March 8, 2023
Empowering Women in Accounting: A Look at Leadership at Johnson Lambert
Johnson Lambert’s longstanding commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion extends to all aspects of the firm’s culture and operations. From its beginning, women have played an essential role in the firm’s success, holding leadership positions at all levels and contributing to its growth and innovation. In this article, we showcase three remarkable women at Johnson Lambert who embody strong leadership qualities and have made significant contributions to the firm and/or the accounting industry. From a partner to a manager and a rising associate, each woman shares her insights and advice for other women aspiring to leadership roles in accounting.
From Bridal Boutique to Balance Sheets: New Beginnings as an Associate
Meet Anna Kemp, an associate in our tax practice. Prior to joining Johnson Lambert, Anna owned a small bridal boutique in Raleigh, where she discovered her passion for the business-side of entrepreneurship. Seeking a new challenge, she made a career change into accounting, where she could apply her analytical and problem-solving skills. With her unique background, Anna brings a fresh perspective to Johnson Lambert’s tax team and is dedicated to delivering exceptional service to our clients.
What leadership skills did you gain from owning your own business?
As a business owner, you have to be a jack-of-all-trades, wearing many hats and taking on diverse responsibilities. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of serving as the chief, the cook, and the bottle washer, if you will. These experiences provided me with invaluable insights and skills that I bring to my current role. For more than two decades, I also had the privilege of being a manager, which is both one of the most rewarding and challenging leadership undertakings.
What led you into accounting and how was the transition?
While running the boutique, I learned that my favorite part of the work was the business side: balancing the checkbook and working with the accountant. I gained significant experience working with financial institutions, and that’s when I discovered my passion for accounting. The transition to accounting has been relatively smooth, as the skills required are similar to those needed in running a small business. The challenge has been more in the personal transition rather than the professional transition. Overall, the experience has been incredibly rewarding, as I have been able to learn a new career and apply my skills to help clients succeed.
What leadership opportunities do you participate in at Johnson Lambert?
Working at Johnson Lambert, no matter what your role is or what level you are, you are expected to be a contributor and a leader within your team. There are plenty of opportunities to continue to develop your leadership skills, too. Aside from my client work, I love attending career events and helping with recruiting for the tax team. It’s fulfilling to speak with young professionals who may feel hesitant or nervous to make the jump into their first internship or the transition from intern to associate, and I get to share how rewarding the work at JL can be.
Taking Control of Your Career: Embodying Confidence as a Manager
Meet Kelsey Turner, a business automation manager on our IT and innovation team. Similar to Anna, Kelsey has a unique career path. Formerly a part of our audit practice, Kelsey left the firm and returned a few years later to pilot a new role. With the confidence gained in charting her own path, Kelsey brings both practice and industry knowledge to her team.
What inspired you to take control of your career path?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, when I was unable to travel or see my coworkers every day, I was really left alone with myself and my work. During that time I realized that auditing was not for me. I was given an opportunity to leave auditing and work in the industry I had previously served, and see the other side of what I had been doing for the past few years. Through this role I began to understand the needs of insurance clients in a much deeper way, and it wasn’t until a couple of years later that I was offered the opportunity to return to JL in another completely different role. In my new role, I get to be excited about becoming best friends with technology, and work with our auditors, our tax professionals, and our consultants to make serving their clients more efficient. I have switched it up a few times, but I always seem to land in a spot that is an improvement and gain more skills that I can offer my team.
Leading and Learning: Continuing to Grow as a Partner
Sarah McConnell joined Johnson Lambert’s audit practice as a senior associate 18 years ago and swiftly rose to take on leadership positions. Throughout her tenure, Sarah has held key roles both within the firm and in the industries she serves, while also maintaining a strong sense of balance between her work and personal life.
How do you serve as a leader in the accounting industry and at Johnson Lambert?
I currently serve on the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Accounting and Review Services Committee, which works to provide reporting standards and practice guidance for compilation and reviews. I’ve also had the privilege to work with the Auditing Standards Board on a task force to identify opportunities to scale auditing standards for less complex entities. I recently completed a three year term on the AICPA’s insurance expert panel and work with the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) on their Finance Business Operations Advisory Council. My most rewarding leadership role at this point has been my work with Classroom Champions for the last seven years on their Board of Directors as the Treasurer. Working with Classroom Champions makes me a better auditor and business advisor as it gives me a much stronger understanding of the operations of our non-profit clients and best practices in governance. Serving on the Board of such an amazing nonprofit is also personally satisfying knowing I can use my experience in accounting to have an impact to help students across North America succeed.
Internally at Johnson Lambert, I am a leader on our DEI committee and our firmwide Culture committee. I also serve on the firm’s IT Steering Committee and on the 401(k) plan trustee advisory committee. I provide leadership within our Virginia office in the areas of recruiting, culture and development of our people.
At what point in your career did you begin seeking out leadership opportunities?
I started getting involved with external organizations when I was a senior associate. Working on conference planning committees and other smaller roles allowed me to become familiar with the organizations and to network with the other professionals in the industry. As I gained more experience, the roles started to grow and helped me grow in my leadership role at Johnson Lambert. I learned from other professionals talking through how they approach various situations, and listened to their unique experiences with challenges I was facing. This helped shape my own approach to clients and improve my client serving abilities. The more I enhanced my own technical skills and learned more real-world examples, the easier my job became and the better professional I was.
Words of Wisdom
Anna, Kelsey, and Sarah lead by example, but they also offer some great insights for women at every level of their carers who hope to find success and happiness in their endeavors.
As we’ve heard from these three exceptional women, leadership at Johnson Lambert takes many forms and is embodied by individuals at all levels of the firm. Whether it’s taking on new challenges, mentoring colleagues, or contributing to the community, our team members exemplify our core values of trust, agility, and respect every day. We’re proud to have such strong and dedicated women as part of our team, and we hope their stories inspire other women in accounting to embrace their own leadership potential.