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Kristen N. - Director, Corporate Accounting

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Title: Director, Corporate Accounting 
Location: Chicago, IL
Joined: 2015
Preferred pronouns: She/Her/Hers

We came to Global Green Award winner Kristen to learn more about her journey through Groupon’s finance org... and we stayed for the bunny/puppy friendship.

First thing's first - tell us about your role and your team!

My role is to co-lead the Corporate Accounting team in partnership with my fellow Director, Jaclyn. We’re a global team with individuals based out of Chicago, London, and Warsaw, as well as various cities in the US.
Corporate Accounting is responsible for several aspects of Groupon's financial reporting process, including preparing the company's quarterly and annual financial statements, as well as the statutory financial statements for our international subsidiaries, evaluating technical accounting matters to determine the appropriate treatment, and completing certain areas of the monthly accounting close process.

We are also responsible for adopting new accounting standards and designing and implementing processes, procedures, and controls to support any related reporting requirements. We frequently work cross-functionally, which allows us to see many aspects of the business. Lately, we’re focused on automation and process improvement initiatives within the Finance organization.

A fun fact about our Corporate Accounting team: since we are a global team, we cover five different time zones and collectively speak ten different languages fluently!

Your first role with Groupon was with the North America Operational Accounting team. How did you make the transition to your current role and team?

I spent about a year on that team, during which I had an opportunity to partner with individuals on the Corporate Accounting team on a number of cross-functional projects. I’ve always enjoyed the more technical aspects of accounting, and I suppose that became evident to those I worked with on the Corporate Accounting team. When a role opened up, they asked if I had an interest in interviewing for the position and the rest is history!

How has your experience in other roles helped you in your current position?

While the nature of Corporate Accounting's function is a better fit for my professional interests, the time I spent on the Operational Accounting team gave me a unique perspective on how to think about issues and challenges in the accounting organization and even more broadly across the business. That knowledge has paid dividends in recent years, particularly related to the automation of manual processes within the department, initial launch, scalability of new initiatives and adoption of new accounting standards, and implementation of new processes that are required as a result.

What’s the biggest challenge your team is solving?

One of the biggest challenges my team is solving, which extends to others within the Finance organization as well, is the transformation of our processes from manual to automated and finding the time and resources to be able to do so while sustaining what already exists. I think we’re headed in the right direction tackling this challenge head-on.

For example, the Accounting department recently sponsored a two-week targeted program intended to jump-start several automation and process improvement projects. Over 70 individuals from the department, myself included, participated in the program. With the help of our Finance Systems teams and IT, we made meaningful progress and even exceeded some of the goals we had set for those two weeks! Accountants aren’t generally regarded as being innovative or imaginative, but I have to say that is not the case at Groupon. It was inspiring to see so many individuals across the department embrace a “think outside the box” mentality and create value-add, sustainable solutions in such a short amount of time.

What do you love about your job?

Outside of the people I work with, I would say that what I love most about my job is that no day is the same, and I am constantly learning.

And what do you love to do outside of work?

Cooking! My whole family loves to cook, and it’s an activity we like to do together. My mom always encouraged us to help in the kitchen, even as toddlers, but I wouldn’t say I started to embrace it until after I graduated from college. To me, cooking is an experience that should be savored from start to finish. What I love most about it is that the possibilities are only limited by the breadth of your creativity, the time you have in the day, and the ingredients you have on hand (unless you’re willing to go to the store, of course). There is also something uniquely special and heartwarming about preparing a delicious meal for a friend or loved one and being able to share it.

People often ask me, “what is your favorite thing to cook?” or “what is your best dish?” and the answers change all the time. Today, it’s scallops, but tomorrow it could be bolognese with from-scratch pasta. What I can say for sure is that I will never respond to either question with any sort of baked good. I am notorious for “eyeballing” measurements and rarely follow the directions word-for-word, so I’m a questionable baker at best, although I do make a pretty delicious cheesecake.

What's the last thing you cooked?

My husband surprised me with a sushi-making class over the weekend so my answer is sushi, although that response feels a bit like cheating! Technically I didn't “cook” anything because the rice was already prepared. We did, however, get to see an awesome, live demonstration of the technique of rice making, complete with detailed instructions! It was so much fun to experience something new together and I now have even greater respect for all of the artistry that goes into making sushi.

