A day in the life of a tax senior

BENJAMIN SHAW, TAX SENIOR

When did you join Hood & Strong?

January 2015.

How is your current team structured; who reports to you and to whom do you report?

I am a tax senior who works on a wide range of clients, including individuals, trusts and corporations. In my role, I prepare and review tax files, depending on the file’s complexities and if I’ve already had previous experience with the client. I’m usually the tax preparer in more complex situations, where I work directly with someone more senior than me, like a tax partner. If I’m reviewing, then I have a staff-level tax preparer performing the returns. I’m there to help answer questions about the clients or the return.

What do you like about working at Hood & Strong?

I like the team members that I work with. I’ve found that work is much more enjoyable when I’m doing it with people I really like. Our tax department is relatively small, so I have the privilege to know everyone on a personal level. There’s a really strong sense of community at the office, so we’re not only communicating on work activities, but we’re also sharing our personal lives with each other. We’re really big about hanging out together, so oftentimes, we’re found having group lunches, getting coffee in the morning and enjoying each other’s company.

What’s the day-to-day activity breakdown of your current position? How has it altered due to COVID?

I start my morning compiling a list of tasks that I need to tackle for the day. Because of COVID, we’ve implemented daily check-ins on Microsoft Teams with our manager and any staff-level tax preparers I’m working with to ensure we are on the same page with our list of priorities. We also look ahead to see what other deadlines we have coming up so that we don’t miss any files that may be due soon. Thankfully, it has been a seamless transition from talking in-person to talking over video chat or instant messenger.

What other responsibilities or committees have you taken on, on top of your current role at the firm?

I’m part of the San Jose office social committee. Our primary goal is to show staff in the department that they are appreciated, which I really like doing for them. We make it a priority to plan birthdays and department activities during busy season, including happy hours, cooking classes, escape rooms, Dave & Buster’s and more. We also have a kick-off meeting at the beginning of tax season to discuss company goals and objectives, and then it always includes a team activity afterwards. For this recent tax season, we did a painting class together as a department.

How has Hood & Strong adapted and remained flexible to ensure that team members are equipped to perform efficiently and effectively while remote? Or during a time like COVID?

Before COVID, I think Hood & Strong was already at the forefront of equipping our staff to work remotely, especially with the firm’s cloud integration capabilities. All of our software is cloud-based, and it works really well. By nature, our industry has busy seasons that may require us to work outside of the typical 9-5 hours, so a lot of us already have the capabilities to work from home. Because of this, the transition to a semi-permanent remote position went smoothly once shelter-in-place hit. Everything I can do in the office, I can do from home.

What innovative ways have you been able to stay connected with your team during COVID?

Since COVID, we’ve had to shift our approach to staying engaged with one another, but we try to get together and plan social activities on a weekly basis, like trivia and bingo.

What does success look like for you?

Success is when someone puts their trust in you and provides you more challenging work because they believe you’re able to do it. It shows that you’re an expert at something. I know that I’m not great at everything, but I like to think that there are certain jobs that I’ve been trusted to work on. When people can see that you have a level of expertise, I find that to be a great trait. Once you reach that point of demonstrating your technical abilities or becoming a subject expert, the other things fall into place, like promotions. The first step is working towards it rather than being complacent.

What advice would you give someone who is looking to advance their career at Hood & Strong?

Don’t be passive about where your career is going. You can’t assume that other people know where you want your career to go. Several mentors have told me that if I want my career to advance, I need to be the one that initiates it. If you never bring it up, then they’ll never know. No one is going to care more about your career than you.