My Friend Tom

It’s hard to believe we’re already gearing up for the next ITA Fall Collaborative. The ITA meetings are some of the smallest events I attend each year, but in a way, that’s why they’re special. I’ve been active in ITA since 2011, when I blew into Buckhead with my neon pink high heels and had CIOs and COOs at top firms talking about the new “shoe girl” at the meetings.

What started as some hallway banter between two Accounting Technology Association professionals was the start of some of the dearest friendships I’ve made throughout my career.

With various roles at several different organizations in the accounting space going back to 2007, I’ve known many of the ITA members even longer than I’ve been a “shoe girl”…they’ve literally watched me grow up, and many have been amazing mentors to me over the eight years I’ve known them.

Early on in my ITA tenure, I was fortunate to get involved in volunteer work for the organization. I’ve done a bit of this and that, helped out onsite, provided nurturing to fellow Affinity Partners, chaired committeea dedicated to Affinity Partners and young leaders coming up in the organization – and most near and dear to my heart, I’ve spearheaded (with help from several others) a movement of young ITA attendees, dubbed GenNOW. This group wants to help shape the future of the organization that we’ll one day be running. As a group, we’re largely unstructured, and primarily focus on building a community around younger professionals providing a safe place for them to gather and share knowledge…after all, the ITA creed is Knowledge increases in value when shared.

One of the best things to come out of the GenNOW movement is the realization that there’s no age requirement or limit to thinking next gen. Several years ago during one of the Fall Collaborative meetings, I met Tom Falloon of Cargas Systems, a VAR/ solution provider from Lancaster, PA, who was attending his first ITA meeting. Tom certainly knew other ITA members when he arrived in Salt Lake City that year, but when the cotton snowball fight broke out during the Winter Wonderland Gala, and most of the GenNOW-ers were behind it, Tom was caught double fisting white “snow”. We all sort of adopted Tom that week, and declared that he was “one of us”…little did he know – it would stick!

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Ever since that meeting, we’ve always made it a point to find each other on opening night and reconnect throughout the event. One of my favorite traditions is finding a new person whom we haven’t yet told the hilarious story from our now infamous game of “Heads Up” (sorry, inside baseball), that had to have permanently solidified the bond between Tom and me.

Tom continues to help the GenNOW group push for new thinking at ITA, and his support has become not just valued, but literally coveted. Many times as young professionals it’s easy to feel like you’re at the kids’ table, and not being taken seriously. Tom provides just the right dose of reality-check-meets-cheerleader to ensure that we keep our feet on the ground, but reach for our goals. Most of all, Tom has taught me that your birthday means absolutely nothing. You don’t have to be under a certain age to understand why it’s important to have young input in an organization. Young thinking is a valuable trait whatever your age may be.

So thanks, Tom – Oh, and thanks for the photo…not bad for your first selfie!

Tom

What a Difference a Year Makes

The end of October marked one year since I started at Intuit. I remember walking into the room at #Solutions13 only 6 days on the job, and breathing a big sigh of relief…I felt like I had just come home.

As much as I felt at home, I realized how much had changed in the 15 months since I’d left the VSB Apps world to focus on internal accounting firm solutions. I mean, who the heck is TSheets and why is everyone wearing their shirts?

The sense of home is a bit ironic – for those who know me, I’m rarely home. Between extensive travel for work, and commuting between OC & Palm Springs – in 2014 “home” sort of became my suitcase and me, wherever that happens to be that night.

As I fast forward to today and look back on what 2014 brought professionally, I’m amazed to see in 14 short months not only that that I finally settled in, but grew the most amazing roots I’ve ever had professionally.

I’ve never been so proud to represent a company than I am working for Intuit. I’m surrounded by amazing, inspiring leaders who give me confidence that we’re well on our way to the next phase of Great. I’m every bit as grateful for teammates like Emily, Valerie, Woody, and the one & only Leary, who show me that they personally care about the success of our partners and customers too.

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I now know what TSheets is, and absolutely adore them…and I’m the proud owner of not just one – but two of the world’s softest TSheets TShirts. Kelly, Jen, Matt, Kelsie, and Victoria – you are all so amazing and make me thrilled to call you partners. Just so I don’t get accused of playing favorites (except it’s my blog, so I can), Jules, Chris & Team Tallie, Maddy & my pals at Avalara, and one of my newest friends, Caroline from Palo Alto Software (LivePlan) – are just a few more of this year’s highs – I can’t wait to continue bringing the QBO Ecosystem message to accounting firms everywhere.

