APRIL 2015

AFWA Silicon Valley Scholarship Recipients for 2015!

The scholarship committee is pleased to announce four deserving winners of our AFWA-SV scholarship for 2015. Our scholarship winners this year are a diverse group and all have ambitious plans for their future while maintaining a work/life balance.
Diane Ollila is working on an MBA/Accounting concentration from Golden Gate  University and has been in the public accounting sector for most of her career. She is  looking forward to moving away from tax preparation and into the non-profit sector  as a Chief Financial Officer. Her work/life balance advice is "if you don't have a plan  you will just be a part of someone else's plan". She enjoys volunteering as a horse- sidewalker for equine-facilitated therapy for at risk, low-income children and  military veterans. She is also the program chair for Silicon Valley AFWA for 2014- 2105 and we are glad to have her on the board.

Brendan Haggerty is majoring in Accounting and Information Systems at Santa Clara  University. He comes from a family of accountants his grandmother worked for IBM  in 1950s and his mother at a big 4 until she had to move to private industry because  her advancement to partner was stymied by taking time off for maternity leave. His  mother provided a good role model for work/life balance by "emphasizing family  togetherness time, community involvement, importance of being a good neighbor  and friend, and being a spiritual, ethical person." To balance his time Brendan "set(s)  boundaries and stay(s) organized and focused." Brendan volunteers as a tutor in the  Arrupe program for underprivileged and academically-struggling high school  students, InnVision and The Godfather Foundation for ALS research.

Shruti Raja is pursuing masters in Taxation at San Jose State University. In India she  became a certified Chartered Accountant, returned to the states and now has a one- year old baby who provides inspiration everyday with the new things learned. For  Shruti "being a mom, a wife and aspiring tax professional has made (her) realize ...  key to success is prioritizing the important things." She is also careful to switch  modes between family and homework and to give each her full attention. Shruti is a  volunteer for the VITA program and enjoys mentoring others who want to pursue a  career in accounting and taxation. 

Alyna Merali is majoring in Accounting at Santa Clara University. Her "African  background, Indian heritage and Islamic faith have offered (her) invaluable  perspectives and experiences that have positively shaped her life..." When not  studying and working she raises funds to alleviate global poverty and cancer. Alyna  recently participated in the Global Medical Brigade in Ghana and empowered  students at Starfish International in the Gambia. What brings balance to Alyna's life  is "the act of giving and serving others." She was taught that long ago by her  Grandpa who inspired her with his words "...living a life of humility, in service of  others and continuing to learn, that I can make an impact, provide a spark and  create light." Alyna plans on taking the CPA exam after graduation and then pursue a  master's in Public Health "to channel her passion for health with (her) business  acumen to make an impact in the non-profit sector." She will continue with "global  rotations, her linguistics skills, cultivate (her) love of travel and cultural diversity."

Join me in giving them all a big hand for their achievements and receiving the AFWA -SV scholarships! 


And thank you to all of our members and sponsors whose donations make these annual awards 
possible! We couldn't do it without you!

  Date:  4/28/2015
  Doors Open:  6:00pm 
  Location:  Biltmore Hotel 
    2151 Laurelwood Road 
    Santa Clara, CA 95054 
Scholarship Awards 
    Cost: Day of Event at the Door 
    $40 members 
    $50 guests 
Discount rate, register and pay using Paypal here 
    $35 members 
    $45 guests 

Enter our drawing for a chance to win a 
50% discount for a Becker's review course!

Details to Win:
  • Must be present at April membership meeting on Tuesday the 28th when the winner will be announced.
  • To enter, attend meeting to fill out an entry form.
  • Only one entry per person.
  • Discount is non-transferable. 


Join AFWA Silicon Valley for its Scholarship Awards night and a special Speaker Panel where various accomplished professionals in the accounting and finance profession discuss their experiences. 


Learn more about our special guest speakers below!



Carol Wagner


Carol Wagner, CPA, is the in charge Principal of the ASL Audit & Accounting. She has over 20 years of audit and accounting experience, and has held financial positions in various industries, including technology and real estate. Carol serves a diverse group of clients ranging from venture-backed technology companies to construction and manufacturing companies.


