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Being an Accountant...

Being an Accountant Means Balancing More than Just the Books

As traffic buzzes seven stories below her Raleigh office window one mid-January morning, Amy Baker’s demeanor isn’t what you would expect from a partner in an accounting firm during busy season.

Calm and collected, her casual tone and attentive eyes lead clients and co-workers to believe she has all the time in the world for them.

Even her office space doesn’t have the feel of stressed-out accountant. With pictures of her seventeen-month-old daughter lining the shelves behind her and audit files stacked beside her laptop, everything seems to be in balance—much like Amy’s life.

From the outside, no one would believe this is the first time in three weeks that the recently named partner has been at her office. Defying the outdated stereotype that all an accountant does is “sit behind a desk and crunch numbers,” Amy spends the majority of her time at clients’ offices, often working fourteen-hour days during out-of-town trips to Charlotte. 

Growing up in Johnston County, North Carolina, Amy never imagined she would be where she is today. In college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she chose accounting because, “it was the way I could stay at Carolina for an extra year,” she says with a laugh. When she took her first job with Ernst & Young, she didn’t have long-term aspirations with the public accounting firm, but thirteen years and several promotions later, Amy is the only female in a field of ten male partners in the Raleigh office.

“I fell in love with what I was doing and the people I was working with,” she says. “I tried to build relationships with everyone.”

These relationships aren’t just with grown-ups, however. Amy prides herself in knowing every one her daughter’s daycare classmates. Like millions of women across the country, Amy faced a tough decision when Abby was born—whether or not to stay at home. Instead of giving up the job she loved, she found ways to balance her life.

“One of the greatest advantages in accounting is the flexibility it allows,” she says. “Obviously Abby is my No. 1 priority and work will always come second to that.”

When she’s in town, Amy likes to wake up and spend time with her daughter, take her to daycare, and come home in time to play at night. When she has to be away, she’ll pack as much work into a day as possible, waking up at 5 a.m. and often working in her hotel room until 10 p.m.

“With every fiber of my being, I believe I am serving my purpose on this earth. It’s important for women, even stay-at-home moms, to achieve beyond their kids, to be true to who they are as a person,” she says. “I am happy looking in the mirror every morning and knowing that my daughter is going to daycare.”

Amy’s success doesn’t come as a surprise to those she works with.

“She is an incredible leader who always puts people first when making decisions at work or at home. She focuses on developing the professionals in our firm into true leaders,” says Robert Thorburn, the managing partner of the Raleigh office who delivered the news last year that every accountant dreams of hearing.

Like most days, Amy was out working with a client when she received a phone call summoning her back to the office.

“Welcome to the partnership,” Thorburn told the thirty-one-year-old when she came through his door that day.

The downside of the offer: Amy had to be willing to relocate to Charlotte. That would mean uprooting her husband Britt, who works as a chemist at Bayer, and the life she’d built during the past decade.

To further complicate matters, both sides of their family live nearby, including Amy’s identical twin who works as a lawyer. While the three-hour move would still allow for frequent visits, Amy would lose the casual dinner companions and babysitters who lived just five minutes away.

Although it was one of the most difficult decisions she’s had to make during her career, it was one she arrived at peacefully, she says. With her faith in God and Britt’s support, she agreed to make the move.

Luckily for now, the firm has put the transfer on hold and kept Amy busy managing teams locally, as well as in Bermuda, Singapore and England. She thrives on the constant change and intellectual challenge that each new day brings.

“The first moment you don’t enjoy doing your job, you start not doing a good job,” she says.

While Amy doesn’t know what the future of her career holds, she does anticipate the pitter-patter of a second set of little feet on the not-too-distant horizon.

“People tell women all the time that they can’t do it all,” she says. “Well, that’s not how I think. I really believe I can do it all.”
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