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Spending nearly 90% of the year away from home this year was made immensely easier because of amazing work friends…who’ve now become friend-friends. Stacy, Richard, Mark, Jan, Gail, Shayna, Cathy, & Chelsey – I am so thankful that “work” includes you.

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On a personal note, it was a year of change too – Auntie Kim welcomed a new niece and nephew, and I said goodbye to my first grandparent…both have given me a new sense of urgency to capture every moment – even if it’s a 30 minute visit en-route to the airport, a 4-hour layover in Houston, or that late night phone call to tease Grandpa about his Tigers…you never know when you won’t have that chance again.

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Something tells me that more change is on the horizon this year – so I’ll anxiously await exciting new adventures, and embrace different challenges, and hey, maybe even take on a new last name…

Happy New Year – wishing you all the best in 2015!

16 Things I Learned on #QBConnectOrBust

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I’m in the car on my way to #Solutions14. Of course, there are no @Intuitaccts challenges, only two of us in the car, and it’s just about 4 hours to Vegas instead of 443 miles to San Jose…but before I close the book on #QBConnect as the last big conference, I had to recap what I learned during this journey.

  1. Hotel room keys typically work best when trying to enter the correct room (right, Jan?)
  2. There is exactly a right amount of cream that Kelly should put in her coffee – and Brian can tell her when “that’s enough”
  3. When Richard warns you that you’ll likely want to throw him out of the car during the drive – keep in mind, he might be so right it happens before you leave the parking lot
  4. 3 people can spend 4 hours putting together a 12+ hour playlist, and the most notable song of the trip may still have been sung to the tune of “Wheels on the Bus” accompanied by a kazoo
  5. After 4 hours, not even one of those 3 people will think to test the audio connection in the vehicle to ensure it is actually equipped to play from an MP3 player
  6. When you need tech support – you’re extra thankful you invited a millennial along for the ride, Madeline to the rescue!
  7. When half of the passengers in a car were born in 1983 or later, the question “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” will invoke Siri and Google maps for reference material (now we all know to ask Gail)
  8. Kazoos are not as easy to play as you may think
  9. It’s completely possible to convert 3 QuickBooks Desktop files to QuickBooks Online from the backseat of a car filled with 6 #QBConnect Attendees (in fact, a few of them might even help out a little) somewhere between Valencia and Fresno
  10. Writing “Honk if you love QuickBooks Online” on the back of a Ford Expedition gives the driver an excuse to cut off traffic whenever necessary to elicit additional honks/ “likes”
  11. It’s entirely possible to stretch a 6 hour 41 minute drive to 10 hours by stopping at 3 Starbucks, 2 McDonalds, 1 In-N-Out Burger, and a gas station (plus the emergency AV cord recon)
  12. Posing with David Leary’s head on a stick can double your social impressions
  13. The aftermath of 6 business professionals in an SUV for 10 hours resembles a typical college dorm room on a Sunday morning – one word: HazMat
  14. A great way to redeem yourself after almost being thrown out of the car 5 minutes into the trip is reminding Brian to check the gas gage at 4 miles till empty (can you say Thelma & Louise?)
  15. The best way to assure you’ll leave #QBConnect more exhausted than any other conference is to arrive there already wiped out from a day in the car
  16. If you ever want to get to know, love, and appreciate 6 of your “favorite industry colleagues”…call them up and invite them to take a ride to San Jose. You’ll remember it for a long long time – Do I have any takers for #QBConnectOrBust 2015?

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Stop & Smell the BBQ

One of the things I’m always trying to explain to people about my frequent travels is that regardless of where I go on my business trips – every city looks the same: airport, cab, hotel room, conference center. Whether I’m in North Platte, NE or Waikiki, Honolulu, HI – I tend to have about the same amount of free time to “explore”…none.

Every once in a while though, I feel like I hit the jackpot. Over the past year or so, I’ve been privileged to connect with some extra-gracious locals, who have taken the time out of their lives, to ensure that my visit isn’t “just another day at the office”.