In ASL Audit & Accounting Group, Carol functions as an engagement partner or a technical review partner. The clients she services includes privately held companies in various industries including software, medical device, manufacturing and construction companies with domestic and international operations. Her background also includes work with the Big Four and other accounting firms focused on closely held businesses. Carol attended Lubbock Christian University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting.


Carol's professional and civic associations include: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), California Society of CPAs, Silicon Valley/San Jose Chapter (Past-President), PKF North America, Construction Industry Technician (CIT), Family Giving Tree, First Community Housing, YWCA: Tribute to Women Award, 2014.



Ken Brenner

Ken has over 30 years of banking experience. Prior to joining AvidbankTM in 2006, Ken contributed to the growth of three successful regional business banks, Silicon Valley Bank, Cupertino National Bank and Bridge Bank. From 2001 to 2006, Ken was Executive Vice President of Bridge Bank, and President and Manager of their Palo Alto region. He was President and Managing Director of the Venture Banking Group of Cupertino National Bank from 1992 through 2001, and for the seven years prior to that was Senior Vice President at Silicon Valley Bank.



<Register Here>


Antonio J Santos



Mr. Santos has been the Controller at XL Construction for the last 15 years, and has been a financial manager since 1984. He graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting. His career began in the Construction industry as a Union Laborer and moved to the financial side of the business as a project accountant at Turner Construction. From there he became a financial analyst with Swinerton Company. He was the Controller at Air Systems, an HVAC subcontractor, and managed the accounting department at Princeton Group, a real estate developer. Prior to joining XL Construction, Mr. Santos also served as the Controller for San Jose Construction for eight years.


He has been a member of the Construction Financial Management Association Silicon Valley chapter for over 25 years. He currently serves on the board of directors and is a Past-President of the association. Mr. Santos is also a winner of the CFMA's Joe Quigley Memorial award.


<Register Here>

(click on a Sponsor to be directed to their website)



- March Membership Meeting Recap -
Finding Work Life Balance
Why You Can (and Should) Become a Mentor
Retention Red Flags: 10 Warning Signs That Good
Employees Are Ready to Leave

Pest Practices: How to Handle Nagging Clients

- AFWA Annual Conference -

Nicole Letellier

AFWA - Silicon Valley Chapter President


In my opinion, April is the best month for AFWA - Silicon Valley Chapter as it is the month that we award our scholarships to deserving students. Scholarships are one of the reasons I am proud to be a member of this organization. As most of you already know, I am a past scholarship recipient. It was such a great experience and help at that time and I can assure you that it changed the course of my career. If you want to hear more, feel free to talk to me at any meetings. I am very grateful to AFWA for so many reasons.

For those of you in income tax practice, April may be a terrible month, but also it is the best second part of any month. Relief is in sight and we make sure that our meeting is scheduled well after tax season is over!

Traditionally we have a panel of professionals who represent multiple aspects of an accounting and
finance career. This year again, we will follow our tradition and have a panel of professionals who will talk about what they do, how they arrive where they are today, and why they keep doing it. As a student, I always enjoyed hearing what accountants were doing. It is a field that has broad variety of careers. In school, we tend to hear about becoming a CPA and working for a CPA firm. I can assure you that there are many other paths for an accounting and/or finance graduate; you should not ignore these other avenues.

It will be with great pleasure that I will congratulate in person our scholarship recipients again this year. These students have shown dedication to their studies, while working full time, for most of them, and helping their community, either at the school or at an outside organization. I would like to see a room full of supporters for our winners, so please consider joining us for this very special meeting.

In addition to our scholarship awards, we will be installing our new board members for our fiscal year 2015-16. Our new board members will take office on July 1st, 2015. 

I am personally inviting each one of you to come and witness our deserving scholarship recipients and show support for your new board of directors.

I am looking forward to seeing you all at our next meeting.

Truly yours,

Nicole Letellier





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AFWA Silicon Valley welcomed guest speaker Dr. Susan Parker! 
Dr. Susan Parker delivered a wonderful presentation on how to handle ethical issues based on the 
"Giving Voice to Values" curriculum by Mary C. Gentile. 

Thank you Dr. Susan Parker!


