From Compliance Auditor to CFO: Kate Lenn’s Path to Leadership
In 2003, Kate Lenn took a compliance auditor position at Calibre right out of college and later moved into a role as Senior Accountant. One of her clients at the time was the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA). Kate never imagined that once day she would become LIUNA’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO). We sat down with Kate to find out more about how she got there.
How has your career come full circle since working at Calibre?
Calibre was my first job out of college with their compliance audit team. After passing the CPA exam I moved to their financial audit side. One of my clients was LIUNA. After starting a family, I left Calibre and worked for a for-profit company. Then, I worked for the American Diabetes Association (ADA), moving from Associate Director to Director of Accounting & Treasury Services, which was a major milestone. After four years with the ADA, I received a call out of the blue for an opening as Comptroller at LIUNA and I took the job. When they were my client, I loved the environment, the people, and always wanted to work there. Now, I serve as LIUNA’s Chief Financial Officer.
What do you like most about working with the labor union community?
I really like the family atmosphere. People look out for each other, take care of one another, and value those relationships.
What is most challenging? Most rewarding?
The most challenging aspect of my job is juggling multiple priorities and expectations from various stakeholders. We don’t have a choice in the timing of report filings, and often deadlines are simultaneous or one right after the other. Working at Calibre gave me first-hand experience of what it is like to work for multiple bosses/partners and their preferences. That was a huge benefit that I took with me throughout my career.
The most rewarding thing about my job is helping staff succeed. I have a diverse group of people on my team, on so many levels, and it is very rewarding to see them excel at what they do. This takes a lot of work, which I don’t do alone. I have help from my team. We all have to work together in order to be successful. Also, a clean audit is always very rewarding!
What has kept you in the accounting field for all these years?
I’ve always been a numbers person and I like the order of accounting. I love seeing a problem and figuring it out. I’m also really big on process improvement, no matter how small it is. If there is something that will make things more efficient and easier for my team then I’m interested. Accounting allows for process improvement, whether it’s a change in your accounting software or new features in the latest version of Excel.
What advice would you give to young CPAs or people in the field?
Learn as much as you can about every aspect when you are auditing. Develop and build relationships with your colleagues and those you are auditing because the labor industry is really small. You never know who will remember you, but it can pay off in a big way. I believe auditors have ample opportunity to excel in their careers because they can demonstrate problem solving skills, which makes them very marketable.
Back in 2003, why did you choose to work at Calibre?
Ironically, I hated auditing in college. I was looking for anything, just not auditing. Calibre had a compliance audit function with a lot of travel involved. The travel incentive was just enough to pique my interest. I worked with Ellen Odell and she was awesome. I discovered that once you get into auditing it is totally different from what you learn in school.
What are some skills you learned or honed during your time at Calibre? How did you develop professionally?
Communication and customer service skills are huge. You’re working with staff at different levels: peers, supervisors and clients. Learning how to manage all of those different people and variables was beneficial for my development. Being a CPA, you are required to continue your education. I took a lot of online courses and attended conferences for both technical skills and interpersonal skills.
What are some of your favorite memories/most positive experiences during your time at Calibre?
I really liked the people. You spend so much time with them that you really get to know them. We went out a lot after work and played in an organized softball league. On top of making friends, I learned a tremendous amount because the partners give staff challenging opportunities to learn. The job set a foundation and path for my success and that made a lasting impact on my career.
What brings you joy outside of the office? What are your passions or hobbies?
I love being involved in my kids’ activities. I was a basketball coach at their school and was the treasurer of the parent-teacher organization. Staying active is definitely a priority for me. I’m an avid traveler and yogi and recently joined a running club at work. While informal, running at work has been a huge mood booster. Going at lunch time brings me energy and that positive feeling lasts all day long. Coincidentally, I solve a lot of challenging issues or identify process improvements during these runs.
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