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Nikki Winston

Nikki Winston

Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.

I am Nikki Winston, a (pending) CPA and champion for working moms. I'm a Cincinnati native but have lived in Atlanta, Georgia for the last 13 years. A proud alum of THE Ohio State University - Max M. Fisher College of Business. Cooking, reading, working out and family travels are my things. I love bracelets, heels and a good whiskey. I'm an introverted extrovert.

Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?

My favorite Ellevate Network memory was a Quarterly Wine-Up in Atlanta last fall. I love the numerous ways we as members can connect with each other but doing so in a fun environment with wine was a great time.

How would you define your professional mission?

My professional mission is to make a place better than I found it. That might involve re-engineering processes or bringing in new team members but I like to fix things both in the office and in the community as a volunteer.

What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?

Resilience. You have to be OK with getting up more times than you get knocked down. Accounting, specifically in a leadership capacity means a lot falls on me - if a project goes awry or a deadline isn't met, I have to take that hit for my team. Flexibility. Not every team member needs the same time of coaching. Because of that I have to know my team members individually and understand their unique needs. A seasoned accounting manager may not need me to talk them through analyzing a P&L like a staff accountant would. Lastly, you have to love accounting. There are times when I'm reading financial statements or writing memos about the accounting treatment for a transaction. While it's not the most glamorous, we add a lot of value to an organization.

What is one of your most memorable career accomplishments?

Passing the CPA exam and all 1,373+ days it took me to do that. I waited until I was well-established in my career before I got serious about the exams. It was one of the toughest things I have ever done and now that I've passed all of them I appreciate that journey so much more.

What project have you worked on that you’re most proud of? Why?

I'm most proud of a community service project I worked on a few years ago with NABA (National Association of Black Accountants). I served as a board member and Community Affairs Director where I was tasked with coordinating our annual Day of Service. Historically we'd repeated the same event each year so I decided to do something different and our chapter chaperoned a Parklane Elementary School field trip to the Georgia Aquarium. At first it was met with internal resistance but I moved forward anyway because I knew we could have a huge impact. I recruited volunteers from NABA, my workplace and my neighborhood. We ended up with double the volunteers we initially needed and the Discovery Team was so grateful because had it not been for us they would have had no one to support these hundreds of kids as they explored the aquarium.

We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?

What I wrote down for my career path was the opposite of what actually happened. I expected the traditional career path from staff to senior to manager and beyond which all was accounting-focused. Because I kept myself open to explore new things in the field my would-be all accounting career is one with accounting, finance, operational risk, systems implementation, audit, securitization, capital markets and of course leadership.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is that people look to me for my expertise in accounting and advice on career moves. I hear business leaders say "I'm not an accountant so what does this mean" or a new professional wondering how to prepare for an interview. I appreciate that people view my experiences as ones that can benefit them too.

Who are your role models?

I love Arlan Hamilton and everything about her - how she took literally nothing and is creating something with Backstage Capital that's so needed for women and people of color. People don't take those kinds of risks anymore to be successful. There were so many moments in her story where she could have gave up but look at her today. I also admire Myleik Teele, founder of CurlBox. When you want to define excellent, look at Myleik. She too has an amazing story of putting in the work to build. She's successful and many womens' InstaMentor but I appreciate how she posts moments from when her business was in the incubator phase and how her posts once had only 3 likes and look at her now. My kids are also my role models. I talk to them and observe them and it makes me want to do better and go harder. We have some of the best thought-provoking conversations about any and everything. Sometimes I look at them and say damn, we're doing a pretty good job as parents.

What is your morning ritual?

My morning ritual begins with a prayer while I'm still in bed. After that I head to my "woo-sah" room to stretch and mediate. I have turmeric tea and play my daily brain games on my phone. I also do my daily devotion from the Bible plans I'm reading. I check my calendar to see what I have going on for the day. By then, kids are up, husband is up and the pandemonium begins!

What would you say your personal superpower is?

My personal superpower is that I'm an extroverted introvert. I love interacting and networking with people but I also love my alone time. I can attend a networking event or speak to an audience and build rapport with people (I actually WILL contact you afterward and follow up.). We can talk, laugh and have a great time but outside of that I can lounge at home in solitude and still feel that same positive energy.

Is work-life balance a problem for you? What is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

What in the world is work-life balance?! Each day for me is usually planned so I can allocate time to work and time to my family as needed. I have yet to find perfect harmony but the key is that - harmony. I've found a level of integration that works for my life. Because of deadlines and business travel it's not 100% fool-proof but it works for me and my husband's support makes my time away much easier. Whatever can be automated for me is automated - from saving money to getting my makeup delivered to my front door so I don't have to run to the mall and get it.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

I ask a thousand questions when I don't understand something and when I asked my first boss, Sandra Holstine, a round of questions she said, "I can sit here and tell you about it all day but you'd learn a lot more if you go out there and figure it out for yourself." As a new graduate, it felt a bit abrasive but I appreciate it now more than ever because I used her words to drive my career. I learn as much as I can about something on my own and I will present a problem in addition to proposed solutions.

What is one piece of advice you’d offer working moms?

Take care of YOU. It doesn't mean you love your work or family any less. There's so much on our plates at work, at home, at our kids' schools and their activities and those things will always be there. Figure out how to make your time work best for you whether it's remote work, flex-time, meal planning, hiring a housekeeper, etc. Pencil yourself in on your own calendar and take some time each week and do things you love like extra sleep, a workout or a massage. I didn't realize how much I loved going to the movies by myself until I did it, it's pretty exhilarating.


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