APRIL NEWSAccountability

By Berranthia Brown, CMI, AFWA National President
April 9, 2015


Most of you are currently in the midst of tax season and trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel to April 15th. Trust me, it's just around the corner. Because our everyday lives require us to juggle so many responsibilities, both personal and professional, there's never enough time to get everything done. Whether it's filing tax returns, helping the kids with homework, aiding senior parents, or serving as a volunteer in the community, there's just never enough time to balance it all.


In the past few years as my roles have changed, I have learned that setting boundaries with my schedule has been the key to balancing my work and personal life. Between AFWA, work, church, Bentley (my 4-legged child/dog) and other organizations that I belong to, it just seems there's never enough time just for "me".


Because my current role at work supports the entire company, no two days are ever the same. As situations arise that need to be handled 'asap', I categorize the issue and assess how much time it will require to resolve it, before responding. This approach allows me to effectively resolve the issue and meet the needs of everyone involved. Thank goodness for planners and email categorization! But also through the years, I've also learned the word "NO".   It's often not 'our' nature, to say no, but instead, we want to prove that we are "superwoman" and can do it all! And at the same time, stress ourselves out trying to "do" it.


A few years ago, I was traveling on a plane from an AFWA national conference to another conference and my face went numb. I couldn't explain it, but I knew something was not right. The next day, I experienced the same numbness. When I returned home, my doctor ran many tests and determined there was nothing wrong with me. Stress from doing too much had taken over and caused my body to respond. From that point forward, I realized, the word "NO" is a very acceptable answer.


I encourage you to embrace the 5 tips below on how to find work life balance. I'm still learning to say "NO" and set boundaries daily, all while finding time for "me" and doing the things I love to do more.


  1. Know your needs and be honest about them. Prioritize what truly matters to you and communicate it. Don't hide it and don't expect others to guess what makes you feel balanced and fulfilled. Do you need to leave work at 5 p.m. so you can have dinner with your family? Do you need to step away at 12 p.m. to attend a yoga class? Be honest and let your manager/employer know what schedule works for you. Bottom line is different jobs require different approaches, but everyone can benefit from having an open and honest conversation about what balance means.
  2. Understand what really matters. Through the years, I have seen too many people spend too much time working on things that don't matter. Time is the most valuable commodity in life: it is the one thing you cannot buy. So, don't waste time. Focus on what really matters. Are you working on priorities that drive the overall goals of your business or are you just making noise? Really scrutinize your day and max it out every hour, minute and second to focus on most important items
  3. Pace yourself. To have a long, healthy, productive, and happy life and career you need to understand the value of pacing yourself. There are times when you need to rev things up and there are times when you can slow things down. Self-awareness is crucial. Career and personal lives are a marathon, not a sprint. Own each part as you go and know when you need to speed up or slow down.
  4. Set and respect boundaries. Balance cannot be achieved, if you don't hold yourself and others to the boundaries you put in place. You will find there are other things you can do. There will always be an email to reply to or a problem to solve, but you need mind the boundaries you put into place. If you don't, then don't expect others to respect them.
  5. Embrace the off button. Every piece of technology has an off button (cellphones, iPads, computers), so use it. It is not easy and hard for many people to do. Do it in phases. Don't bring your cellphone to the dinner table. When you are on vacation, be on vacation. Don't bring your tablet to the beach. Once you have done it a few times, it is easier to push the boundaries. When you unplug and step back you will start to experience one of life's greatest treasures - perspective. Your mind will become clearer without those interruptions!

from Time
by Susanna Williams
April 10, 2015

A few years ago, I made a major career leap. The jump made me a little nervous, so when I saw a "speed mentoring" event in celebration of International Women's Day, I signed to be mentored. Imagine my shock when two friends, independently of each other, emailed the event organizer and suggested me as a mentor. I switched sides of the table and met with more than a dozen women over the course of an hour and a half. At the end of the night, everyone listed who they wanted to be matched with for a mentoring relationship and I was the most requested mentor of the night!


What is Mentoring?

Mentoring sounds like such a serious endeavor, but really all it means is giving advice to someone- using your own experiences to provide some perspective or providing specific skill guidance.


Who Is a Good Mentor?

