Q&A with Jolene Fraser, Chair of CalCPA

March 11, 2021

By Marissa Mendez

Jolene Fraser, Managing Director in the firm’s Forensic, Litigation and Valuation Services Group, spoke about her new role as the CalCPA organization’s chair, what leadership means to her, and advice she’d offer to aspiring female professionals.

QUESTION 1: You assumed the role as CalCPA Chair in the midst of a very challenging time. How did your priorities and leadership evolve?

Jolene: Since assuming my role as CalCPA Chair, I’ve experienced a time that has been both challenging and exciting. During this rapidly changing and uncertain environment, I’ve been honored to be part of the CalCPA team that has really worked hard to make sure members have support and resources at their fingertips. CalCPA members look to us for guidance, and the organization really strives to ensure its members stay connected while also helping them support their clients with technical expertise. My priorities were shaped by the needs of CalCPA and our members. We provide guidance and support to our members in navigating new legislation, such as the PPP and the CARES Act, as well as the challenges that come with the newly adapted work-from-home model. My role as CalCPA Chair during this most unprecedented time for the organization and our members has allowed me to grow as a leader and provide support and direction to an organization of members I consider my professional family.

QUESTION 2: You have a daughter. What advice do you give to her, and what advice would you give to aspiring women leaders?

Jolene: My daughter is in college working toward a degree in art education. The advice I’ve given her is to have faith and confidence in herself, and don’t underestimate her skills and abilities. Also, don’t be afraid to take risks to get herself out of her comfort zone, and take advantage of all the opportunities she can to expand her knowledge. She has a tendency to use technology to shy away from having face-to-face interactions. I’ve advised her to take the technology out of the way, and have more one-to-one conversations. Helping yourself hone interpersonal skills is critical. While she may not yet have exposure to business or business acumen, she can still build listening skills and confidence over time. Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

I would give similar advice to aspiring women leaders. Take risks. Tell yourself you can do anything. Wherever you are in your life or career, know that you are better than you probably give yourself credit for. Have confidence and continually educate yourself to grow your skillsets. Don’t underestimate the power of being a good listener, and always surround yourself with people smarter than you. Success, in large part, is about building personal connections with new people, and a good way to maximize success is to surround yourself with people who can help you grow both personally and professionally.

QUESTION 3: How do you continue to grow and develop as a leader?

Jolene: I take some of my own advice. I constantly challenge myself to try new things to get out of my own comfort zone. I like to take advantage of opportunities to volunteer my time with organizations for which I have a passion. This allows me to give back to the community and also help me grow both personally and professionally. I’m always willing to learn, and I know when to bring in resources or experts. Furthermore, I spend a lot of time listening to opinions that are different than mine. While I may be an expert in accounting, forensics and litigation support, I seek other’s opinions to expand my knowledge and perspective. 

I also really enjoy presenting on a variety of topics. It helps me build my communication skills while also offering me an opportunity to educate others. I continue to develop as a leader with each presentation I deliver.

QUESTION 4: You give continuing legal education to attorneys. Why is it important to you to give back to the forensics and litigation industry?

Jolene: We work as a team. Most of my engagements are a collaboration with attorneys and their clients. Through education of accounting and financial statement fundamentals, I can empower attorneys with the knowledge to evaluate financial information and understand the importance of how accounting and financial information relate to their cases. If I can help attorneys understand how my expertise can fit into the equation, then we can work more collaboratively to achieve the best possible outcome for clients.

QUESTION 5: What was the best advice you received throughout your career?

Jolene: The best advice I’ve received is the same advice that I gave to my daughter: Have confidence in yourself and challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone. Back in college, I remember attending “meet the firms” events, wearing a suit, standing next to my classmates, and knowing that we are competing for the same position. While I was nervous at first, I was determined to get out of my comfort zone. I challenged myself to arrive early and stay late, and to proactively introduce myself to people I didn’t know in order to set myself apart from my peers. I follow that advice to this day when attending conferences, educational seminars or networking events.  I love meeting new people, expanding my knowledge, and cultivating my professional network.

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