The In-Depth Story of Quitting My Job: An Interview with Blair LeeMay 22, 2023
This week, I had the privilege of being interviewed by the amazing Blair Lee! We talked all about the in-depth story of my escape from corporate, how motherhood and corporate life could never have mixed for me, and so much more. Let’s dive straight in!
The Escape Plan: Quitting My Job
Blair: Today I'm chatting with the wonderful Katie Ferro, who is a CPA with a prior life in corporate tax and a current life that she's created on her own terms. And that is what we are talking about today.
With my background being in accounting, I know the normal route of getting your CPA license as well as going into public accounting or wherever it is you go next. Katie started on that track, but she's taken that background and leveraged it into something new that is, in my humble opinion, so much greater. So Katie, please tell us what you've done here.
Katie: Well, long story short, I think I resonate with tons of accountants insofar as I grew up just following a path of trying to keep everybody happy, trying to do the right thing and make people proud. I also wanted to find something stable and secure and be able to take care of myself.
I ended up pursuing accounting just because I was good at math and didn't know what to do with my life, and it sounded good. It also sounded like something that I could do when I had kids, because I knew that I wanted to have kids my whole life. I'm one of three kids, and I’ve always wanted to be a mom of three kids.
I wanted them closer in age than they are, actually, and they're only a year and a half and two years apart. When I was pregnant with my son, I actually got a double stroller anticipating that I would have two babies!
I thought that accounting and tax would be something that I could do from home when I had babies, and I laugh at that now, because nothing seems more impossible than working a tax practice by yourself with babies, because I didn't know what tax entailed.
Blair: Did you think this was going to be corporate tax, or did you always have a vision of doing something on your own?
Katie: No, I didn't always have a vision of doing something on my own. That thought was a backup plan, but I never actually thought that I would have it. I thought that I could be an employee at home for someone else.
Anyway, after that, I got a job working in sales tax because I didn't want to go the public accounting route. It was a really, really good starting point, but I was only there for a little bit more than a year before quitting my job.
I actually started pursuing a second bachelor's in nursing because I had this idea in my head that I could work three twelve-hour shifts instead. I just couldn't stand the nine-to-five thing. But then I ended up moving home for personal reasons, so I tracked down a job in sales tax in that area. They paid for a master’s degree, so I fully shifted gears and went to school to get my master's in tax.
When that was over, I got my CPA license before quitting my job in corporate and working for a CPA firm for a while. It was only about two years before my corporate job sharked me back with a management position.
I learned so much there, and they were great people, to be honest. Even though I ended up quitting my job there, it was the only corporate environment I worked in where my bosses and the people that I worked with were not toxic. It was one of the best corporate environments that existed at that time.
When that job sharked me back, I was very open about it with the CPA firm before quitting my job there, because I really trusted my corporate boss and I knew that I had that job. So I felt stable in being honest with the people who were good to me over two years.
I told them, “If you're going to counter, I need to know now, because I don't want to drag my former boss through hoops trying to get me this position and then make him look like an idiot. So if you're going to counter with something that I want to take, you need to do it now.”
I remember being pulled into the office by the tax partner at the CPA firm. He was a great guy and he meant this in the nicest way possible, but he told me that if I stayed at the firm for five more years, I could be making six figures.
At the time, I was making sixty-something, and I was being offered eighty-something with bonuses for quitting my job at the COA firm and going back to the corporate job.
That “six-figure” drop was supposed to inspire me the shit out of me. But if I had done that, things would have been drastically different. Not only would I have been grinding for five more years, trying to make a hundred thousand, but fast forward five years after quitting my job there, I was already probably making a hundred thousand in my bookkeeping business at home.
When I went back to this corporate office, I was there for about a year before I got pregnant. I was twenty-nine, and all of a sudden I started thinking, “How do these two things work together? And instead of being parallel lines running next to each other and supporting each other, they were perpendicular. I couldn't understand how it was going to happen, but I would look at other working moms in my corporate job and say, “Well, they're doing it. So it must be doable.”
Then, at twenty weeks pregnant, I got in a car accident on my way to this job, and it shook me to my core.
I was okay, but not emotionally. I was sobbing on the side of the road going, “How am I going to do this without quitting my job?”
The very next day, this big company that I went back to offered a voluntary separation agreement where I would receive twelve weeks of severance and a nice little bonus for quitting my job. Unreal timing, right?
