Walk A Mile in Her Shoes: Shana Merrill

Hey Stiletto Gals!

We are walking a mile in the shoes of an amazing woman today, Shana Merrill.  Shana is the youngest partner at Rose, Sndyer & Jacobs, a CPA firm in Encino, CA where she assists diverse industries, including private, public and non-profit organizations.

StilettoGal:  How did you get into accounting and what was your journey to get to partner at such as young age?

Shana:     In my second year at USC, I was coming up on that time where I had to finally decide upon and elect a Major. I knew I was interested in Business, but I wasn’t quite sure where a bachelor’s degree in business administration was going to get me upon my graduation as I wasn’t interested in starting my own business, or starting a career in the marketing or finance job sectors. Those seemed to be the three areas I saw business administration graduates entering the workforce through. My grandfather and uncle were both CPA’s working in public practice and I’d always had an interest in their work, even though I never really understood what they did, except taxes! Since I was eager to graduate and enter the workforce, and since I had no interest in going back to school to attain a master’s degree, I figured I could major in accounting, get a job working at an accounting firm upon graduation, gain experience, and obtain my CPA license. I now had a path and the world was at my fingertips. I had no idea where I’d be or what I wanted to do in 5 years, let alone 10 years. Did I want to work my way “up the ladder”, staying in public accounting, or did I want to build a relationship with a client who ran a business that interested me hoping that after a few years “auditing” them I could transition over and become the controller and eventually the CFO of the Company (or another Company), or alternately, move away from the “accounting” side and become part of senior management on their operations side in some form, possibly even CEO? All I did know was that I wanted to be a leader, a decision maker, and have an impact on people. This was  just the beginning of my career journey and it was exciting! To get there, I knew I had to work hard and master the work I was doing. My life and career would take its course. That’s what fueled me – my initial strive to become a Partner at an accounting firm. I wasn’t concerned with when I would get there or where it would be but I knew my work ethic , diligence, and competitive nature would get me there. The funny thing is, out of college, I had no idea if I would even like auditing or any other area of public accounting. In my first two years as an auditor, I knew I was lucky. I was really enjoying the work I was doing, I looked up to the Partners at the firm I was with – I could see myself in their shoes, and I saw lots of opportunity. About 4 years after working with that firm, I found Rose, Snyder & Jacobs LLP (RSJ), where I have been the past 9 years. After a few years of working at RSJ, I knew that this was my home and the only way I was ever going to leave was if I chose to exit the public accounting industry. There was opportunity here for me to be a leader, a decision maker, and have an impact on people – both inside the firm and outside the firm, with clients. This opportunity mixed with hard work, good decisions, and finding the “right fit” in the Firm allowed me to become a Partner. Still as a Partner, I’m always striving to do more and to do it better. That’s just my nature.

SG:  As the youngest partner in your firm, how do you juggle your work life balance?

SM:  Juggle is a good word. My son is a year-and-a-half old and I’m still working on this “juggle” thing. My work was always my baby. The majority of my time, energy, love, emotion, etc. went into my work (ok.. much energy, love and emotion went to my husband as well!). Then I had a baby and I’m still trying to find what people call a balance. I’ll probably be working on this for the next 18+ years! I’m sure I will always feel like I am in a constant state of motion, never able to spend enough time at work or with my family, but at the end of every day, I know inside I’m doing the best I can and I can see the happiness and joy in my son’s face and the happiness and appreciation in my husband’s face – and there is nothing better. Apparently all these “bumps” that happen throughout the day is just part of life, and I roll with it – or at least I try to!  I have extremely high expectations of myself. So I’m learning to realize that if I’m doing something “good enough”, I’m really doing it “great”.

SG:  What advice could you give to other women wanting to get into your profession?

SM: There isn’t anything different I would tell a woman getting into public accounting as I would tell a man. It’s all about being patient in the beginning, learning and mastering your work, willingness to always work hard, and the strive for continual self-improvement.

SG:  What are the top three things any startup should know?

SM:

1.  Make sure to have the right set of advisors around you, be it a CPA, Attorney, HR consultant, Insurance provider, Investment advisor, etc. It’s better to spend the time upfront to get things set up properly than to have to deal with the time and costs down the line to fix something that wasn’t set up right. There are “short-cuts” that can be taken in the beginning as money is usually an issue. But make an informed decision upfront vs. just telling yourself you’ll deal with it later.

2.  Make active decisions, not reactive decisions.

3.  Always have fun!

SG: What kind of shoe are you and why?

SM: I am my Charles David nude pumps (with my son’s nike’s). Professional. Feminine. Strong. And able to keep up with my toddler!

To learn more about Shana, please visit www.rsjcpa.com
If you would like to meet Shana in person, she will be speaking at Cross Campus on February 19, 2014.
Register for the event using the link below.