You. You've lived. You've worked. You've loved. You've failed. You've been scared. You've succeeded. There is always someone coming up behind you who could use a hand. You're never too young to mentor. You're never too old to be mentored.


How Do You Find Someone Who Wants a Mentor?

The best mentoring relationships happen organically. Listen- find out who needs help you could provide. Ask a colleague to meet for coffee. Contact your alma mater's career development office or your alumni network. Check your professional development association for opportunities. I've even connected with people through Twitter. Finding someone to mentor is as simple as deciding that you want tobe a mentor.


How Do You Mentor?

Tell your story honestly. The more vulnerable you can be, the more helpful you'll be. This is not the place to brag or gloss over the blood, sweat, and tears. Talk about the times you've failed. Talk about the risks you've taken. What people really want to hear is that it's all going to be okay through proof & specific guidance, not platitudes.


How Much Time Does It Take to Mentor?

It's up to you. It can be just one phone call or regular coffee meetings or even just an open invitation for continued contact by email. You'll know what feels right.


What Do I Get Out Of This?

A former boss asked me to talk to a young woman who had contacted him. She was considering a job and location change and wanted to know more about my career path. I remembered so clearly what I had been like at her age- the assumptions I'd held about marriage and family getting blown apart, the wild freedom that took hold in that wake. So here I was, more than a decade later, still unmarried, still childless, with a wild, hairpin turn career story behind me and an uncertain journey before me. For this young woman to tell me that listening to me gave her hope was strangely comforting. Our actual lives provide the alternative narratives to popular mythologies that make life much harder than it needs to be. Even beyond that, in telling her my story, I learned more about myself and my journey no longer felt so crazy.


The Ultimate Secret Superpower

As I got more serious about building my own business, I once again sought a mentor, this time through the New York state Business Mentor program. I sent her everything I had about my business- financials, proposals, plans. The first thing she said to me when we spoke? "I don't understand why you think you need a mentor." And that's the secret truth here- we know more than we think we do. It's still important to find and be cheerleaders for each other, but you know more than you think you do.


Mentoring is one of the most powerful things you can do as a professional. We all need a "kitchen cabinet" of advisors, people we can call on when we need perspective or guidance. In offering to be that for someone else, you're likely to find that you'll add to your bench of cheerleaders, as well. It's the ultimate virtuous circle.


Retention Red Flags: 10 Warning Signs That Good
Employees Are Ready to Leave
from Robert Half

When staff members give notice unexpectedly, it can be costly, time-consuming and disruptive
to workflow and team morale. To avoid being blindsided by resignations, it's important to
recognize retention red flags.

Here are some crucial warning signs that employees already have one foot out the door, followed
by tips for how to handle the situation.

Top 10 retention red flags

1. They used to pitch new ideas during meetings and actively participate in discussions. But
now they don't have much to say.

2. When requesting vacation time, they no longer volunteer information about their plans.

3. They show up dressed better than usual, then take a long lunch or leave early.

4. Their complaints about workload, a long commute, stress levels and so on intensify.

5. They're reluctant to commit to long-term projects.

6. They seem preoccupied and distracted.

7. The quality and quantity of their work start to slip.

8. They stop attending company social events and casual after-work outings.

9. You notice an uptick in recent activity on their LinkedIn page.

10. You hear informally that they're interviewing for new jobs or considering other offers.

What to do

There are two options for addressing these red flags: You can fight to keep the employee or you
can start looking for a replacement. What you should not do is ignore all the signs and hope the
situation resolves itself.

If you want these good workers to stay, have an honest conversation. Acknowledge that you've
noticed a change in their accuracy, productivity or attitude, and ask if there is anything you can
do to help them improve. Good, open communication can help you get to the root of the
problem. Consider some of the following tips:


  • Offer flexible hours. This option can be helpful if these employees are looking for another job because of a long commute or work-life imbalance. In that case, you could
    offer an alternative work arrangement like telecommuting, a modified schedule (working
    7 a.m. to 3 p.m., for example), a compressed week or reduced hours.
  • Provide professional development opportunities. When people see no room for growth or advancement, they are not likely to remain satisfied in their present roles. Consider gradually giving them more challenging projects. Help them learn new skills. Or pair them up with a mentor. It's also important to show them a clear career path within the company. Then see if those steps make a difference in their attitude and performance. 
  • Up the ante. If they deserve it, give them a promotion and raise. It's better to make the offer now than to wait until they give their two-week notice. Counteroffers are a poor long-term retention strategy.