Even though it was generous, I still knew that by quitting my job and taking that offer, I was selling my corporate career, so it was still a very hard decision to make. But with the accident combined with that payout for quitting my job, I knew I had to do it. It felt like someone was screaming at me to get out, and I had to trust that.
I took that offer. I had my son a month after quitting my job. By the end of that year, I accidentally had three bookkeeping clients, and the rest is a much longer story, but eventually it led to where my bookkeeping business is now.
If I had known then what I know now, I could have done it faster and better, but I'm actually really happy with the way that it turned out. I wouldn't change a thing.
Motherhood and Corporate Life Don’t Mix
Blair: So you never went back to work after having your first child, and from that point on, you managed to create this life. You’ve never actually experienced trying to manage daycare and the commute, which are two huge things while being a typical employee.
Katie: Right. That gives me goosebumps, though, because that could have been my alternate ending. Even though I didn't live it, because it got so close, I have visions of what would have happened without me quitting my job. It makes me tear up, and that doesn't happen that easily. I get emotional thinking about the seasons that I went through just as a mom. Without quitting my job, I can’t imagine what those seasons would have felt like in corporate life.
I had only left corporate a month before my son was born, so I was still grappling with whether quitting my job was the right decision. I was so in the weeds of new motherhood, and the shift from zero to one was the hardest by far. I was way more graceful with adding a third in than I was at adding one in.
When I was on my maternity leave with my son at six weeks, that was probably the hardest time of his life for me. Zero to six weeks was super hard. I remember thinking at the six-week mark, “It is not any better. If anything, it's harder than the day I gave birth to him.” I felt bad for the times that I thought that like maternity leave sounded nice.
Blair: I was going to say, between the six-week and twelve-week mark is when most people go back to work after having a baby.
Katie: Yes, and that was very, very, very acutely on my radar. I was struggling to make it through the day. Because of quitting my job, I didn't have an alarm clock. I didn't have to have a conversation with my boss. I didn't have to be anywhere other than exactly where I was. And it was still so all-consumingly hard.
If I had needed to make a decision about quitting my job or going back in six weeks. that would have been horrifying for me. I would have had to not only try to figure out how to eat, sleep, clean this baby, and survive for both of us to get through this moment, but then to figure out daycares? No.
I didn’t even have to make decisions outside of how to keep me and my baby alive, and it was so difficult.
When my son was eleven weeks old, I was like, “I'd be back at work today.” It would have devastated me to leave him when he was so little.
Women, especially women in corporate, are expected to just go back and be able to operate at a high level very quickly. And it's just amazing to me that that's what the mindset is. I mean, I'm hoping it's shifting, but I don't know that it is.
They talk about how there are some things that you don't really heal from. I think that would have imprinted a level of trauma that I couldn't have healed from, and it makes me want to hug anyone who's ever done it and is still doing it.
Blair: So bringing this back to bookkeeping, this is why you are so passionate about helping other women.
I mean, you’re helping everybody, but you’re helping them create autonomy and power over their lives, right?
Katie: Yes. You really opened it up.
Blair: That's what it is. It’s creating this ability that a lot of women, especially accountants, don't think that they have, because the other thing is that there is a stereotype that bookkeeping is a low-level, low-paying kind of situation. You help teach people to operate at a very high level and actually get paid their worth and create that autonomy and that business they want.
I know you have other things that you're working on as well, but it’s the stability of the bookkeeping business leveraged from your accounting background that enabled that to happen.
Katie: It feels like the backbone of my life. It's the thing that keeps things running, because money is needed, but it allows me to play with my time and keep doing this thing I can count on while I challenge myself to make more space, even when I get more time to fill. It allows me to go out into other areas and do other things, which can be anything.
Seriously, anything you want. Anything. The world is yours.
If you're looking for more tips for bookkeeping, insight on how to become a bookkeeper, and how to say hello to a more confident business model, enroll in Become A Bookkeeper (BABs).
To learn about the programs and get a peek behind the curtain, head to www.katieferro.com/6-secrets.
Learn how to take your bookkeeping skills and turn them into a business that allows you to replace (or surpass) your corporate salary, be present for your life, and profoundly impact your clients without selling your life in the process by joining Life by the Books (LIBBY).
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