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Marcy Johnson’s story

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Mjohnson inside office

#auditorproud As an auditor @grantthorntonusa I get to not only have rewarding career experiences I have capacity to be an amazing mom to my two kiddos and give back in my local community, which are my passions!

Mjohnson hiking

As you can see from my Instagram post from last fall, this is my life now. But for many years I thought I was being a good employee by spending my days and evenings at work, and doing little outside of my job. It took me a while to learn that isn’t what Grant Thornton wants from me or for me.

My Facebook status eight years ago said, “I don’t know if I require professional help. It’s 11:30 in the morning, and I’ve already been at work for six hours.”

I’m homegrown Grant Thornton. I’ve been with the firm for over 12 years, first as an intern, then as a new hire in the Audit practice, and on up to my current position as senior manager in the Professional Practice Director group in the Atlantic Coast Region. Early on, I was a self-professed workaholic. The practice leader sat down with me and seriously advised me to change. I took that feedback to heart and decided to devote more of my time to working on causes I personally care about. For example, I became a founding member of the Future Fund, a group of young professionals who pooled resources and provided grants to local nonprofits. The firm supported me by sponsoring the organization and allowing my volunteering to be conducted during the normal workweek. During my tenure, I introduced some of Grant Thornton’s younger employees to networking; the group is full of lawyers, bankers, insurance agents and other professionals. I had the opportunity to interact with numerous nonprofits and have been able to maintain those relationships.

Mjohnson in Future Fund

Then I became pregnant with my first child. I didn’t know any working moms in my office, so I had no shining examples of how to care for a baby and also fulfill the demands of a job like mine. I thought my career was over, and in a way, it was. My office leadership was amazing; they let me know that my career as I had previously known it was over, but that in a different sense, it was just getting started. The leadership team reiterated their confidence in me with a promotion while I was on maternity leave. After my return to work, I described to the practice leader my fears about balancing work and parenting. He said he could count on one hand how many of his three kids’ events he missed because of work. He asked me about my challenges. A prime one was not being able to find day care on Fridays. He said we’d structure my schedule so I’d have Fridays off or work from home. Whatever I needed to do, he said, we’ll figure it out. And we have. He and other colleagues at the firm urged me to be there for my child. They said they knew I’d get the work done, that it wasn’t in me to not get it done.

Mjohnson biking with kids

"In this and other ways, the firm and our people have proven to me, and all of us, that flexibility is part of our culture."I often say it’s more about blending and less about balancing. If life were balanced on a scale, you’d have to choose one side or another. But it’s not like that. Sometimes work and kids happen at the same time. I’m now a parent of two kids who leaves work early on Mondays for her kids’ dance class and soccer practice. I sit at the soccer field reading consultations and following up on emails while other parents are chatting. I occasionally work from home in order to volunteer at the school for an hour. I’m blending — getting work done but also there for my child. I travel fairly often but have a certain amount of control over my travel schedule, and with the technology the firm provides, I interact with colleagues and clients from where I am. It works. My performance scores went up after I had kids and started doing other things. If it weren’t for the firm’s culture and people, I would have left because blending wouldn’t have been possible.

To help other women and working moms realize that they, too, can blend work and personal life, I became our office Women at Grant Thornton champion. We mentor new moms to help them gain confidence in fulfilling their professional roles while continuing to be great moms. I also wanted our group to be a community that would encourage women to reach for the next level in the firm, a Grant Thornton priority.

Mjohnson at GT Holiday party

To give leadership experience to passionate go-getters who had been flying under the radar, I created within Women at Grant Thornton a leadership team and selected chairs of three committees — professional development, internal and external networking, and mentoring moms. Our Women at Grant Thornton group has monthly topical meetings, as well as social events. Membership is also open to men who are allies of women advancing in their careers. Together we send a message to women that they can be all the amazing things they want to be — a great mom, organizational leader, community contributor — and still make partner. They make you a better candidate for leadership. My workaholic self would not have made a good partner. I became a better employee and leader when I took a step back and found other things to do besides auditing. I gained perspective to sustain a long-term, fulfilling career.