My colleague, Rachel, and I spent this week in Kansas City (“Home of BBQ and Jazz”) for the kick-off of the Boomer Technology Circle meetings. I’ve attended several other Boomer events here in KC, and have still managed to see about the same amount of the place: Westin Crown Center, taxi cab, Jack Stack BBQ. This week however, we fell into a tub of BBQ sauce, thanks to Scott Morrill from Boomer. Along with one of the other sponsors, we were whisked out of the Crown Center and off to famous Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ – where you can eat your dinner in a gas station. On the way back, we took the scenic route, and he provided us a tour of the various city landmarks including the new Plaza, the WWI Liberty Memorial monument, and Union Station.

Last Summer, while Brian & I were visiting a firm in the Detroit area, we were honored when an executive cleared his Friday evening at home (a rare occurrence if you know his travel schedule), to spend it showing us around. After a great dinner and a trip to see the Woodward Dream Cruise pre-show, we took a detour and were treated to an incredible tour of Cranbrook, which boasts a campus filled with architecture to take your breath away and keep you talking about it for years.

To be filed in the “once in a lifetime” folder, on a visit to Honolulu for the Hawaii Society of CPAs annual conference (trust me, it was still a work trip, filled with frustrations, 4:30am conference calls, and missed flights), my new customers showed me the Royal Hawaiian treatment. Swooping in for me in Waikiki, we quickly made our escape, explaining that they only go downtown if they have to. We proceeded to drive up a mountain just as it started to pour down rain. Determined to show me their favorite lookout spot, we made it to the top, made the mad-dash to the side of the cliff, and captured the most beautiful rainbow spanning the entire island of Oahu. Afterward, they showed me a great time filled with dinner, donuts, and moochi, as we sampled all of their favorite local spots.

It’s funny how these three experiences seem so simple – all they did was spend an evening with us. Yet the effort from these individuals to provide us business tourists with a little glimpse of something that we surely would have missed without a local there to guide us makes these seemingly small gestures so hugely meaningful.

Unplugged on Oahu

Sounds like a dream come true? Think again! Anyone who longs for a business trip to Hawaii (or any exotic destination for that matter) obviously hasn’t ever been on one of my island work adventures. Colleagues, family, and friends often tell me they’re envious of my travels. Unfortunately, at least in my experience, traveling off the mainland for work is no more enjoyable – but often a lot more frustrating – than any other business trip. Now before you call BS on me, let me just give you a glimpse into my little world a few weeks back as I traded in my stilettos for flip flops on my desperate search for power.

After a great-but-exhausting 5-days in Las Vegas for the first part of the week (if you missed my recap, see Hey, Baby – Let’s Go to Vegas!), my commute to Waikiki was extraordinarily crazy. Between the 4 ½-hour drive from Vegas, the 15-minute “layover” at home in OC, and my 1 ½-hour rush-hour drive to LAX, I arrived at the airport a cozy 30 minutes before my 6-hour flight to the beautiful island of Oahu. So, when I finally arrived at my hotel around 11pm local time (3 hours behind PDT), I was beyond wiped.

I managed to be pretty productive on the flight and cranked out proposals, contracts, and even a blog post. But as we approached the island, my battery read my mind and decided it was bedtime. When I got to my room, I quickly plugged in to release the emails I had drafted, but after the day I had just been through, I threw in the towel and decided to tackle the rest in the morning.

To my horror, I awoke not to the sound of waves outside my window, but to the sight of a low battery warning on my iPhone (which was charging from my laptop). I immediately realized that something was wrong, and my laptop wasn’t on. With my poor Ultra Book clocking as many frequent flyer miles as me, I’d been dealing with a temperamental power cord for weeks. Up until that point I had just managed to use the old “wiggle & twist” & “stick a wad of paper in there” tricks to keep things functioning. Not that day though. I was officially dead in the water.

I got creative, managing to use my iPad & iPhone for my morning calls & web meetings…of course, not thinking through the drain on their batteries while doing so. When I finally got a free window, I decided to trek out to the mall to see if I could hunt down a replacement charger. Several hours later, with a dead iPhone, dead iPad, and visit to three different stores, I returned to my hotel room victorious (Mahalo to Jared at Best Buy in Honolulu, my geek in a faded blue shirt, who saved my day & helped me ensure that the cord was the problem).

As I told this story to various people the past few weeks, the common reaction was an overly-sarcastic toned “Oh you poor thing, stuck in Hawaii with no laptop”. To which I can only reply that until you’ve been in my shoes, you’ll never know how bad it feels to be powerless trying to work on an Island.

