NOTE: The following is part of the MACPA’s “Share Your Story” series that showcases members. Learn more about the series and why we are doing it here.
On September 30, 2016 when nominees were gathered for the MACPA’s Women to Watch Awards at The Hotel at Arundel Preserve, one nominee – Caroline Jiang – was more than halfway around the world, engaged in crucial community service programs in South Africa and Zimbabwe. The event celebrated accomplished women and role models – all of whom, in many ways, were ‘winners,’ observed AICPA Chair and former MACPA Chair Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, who keynoted the event.
Here we share the story of what one nominee – Jiang – was doing on that day, and why.
A CPA by day …
Jiang is a consulting manager but also plays a role in the quality control group at Arthur Bell, where she is known for upholding a high standard of excellence. Jiang’s positive attitude and professionalism have earned the respect of her colleagues and those at all levels of the firm; all while balancing her strong desire to take the time to perform community service.
“She is really a team player, and while she works predominantly for one department, she contributes across the firm, “observes Michelle Childers, Member of Human Resources at Arthur Bell.
“She is an authentically creative, passionate person that believes in the causes she supports, and always gives her best efforts on anything she works on,” adds Michelle Chopper, also of Arthur Bell, and a 2015 Women to Watch winner.
Strengthening those at risk
Significantly, Jiang also finds room in her calendar and within her heart to do life-changing work in third world countries, as treasurer of Grace Women Inc. Her community service is not just accomplished through sitting at a desk – although that part of volunteer service can be very impactful as well. Jiang goes into the field – literally – getting involved in the complex lives of people wherever she is.
In their travels to third world countries and in the U.S., Jiang and her colleagues from Grace Women, Inc. seek to build up spiritual resolve in women in often-times dangerous or desperate situations, sometimes made so by even a wrong thought pattern. Their role is to step in to encourage hope and resiliency, which can include supplanting other forms of relief- such as monetary relief, infrastructure, food and medical care, essential for physical and mental survival.
Jiang’s work is not only in far-flung nations. “One thing I have learned from my travels within the U.S. as well as around the world is that there are many hidden people in first world countries in great need. These are people that you might find in your own workplace or in your daily life that by sight look like they have it together, but the reality is that inside they are suffering, maybe due to a home life situation, a physical ailment, battling insecurity, or many other things. Hurting people can be found everywhere around the world.”
Aid provided in the form of material support has a limited life, she notes. Jiang and her colleagues from Grace Women aim to believe and speak to the women about the endless possibilities of their futures, infused with spiritual strength, “so their lives are changed, not just for the moment or the week, but forever.”
“This is particularly important in our work in parts of Africa where women are considered fourth class citizens, after the men, children and at times livestock,” says Jiang. The reaction from women she has helped has made an indelible impression. “It is a humbling thing when you’ve been invited to a home of someone who you know makes several dollars a month and spends precious money on sodas for you when you know that they spared no expense to be able to extend hospitality to you,” she says.
Both sides now
We asked Caroline if she believes being a CPA enhances her community service, and vice versa?
“Absolutely!” says Jiang, “Being a CPA gives credibility when I’m representing Grace Women. However, my role as Treasurer occupies only a small portion of my time at Grace Women; I deal a lot with people and situations. We are all volunteers that work in a team environment on projects that affect people’s lives. So, it has taught me a lot about interpersonal skills such as the principle of speaking well behind someone else’s back instead of ill, on establishing relationships, and on caring for people; these things have absolutely influenced my relationships at work.”
Jiang uses a decision-framework taught by a mentor: in deciding whether to do (or not do) something, ask yourself not only what there is to be gained, but also, “Will I regret this in 10 years?” This decision-framework can certainly apply in one’s work – and personal – life.
“It’s so easy to become self-absorbed in America; it’s encouraged in fact,” says Jiang. “But self-absorption is the antithesis of impact. That’s why I believe it is important to make time to go on trips to third world countries. When you take a look around there, you’re ashamed at the things you were upset about at home. The needs are so vast and endless that it can be overwhelming at times to take in, the abject poverty, the lack of schooling, the lack of food.”
“I believe that our design as human beings requires us to get involved in the lives of others,” says Jiang. Volunteer work is thus not only a responsibility to others, but also “the antidote for self-absorption.” In this way, by focusing on the population being served – whether clients of the CPA firm or in community service around the world – Caroline Jiang has made a difference.