I am an advocate of education. Not just academically but consider what the successful and the unsuccessful person has done and identify what they can emulate and what could be done differently. Put yourself in an environment where you can gain exposure to opportunities and people. Set your own standards, push yourself. The world is evolving, so do not be averse to change, take risks or step outside of your comfort zone and at the same time create stability around you.
As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shanikwa Davis. Shanikwa is an Enrolled Agent (EA) a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), an online tax instructor for Northeastern University Graduate School of Business and the owner of a tax consulting firm. Her firm provides tax planning, advisory and accounting services to assist companies to effectively and efficiently run their businesses. Areas of focus include individuals, whether resident, nonresident or multi-state income tax filings; experience in tax compliance as it relates Corporations, Flow through Entities’, Estates, Trusts and gift tax reporting. They prepare returns, administrative filings, advises and represents corporate entities and individuals. She has successfully resolved matters under federal and state (audit) review; drafted petitions and affidavits, including requests for abatement; and handled a number of issues before the Office of Appeals within the Internal Revenue Service and the Massachusetts Department of Revenue. She is an active member of the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants’ Woman in Accounting Committee, sits on their Educational Foundation Board and Scholarship Selection Committee, a member of American Institute of CPAs and a member of Norfolk & Plymouth Estate and Business Planning Council. Shanikwa often speaks for professional organizations and higher education institutions throughout the greater Boston area.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Banking/Finance field?
While in high school there was an organization that provided a job shadow opportunity. I was always good at math. I asked to shadow someone in the banking industry. I was just thinking a bank teller. I received the opportunity to shadow an executive at an investment bank. The rest is history.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occured to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
While a staff member at a firm I previously worked for, there was a client (I never met in person) that came in for a meeting. As part of the tax team, our job was to determine the next steps for the client and go over the tax position we’d taken on a deal the client made. The project was on the higher end of most of the firm’s clients. When the client arrived in the waiting area, I looked over him. He was ungroomed with a backpack, sneakers and torn jeans. I was expecting to see someone who looked like they had the amount of money for the engagement we were working on. Since then, I learned to never judge a client when they reach out to me, no matter how old, how they dress or how they carry themselves. I intentionally treat every client as though they own a multi-million dollar company and do not judge whether they can afford our fees or not.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am originally from the City of Boston, so I have a passion for reaching back. Over the last year, there are a number of speaking engagements I have done in and around the community. My latest ‘project’ is an affordable community based financial literacy workshop that is designed to give, those in the community, access to information they could not otherwise afford.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I’ve always known that my personal brand was important even as an employee of other firms. I’ve just expanded that concept and try to provide my clients with the service I would expect from my accountant. We offer personalized services and can do so outside of the typical business hours.
Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?
The business landscape has changed, the internet has surpassed barriers that previously exist.
Information and opportunities are available to more people regardless of their race, background, beliefs or affiliations. Naturally, people like working with someone they can relate to, can do the job and have similar values. I noticed the shift some years ago when I entered the profession and figured if I could hold on long enough, someone would prefer a company that has a traditional feel but can operate unconventionally.
Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a) individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support this movement going forward?
There is such a stigma around women leaders. I’ve witnessed women challenged in ways that a man in her same position is not challenged. I’m very observant and coming up in the industry through the years, I noticed how women were almost forced to go the extra mile or somehow needed to prove themselves. Companies should establish and truly support the woman in their organizations. They should provide opportunities for them to advance and if they miss the mark, provide support to allow them to progress. For me personally, mentorship with individuals in key positions have been instrumental to my success in the industry.
You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each.
I have young adult children and they will tell you I am an advocate of education. Not just academically but consider what the successful and the unsuccessful person has done and identify what they can emulate and what could be done differently. Put yourself in an environment where you can gain exposure to opportunities and people. Set your own standards, push yourself. The world is evolving, so do not be averse to change, take risks or step outside of your comfort zone and at the same time create stability around you.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are many people that contributed to my success. Personally, I was a teen parent and I would say my grandmother who raised me and never gave up on me. She would keep my son so I could go to work (two jobs most of the time) and go to school. From a professional prospective, surprisingly most of the people that contributed to some of my greatest opportunities were men. Though the landscape is changing, men can play a critical component in advocating for a women’s professional success, especially in the financial industry.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Treat people how you want to be treated”
I am uncertain who the author is but I am very mindful of how I treat people. In a leadership position, it can be challenging when you look at the weight of your responsibility and all of the things you need to juggle. However, I make a conscious effort to treat anyone I deal with the way I would want to be treated. Whether they are the waiter or the CEO/partner — I know people want to be seen, I try to give my complete attention and not overlook people.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would say to always be available to mentor. There was an organization that visited my high school that connected me to my mentor. My relationship and support of that mentor changed the trajectory of my life.
Thank you for all of these great insights!