Hey, Baby – Let’s Go to Vegas!

2013 marked my 4th annual AICPA Tech+/ Practitioners Symposium in Las Vegas. Over the past 4 years this event has stood out as a highlight for some great (and not so great) reasons. This year was no exception: I caught up with some of my favorite people in the industry, spent the night driving go-karts with a bunch of CPAs, and kept up the accounting trade show in Vegas tradition of invading In-N-Out with “In-N-Out rookies”. While this might sound appealing, I assure you that there are also some very serious side-effects involved with any Las Vegas trade show. To prove my point, I figured I’d spell out some of the reasons I love – and love to hate – the annual event that takes place in nobody’s favorite city.

The Good 

The Drive: Anyone else sick of packing in 3oz bottles, TSA pat downs, and cramming 5-days of business clothes into carry-on luggage? Well hop into our roomy Ultimate Edition (or similar) Avis provided rent-a-car for a smooth ride through the desert complete with stop in the now-famous Baker, California for a hard-earned, made-to-order Blizzard frozen dairy treat (held upside down for your viewing pleasure) from Dairy Queen.

Bonus Feature: The sky is the limit for shoes in Vegas (both in height and quantity). The real question is whether the hotel closet is big enough for my entire footwear collection.

The Bad

Let me start by saying that there is no such thing as a short walk in Vegas. A not-short walk in 5” heels makes for quite the commute from room to exhibit hall to dinner to room to…well, you get the picture. Heaven help me if I forget my laptop charger (or any other necessary item) behind. I’ve just lost an hour of my day – and my feet will be cursing me every step of the walk of shame back to my room (purely hypothetical example).

To add insult to injury, I’m fairly certain they have some type of Wurtzite Boron Nitrade for floors throughout Las Vegas, specifically designed to inflict extra pain on trade show attendees forced not only to walk – but stand in 10’X10’ exhibit hall booths. True story: there could possibly be a YouTube video of me walking barefoot through Aria carrying a pair of Christian Louboutins after I was officially defeated by the Vegas floors of death back in 2011.

The Ugly

Rise & Shine Accounting World (if you’re not still out from last night that is)! It’s 6:30am and breakfast is served! Now, let me clarify that “Breakfast” might include grey-centered hard boiled eggs and other “trade show food stuff”, but thankfully, because it’s 6:30am, you haven’t had any coffee yet, so you won’t care!

Speaking of coffee…don’t even get me started. Only in Vegas can you pay over $5 for a cup of terrible coffee that not only won’t give you even the slightest pick-me-up, but also won’t be remotely drinkable. My good friend @OrangeGirlNZ sums up the Las Vegas caffeine woes masterfully in this “Coffee Bible” of a blog (complete with photos). My advice: Live by it, she’s not kidding.

Getting through PSTech week in Vegas is sort of like running a 5-day marathon in high heels on about 5 hours of sleep. While some might prefer to think that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, I think we all know better…what happens in Vegas lives forever on social media. See you next year!Vegas

Things I’ve Learned from my Publicist

In honor of this special day, a tribute to @austinnexus, one of my very favorite people in the world. Here are just a few of the many things he’s taught me:

1. Never let an editor catch you in Chuck Taylors.

2. If you eat healthy 99% of the time – you are entitled to one (1) Mocha Chip Blizzard on every trip through Baker, CA.

3. When it comes to accounting trade shows…nothing good happens after midnight.

4. There’s no such thing as too much (good) coffee.

5. Good things happen to those who follow through and take advantage of every opportunity – even if it takes longer than you think it should.

6. With the right business purpose – you can justify paying just about anything for a great pair of shoes.

7. Always look toward the future – and think about what you want your shoe closet to look like.

8. Your network and your reputation are both fragile: handle with care.

9. You can never be too prepared for a natural disaster.

10. A ride to (or pick up from) the airport can sometimes be the most treasured gift.

11. Let him carry your bags – you’ll be glad you did when you’re pushing his wheelchair in 40 years.

12. The Bellagio tram door won’t even wait for someone as important as him.

13. The best kind of bar is a raw bar.

14. It is perfectly acceptable to drive straight from the gym to In-N-Out Burger as long as it’s not more than once a month.

15. Never underestimate a 4 hour car ride through the Mojave Desert…it just might change your life forever.

Happy 50th Birthday, Mr. Publicist! May the next 50 be even better than the first…