Your efforts may or may not be successful. Even if you have to proceed to termination, it's important that you move forward. The worst course of action would be to continue the status quo with a dissatisfied employee on staff.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has more than 340 locations worldwide. More resources, including online job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at accountemps.com.


from Accounting Today
by Jeff Stimpson
April 12, 2015


Do you find yourself answering questions from the same clients who just keep calling and e-mailing, calling and e-mailing? Over and over, with questions you either answered three times already or that anybody with common sense could see are unrelated to their tax situation?


"Last Tuesday, I told a client that he calls me more than my mother does," said Enrolled Agent Terri Ryman of Southwest Tax & Accounting, in Elkhart, Kan. "After a shocked silence, he finally chuckled and agreed that maybe calling me every day was a bit excessive. I haven't heard from him since."

Your question, as the season's clock ticks down: Do you blow them off for now, fire them or answer everything no matter how long you must talk?

Pains in the ...

"Depending on the relationship: Some I tell that they're taking advantage of my 'unlimited' phone calls or e-mails policy," said Jeffrey Schneider, an EA in Port St. Lucie, Fla. "I then send them an invoice and [on it] say 'PITA charge.' They then call me to see if I'm serious and I say, 'Yes, if you keep doing this.'"


"If the client has no sense of humor (and I have plenty of those), I tell them nicely that I'll have to start charging for calls over one a month," Schneider added. "That stops them. I've also fired my extreme PITAs."


"My clients know that if they bug me, they go to the bottom of the stack. And that stack grows more each day," said Helen O'Planick, an EA at HELJAN Associates in Manchester, Pa.


Dealing with a frequent caller or e-mailer can depend on what the client wants. In Ryman's office, a client who continually calls about a refund, for example, first gets referred to the IRS.gov "Where's My Refund" option. "If they're continually calling because I haven't finished their return, I calmly explain that the more times clients call, the less time I have to process returns," Ryman added.


Javis Financial Services likewise refers refund-question clients to IRS.gov, "But during this time of season, our staff patiently answers each and every client's questions no matter how many times they may call," said Christopher Javis, operations manager for the Columbia, S.C., firm. "This time of the season, repeat calls are common because most people are seeking for the best return for the best price."


"I schedule a finish date and tell them not to call me until then," said EA Martha Nest of Westview Tax Services in Bardstown, Ky. "Some just don't get it - and I tend to not return the call too soon. I also recommend that if they have a simple return, maybe they should go elsewhere. Those are also usually the [clients] who are a pain."


Above all, set your office up right - and remain optimistic that your hard work at weeding out pests will pay off someday. "I work alone out of a home office. My answering machine is my secretary," noted preparer Robert Flach, writer of The Wandering Tax Pro blog. "I only pick up the phone and talk to a client if I want to. My clients have been with me many years and have been well trained over those years. Any client who made a constant pest of himself has been dropped."  




President - Nicole Letellier

President - Elect - Eileen Perry

Secretary - Nicole Sheets 

Treasurer - Wendy Matthews

Program - Diane Ollila

Membership - Amrit Dhaliwal

Scholarship - Susan Wright

Newsletter/Web - Edronda Guiriba 

Hospitality - Jeanne Kourmako

CPE Compliance - Marvel Khan

Immediate Past President - Julia Becklund 

Pictured from left to right, front row: Jeanne Kourmako, Nicole Letellier, Wendy Matthews, Eileen Perry, Nicole Sheets. From left to right, back row: Marvel Khan, Diane Ollila, Julia Beckland. Not pictured: Amrit Dhaliwal, Edronda Guiriba, Susan Wright.


Click here for more info about the Roles and Responsibilities of the Board of Directors.



Chair: Diane Ollila


There is an excellent line-up of programs for the Silicon Valley Chapter this year, and most of them qualify for CPE!  Check out the line-up as we have engaged some dynamic and outstanding speakers.