What’s one thing about you that surprises people?

My husband and I have two dogs and a rabbit (who thinks he’s a dog). Our Pug / Pekingese / Chihuahua-mix, Tucker, adores our rabbit, Peaches, and has since day one. They have very similar colored coats, love carrots and watermelon, and sometimes even sleep in the same dog bed! On the other hand, my beagle-mix, Louie, doesn't pay any mind to Peaches, except when Peaches insists on pestering him when he’s trying to sleep. Louie tolerates it as best he can until he’s had enough, and then he retreats to another room. It’s quite entertaining to watch the three of them interact. Their hilarious dynamic literally makes me laugh every day!

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

I’ve been fortunate to have worked for many thoughtful, intelligent leaders throughout my career who have offered me invaluable advice and shaped me as a person and a professional.

What comes to mind first is some advice I’ve received from one of the partners I worked for during my time in public accounting. I believe it was actually advice that had been shared with him by another more senior partner about the importance of “being able to see the forest through the trees.”

It’s stuck with me ever since and has helped me to make some very critical, strategic decisions with limited information throughout my career, and it’s a phrase I use all the time (just ask my team).

What was your first job?

I walked dogs and babysat children in my neighborhood, but my first “real” job was at Chick-Fil-A. I started as a cashier when I was 16, and by the time I was 18, I was a shift manager. I will always be grateful to the store operator, Paul, and his wife, Anna, for offering me that opportunity at such a young age, and I have to say, I still absolutely love Chick-fil-a to this day! My go-to meal is either the original Chick-fil-a sandwich or an 8-piece chicken nugget, waffle fries, and a lemonade or Dr. Pepper.

What’s the first career you dreamed of having as a kid?

A teacher or meteorologist. I still say I’m not sure what I want to do when I grow up!

You’ve been at Groupon for seven years. What keeps you here?

Without a doubt, the people. I’m fortunate to be part of such an amazing team of incredibly talented individuals. In addition, I also really value the numerous growth and development opportunities I’ve had over the years which have allowed me to progress in my career here and meet many of my professional aspirations.

What are three career lessons you’ve learned thus far?

Can I list four? I can’t pick just three!

  1. Be grateful and gracious. Saying “thank you” is polite, but truly thanking someone for their contributions and giving credit when and where credit is due goes a very long way.
  2. Asking for help can be extremely difficult and it can feel like failing at times, even when taking someone up on their offer to assist or support. What’s interesting is that the opposite is generally true of asking for help, at least in my experience. It’s rarely perceived as being due to inability or lack of effort. In contrast, it’s seen as an act of leadership and a strong indicator of self-awareness and humility. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  3. Always be open to learning from others and, more importantly, never underestimate or assume who might be the teacher. Sometimes, the individual with little-to-no subject matter knowledge or the least tenured person offers the greatest insights.
  4. Have a sense of humor and make time for fun. It’s important to take your career seriously - but that doesn’t mean you have to be serious all the time.

Rapid Fire Questions

Work from home or work from the office?

Work from home.

Morning person or night owl?

Night owl - I’ve been that way ever since I was born. I’m pretty sure my circadian rhythm is backwards.

What series are you currently binging?

Nothing at the moment, which is unusual for me. I am patiently awaiting season four of Succession!

Favorite Groupon you purchased?

Private sailing on Lake Michigan.

Favorite emoji?

Nerd face (🤓) without a doubt.

What’s your hidden talent?

Apparently writing poetry because I just won our accounting-themed team poetry competition!

If someone were to play you in a movie, who would it be?

Rose Byrne - I have to give my teammate, Megan credit for this one. It’s pretty spot on!

Favorite quote?

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

One of my summer readings before my junior year of high school was I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. I’ve been inspired by her brilliance, grit, intellect, and genius art of narrative ever since. This quote isn’t from that book nor is it her most famously published statement, but it sticks with me because it captures the imprint we leave on each other as human beings.

Something you’ve always wanted to try but are too afraid to do?

Scuba diving -  I have an irrational fear of sharks even though I find them fascinating.


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