Harmonizing passions: A journey from the arts to accounting and nonprofit empowerment

Anne Ellyse Kania, RSM alum

RSM alumni Culture

I was born in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and grew up in Naples, Florida. My early interests revolved around English literature and a passion for musical theater. Accounting and finance … seemed light-years away from the world of Broadway and literary classics.

Anne Ellyse Kania - RSM alum

During an intended gap year spent interning at a nonprofit in New Orleans, Louisiana, I decided to pursue my Master of Business Administration (MBA) in nonprofit management. My career perspective shifted thanks to an extraordinary accounting professor at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Her guidance and mentorship opened my eyes to the accounting world, and something about it clicked for me. After completing my master's program, I returned to New Orleans, and there, I found a growing need for individuals with accounting experience in the nonprofit sector. I was excited to start a career where I greatly enjoyed my work because of its connection to an important cause. As opportunities grew, I found myself on a journey that ultimately led me to pursue a certified public accountant (CPA) designation.

In 2020, the global pandemic prompted my partner and I to reevaluate our home location, and we decided it was time to find a place that aligned better with our values. We sought a place closer to family and one that shared our commitment to environmental causes. An opportunity presented itself with a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., driving us to the nation's capital.

While working in the niche field of nonprofits, I craved more diverse perspectives and insights regarding accounting and finance. This interest led me to RSM US LLP (RSM), where I was initially impressed by the extensive knowledge and clear communication of an RSM auditor during an audit of my then-employer. That experience motivated me to join the firm and explore its financial advisory outsourcing (FAO) practice. At RSM, I had the privilege of working with a talented and experienced team. I touched on many accounting areas of which I only had a brief knowledge. While at RSM, I learned how to run an engagement team and layer and scaffold skills from the associate level to more senior-level employees. An important aspect I learned was to provide new responsibilities and mastery of content to the more junior members of the team so that they're more engaged and stay with the team long-term because of their investment in the work rather than completing transactional tasks. At RSM, you can tell they're invested in accountants becoming great accountants instead of accountants doing the bare minimum so that the organization can do great work.

After about a year with the FAO team, I soon realized that my heart missed the direct connection to the missions of the organizations I served—I knew nonprofit was the world for me when an opportunity with the World Wildlife Fund extended a hand. I eagerly accepted the role as the grants and international accounting manager. Today, I oversee grant accounting and work with 14 countries consolidated into the U.S. World Wildlife Fund in Washington, D.C. I also sit on the board of a Houston-based nonprofit called Intertwined. The board is almost exclusively women and many women of color, and the executive director and founder, Cheronda Bryant, is a powerhouse of passion and skill. Intertwined's mission is to create better communities by building life empowerment skills in youth and allyship in adults. They are doing wonderful work around youth programming for empowerment and leadership skills and important work around diversity, equity and inclusion training in public and nonprofit spaces. While my path to public accounting might not be the most traditional, it's a testament to how diverse experiences can lead to meaningful and unexpected opportunities.

Outside of work, I am a member of the D.C. Triathlon Club. Not to sound like Chris Traeger on the NBC comedy series “Parks and Recreation,” but “biking for charity is literally my favorite thing to do!” When I first joined RSM, I was excited to see their relationship with the Bike MS. When you can use something you love to elevate an important cause, that's special. As an RSM alumna, I participated this year with RSM's team, and I hope other alums feel invited to join opportunities like this in the future.

Want to hear more about Anne Ellyse's RSM alum story? Connect with her on LinkedIn. Or, if you’re inspired to find your next role at RSM, explore our openings today.

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