Speaker: Panel Presentation
Scholarship Award night

Spring Gala Event
Speaker: Dr. Frederic Luskin
Presentation: Forgiveness

Chair: Amrit Dhaliwal


  • All Levels of Accounting & Finance
  • Bookkeepers
  • Corporate Accounting Finance
  • Public Accounting
  • Management & Educators
  • Recruiters

If you would like to join the Silicon Valley Chapter of AFWA, follow the link to our National website:



Please feel free to complete the application or forward a copy to someone you think would benefit from joining our Chapter.




  • Prestigious status of professional affiliation
  • National contacts for networking and professional information
  • Forum for CPE
  • Scholarships
  • Leadership opportunities in supportive arena
  • Subscription to Accountability e-newsletter 
  • National and regional conferences at a discounted rate
  • Access to Career Center
  • Access to AFWA's LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter groups and National online membership directory
  • Discounted membership to the Institute for Management Accountants (IMA)
  • Discounted products and services through affiliation agreements
    • CPA review courses, CCH tax & accounting books, Long Term Care Insurance and Bank of America credit card.

Hospitality Chair: Jeanne Kourmako
CPE Chair: Marvel Khan

Reservation and cancellation policy:  
Reservations or cancellations are requested by noon on the Friday preceding each meeting.  Email Jeanne to reserve or cancel. The goal is an accurate count for the hotel.  Unreserved members (not guests) incur a surcharge of $5.00.

Reserved members or guests who are no-shows will be billed if not cancelled by noon the preceding Friday. We do want you to come to the meetings and reservations are helpful but if you have to cancel let us know beforehand to avoid incurring the cost of the meal. WE ACCEPT CREDIT CARD PAYMENT AT THE DOOR.


Volunteers are always welcome at our monthly membership meetings. Lend a helping hand to make our monthly events and meetings even more interesting while building a great network and forming new relationships.


CPE credit is available for participating in any of our qualified programs.  See Marvel for more details in person at the meeting.

Chair: Edronda Guiriba


Send in your articles!


We encourage our membership to submit articles of interest for our monthly newsletter.  Please make your submission under the following criteria...

  • Prepared as a Microsoft Word document
  • Photos in JPEG format
  • captions are okay, no imbedded text, please

The newsletter is prepared and distributed on a monthly basis.  Visit our web site atwww.afwasiliconvalley.org.  If you have questions regarding articles to submit or about the newsletter, email the newsletter chair, Edronda, at EdrondaGuiriba@gmail.com

There are four sponsor levels of contribution established for the scholarship fund.
Sponsorship up to $150.00  
Sponsorship up to $300.00 
Sponsorship up to $500.00 
Sponsorship $750.00 or more

Share  the information! 
Contact Susan Wright for more details at
 or 650-269-9257.


The Foundation is all about us, accounting and financial professionals, we strive every day to make a difference in the financial world and in our communities. The Foundation is charged with raising funds for national scholarships, and educational advancement of our peers and rising leaders. 


The Foundation offers each of us the opportunity to support the future direction of the profession where we have gained our own personal successes.


It is important to support those entering the profession and working alongside us. Those that follow in our footsteps have much to teach us and much to learn from us. They embody the next generation of accounting and financial professionals. Our goal for you and AFWA is to lead the way in their development.




The Foundation promotes and advances education, career development and leadership in finance and accounting. Our vision is to guide women along the path to achieve success in finance and accounting.





The Accounting & Financial Women's Alliance Annual Conference is the premier networking and education event for professionals and students of Accounting and Finance. The event attracts hundreds of professionals from across the country for four days of educational sessions - providing up to 24 hours of CPE credit - presented by leaders in the industry.


2015 AFWA National Conference

Mark your calendars for the 2015 AFWA National Conference to be held October 26-28, 2015 in Pittsburgh, PA. More details coming soon!



Founded in 1938, AFWA/ASWA provides  women in accounting and finance the  leadership, education and networking  opportunities needed to achieve their career  goals. Celebrating 75 years as the only  organization that solely represents the interest  of women in the entire accounting and finance  community. The organization's mission is to  enable women in all accounting and related  fields to achieve their full personal,  professional and economic potential and to  contribute to the future development of their  profession.