. In his free time, Keon enjoys traveling and venturing into Washington D.C. and visiting the various museums and monuments.