Podcast Episode 5: Evolution - Women in Accounting

Prior to joining DHG, Lisa Cines was the first female CEO of a US Top 50 accounting firm. She was recently featured in the Journal of Accountancy on the topic of encore careers in the profession (View Article). In this podcast Lisa shares career advice, leadership lessons and a glimpse of what she thinks the profession will look like in the future.


AGH: Hello everyone, and welcome back to another episode of our DHG Podcast Series. I'm Alice Grey Harrison, your host, and I absolutely love this venue because I get the opportunity to talk with our people about the things that matter the most to them; flexibility, careers, and people. And today I am talking with Lisa Cines, who's a partner out of our Metro D.C. area and we are focused on our celebration of Women Forward and Women’s History Month. I'm so excited to have Lisa with us as Lisa was the first female CEO of a top 50 accounting firm, is that correct? LC: That is correct, Alice Grey. AGH: It’s great to have such a trail blazer as part of our DHG team and I'm excited to hear her perspective today. So let's get started. Lisa, can you share with me a glimpse of what your journey in the profession has looked like? LC: I sure can. Although I'm not sure how far you really would want me to go back.  I think we only have 10 minutes. The thing that I would like to focus on is just the fact that it hasn't been a straight path, as I didn't have a vision for what significant roles I would play or how I even wanted to progress. I went into public accounting because it was something I could do part time when I had kids, and I've done anything BUT part-time since I started. I have found myself in the role of partner, managing partner, AICPA board member, chair of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce here in Maryland and I'm chair elect now for the Maryland Association of CPA's. AGH: So there's no part-time staying at home, huh? LC: That one I didn't get right. AGH: So as a female leader in the profession, what would you say has influenced you the most about your development as a leader? LC: As far as my development as a leader, I think there's really three things; one is reading. That has been the only constant. I read broadly, but at some point in my career someone said to me, "What is it that sources you?" And I'm thinking, "What does that mean?" But upon reflection, it was my reading. And often I find that I drift towards women and men that overcame an obstacle to get to a different place than maybe they would have naturally ended up if they really didn't overcome whatever was in their way. I also do a lot of biographies from both the historical and modern day times. Next I read a lot about leadership and management from all spectrums, but I'm always looking for professional service firms — not accounting firms, but professional service firms — to see whether I can get a perspective that's different than the CPA perspective. So send me any good reads, I'm always looking for something to pick up there. The next thing would be sponsorships. As I've reflected back, I find that this is much more important than mentorship. This was really the key to many of the roles that I've had. People that were willing to say, "Hey, would you do this and I'm willing to sponsor you or push for you to have this role, this position?" So sponsorship was the second item. And the third was really getting outside of my firm and engaging in other groups with other people. So initially I would ask for work from a variety of people to pick up skills from each of them because we see what we like in each person and we try and emulate that. So I wasn't looking to just be like one individual, but to lend the best of a number of people. And then later on in my career it was important to work with other leaders so I could get a glimpse of how they lead. And I found that through some of the outside work that I did, in addition to being inside of my own firm. So the thing that these all have in common is that they broaden my thinking around leadership and management, and I challenge myself to go into a new place in my journey. AGH: That's really interesting, and certainly great advice. I love the way that you articulated looking for different skills in different people and trying to learn from them, to build a broad base of skills. I think that's really interesting. I think that one thing as we look at today, 2016, and people who are entering the profession — both men and women for this matter — and even some that are mid career, I think the challenges today are different than probably when you were at that point in your career. What do you think is most different today? And maybe what's going to be different tomorrow? LC: One of the things that we all will face, whether it was today or tomorrow, is this idea of having it all and juggling. You just can't imagine where something might take you. But juggling this all is a major piece. It's also difficult to continue to grow with the variety of opportunities that you face. So really beginning to narrow down, not trying to pick up everything. I think that that's one of the big challenges that I see for folks today, "Well I have so many different directions that I could take this in, which way am I going to go and how far will it take me and what will it allow me to do?" I don't do sports analogies often, but one that I often to go back to is the one that Wayne Gretzky says, "I skate to where the puck is going, not to where it's been." And I think that that's very relevant, not just looking at where we're sitting today, but projecting forward into the future. The other thing that's so different is the tools of the craft. No one likes to hear that computers didn't exist when I entered the profession, but that's the truth. Or they were barely there. And then the industries that we serve and the services that we provide, all of that continues to change and evolve. AGH: So when you think about looking ahead, and again, thinking in terms of woman's history and the celebration of women this month, what do you think that this profession's going to look like for women in another 10 years, or even say 20 years? LC: So first let me start by saying that most of these things are relevant for men or women, but slightly women-bent. There will remain as many opportunities as there are today, they'll just be called different things. We had the Oscar's this week, so the idea of differentiating men and women came into play at the Oscar's. I am much more interested in the entire diversity conversation, beyond just the women — the men-women conversation. I thought the Oscar's did a great job of addressing that. And then the other big challenge is international and the importance of international. When I came into the profession, everything was local. You just didn't even think about global. The clients that I would serve didn't even go national. Today, they not only go national, but they dabble in international and with that the whole risk profile changes dramatically. And then the last thing is how we evolve the role of the trusted advisors. Something that the profession has always espoused, that we are the trusted advisor. How we think about that is going to continue to evolve in different ways and go deeper into the types of things that we bring into the trusted advisor role. AGH: I think those are all really interesting perspectives, and I think that you are touching on what's important to people as individuals. Not necessarily men or women, but the broader diversity issue. I think that is really exemplary of the evolution of not only accounting, but where we are today in the world in terms of actually your mention of the Oscar's. And I think that's going to become an even more heightened, relevant conversation in the next 24 months to 5-10 years. LC: I think yes - absolutely. And part of it's driven by, you know, there was a time when the business owners were, let's say, white men. And today the diversity that's coming into the ownership or the leadership of businesses continues to become more diversified and they want people that look like them and come from backgrounds and histories that they can relate to. Because at the end of the day, we still do business with people that we can relate to. AGH: That's very true. So as we wrap this up, I know that our listeners would be curious to get your advice. What advice do you have for others who desire to become a leader as they grow in their career? LC: So one I've already touched on, which is the idea of sponsorship. And who do you have relationships with and who are you turning to that are going to go the extra mile, so to speak, in getting you into positions that challenge you and teach you new skills? And then the second thing that I really focus on is team. Every success that I've had is all because of the team that I've been a part of. A common statement is that there is no I in team, and these teams have been in many different forms and for many different purposes. But without those teams I wouldn't have achieved anything close to where I am today. AGH: That's really awesome advice, and thank you so much for sharing with us. We really appreciate the time out of your schedule to give us your perspective on women in leadership. LC: Well it's been my pleasure and a lot of fun. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today Alice Grey. AGH: Sure. And thank you all for listening to life at DHG, our premier podcast series. If you like what you heard, I hope that 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.


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