KB: Melanie, great to see you.
MK: Traffic was terrible…
KB: It’s all good. I’ve got lots of time. Tell me about you…where are you from, how’d you grow up…all that
MK: Well, here’s a little-known fact: I spent my early years in Hicksville, Ohio, which is just across the Ohio
state line from Fort Wayne. My Dad’s family is from there. Dad commuted from Hicksville to his job with
GTE in Fort Wayne. He literally started in the mailroom and worked his way up to a very successful career
as an Engineer. Retired after 37 years.
KB: That’s amazing. Nobody does that anymore.
MK: Nope. When I was twelve, my Dad transferred to Lafayette. I spent the rest of my years there, so I call
Lafayette home. I went to high school in Lafayette, then graduated from Purdue. I met my husband
working at the Taco Bell in Lafayette. That was 1994.
KB: Did you always want to go into accounting?
MK: As a kid, I wanted to be an artist – probably up to my sophomore year of high school. Then I figured
out there weren’t a lot of jobs in art. So, I took a business course – which was really
accounting/bookkeeping, and I loved it. By the time I went to Purdue, I knew I was majoring in accounting.
I knew I would take the CPA Exam. But I didn’t know I would go into public accounting; I really had no idea
about public accounting at that time.
KB: Why was that, and how did you become aware?
MK: I lived at home, was a commuter student and had a job. My days were pretty packed, and I just wasn’t
hanging out having those kinds of conversations. I wasn’t in that information flow. I had to kinda figure this
stuff out on my own. For example, I knew I needed an internship, so I took it upon myself to go find one. It
was with Great Lakes Chemical.
KB: How was that?
MK: It was a really good experience. I met another intern there named Brooke. She’s become a lifelong
friend, and she’s one of the big reasons I joined EY when I graduated. It also didn’t hurt that EY audited
Great Lakes; I was familiar with them.
KB: Where did you get your work ethic?
MK: I’m not sure how to answer that. If you want something, you put the work in. My first paying job was
detasseling corn. My parents weren’t wealthy, and I wanted things. I had what I needed – but I wanted
different things. The day I turned 16, I got a job at Taco Bell. I wanted a pair of Guess Jeans. I was in French
Club, and they offered at trip to France.
It was eight or nine hundred bucks. So, I earned the money and went. I needed glasses, but I wanted
contacts. My parents said, “We’ll pay for glasses.” I said, “I’ll find a way.” I went out and earned the money
to buy contacts.
KB: Besides the typical stuff, what did you learn at EY?
MK: Public accounting teaches life skills. I was a 22-year-old right out of college, but I was expected to find
my way up to Chicago and get to a client location. You have to get yourself packed and there…the process
of learning to travel and navigate on your own. No one teaches you how to do that. You just figure it out.
And yes, you learn a lot accounting wise. How to speak to each other and be a part of a team, all those
KB: You had construction clients?
MK: Yes. Construction, manufacturing. Once you learn construction accounting, everyone wants you to
work on construction clients.
KB: You were there almost five years, and you were serving as a manager on engagements, how did you
know it was time to leave?
MK: I was traveling 6-8 months out of the year. Evansville, Lafayette, Louisiana…at this point, I’m married
five years and thinking about having a family. An opportunity came up with a former audit client – DEEM.
They asked me if I knew anyone who may be interested, and I said, “How about me?”
KB: How was the transition to corporate?
MK: Hard. In public accounting we were all little cookie cutters. We all look alike, dress alike, talk alike…etc.
Suddenly, I was in this huge dynamic amongst all these construction people….and the vibe is like, “We don’t
have to listen to you.” I learned to maneuver. I just talked to people and built relationships. People began
to like me and teach me. We also started our family and I had to learn how to balance life with work.
KB: So eventually you left DEEM for Hagerman.
MK: I’m at DEEM, my daughter was five and I was working a tremendous amount. Trying to balance. DEEM
is growing exponentially. I got a little burned out. I met with a person through the Indiana CPA Society to
actually explore going back into public. He knew someone at Hagerman; I was open-minded. Took a leap
of faith and it worked out. Sometimes, you meet people for a reason.
KB: How’s that been?
MK: The biggest thing at Hagerman is a sense of family. I have never felt like I have to separate my family
from my work. I don’t have to pretend that I am anything other than who I am – which is a CFO and a mom
and a wife. They trust me to get the job done. One of our company goals is to have everyone involved in
the community. I am passionate about EWF – Executive Women in Finance. EWF is a networking
organization for execs in finance and others who come in contact with finance. I’m in a male dominated
industry, so this is helpful. These are moms, wives and executives.
KB: What do people want from a CFO?
MK: Everything [laughs]. You have to be in tune with the financials, with the business and also be able
to operate strategically while keeping one foot in the weeds – how the accounting systems work,
payroll taxes, dabble in IT and HR… contracts, banking…in order to manage all of that, you have to know
it. How do I know the questions to ask if I don’t understand how it works?
KB: What’s your advice for an aspiring CFO?
MK: You have to be very flexible with everything that you do. Your day is never going to go as planned.
You have to be able to adapt to the challenges as they present themselves. And you gotta have high
KB: What are young people in accounting and finance missing today?
MK: Not getting public accounting skills. Getting pigeon holed. Complacency – not going that next
step…like getting their CPA. Lack of patience. Lack of drive. Not appreciating the journey. On the plus
side, young people today who have these attributes are absolutely amazing.
KB: What do you look for in hiring?
MK: Personality. Being able to speak – communication skills. Work ethic. I can teach the technical skills.
The smartest people with the strongest technical skills aren’t always the best fit.
KB: What advice would you give your younger self?
MK: Have more fun. I worked way too hard as a kid.
KB: What’s your favorite movie?
MK: I have two. Hidden Figures and Wonder Woman.
KB: Why do you love what you do?
MK: It gives me opportunity. I have purpose. I get to influence someone’s life in a good way. I can go
shopping whenever I want. I can provide for my family.
KB: What’s your favorite quote?
MK: Well behaved women seldom make history.
KB: This has been delightful.
MK: Thank you.