In December 2019, we gave Anna Stepan our full support as she embarked on a new life journey to Colorado Springs. While we believe “once a member of the ML&R Family, always a member of the ML&R Family,” we were sad to lose her as a key member of our firm.
We’re thrilled that Anna returned to ML&R this month to work remotely from Colorado. While we won’t have Anna’s presence in the office every day, we couldn’t be happier to welcome her back to Team ML&R.
Read more about her boomerang journey below.
What first brought you to ML&R 13 years ago?
In the summer of 2007, I was working at a Big 4 firm in Austin when I had lunch with a few of my former colleagues who already moved to ML&R. I wasn’t contemplating a change at that time, but they made ML&R sound so appealing. The main attractions were local ownership and management, nice people, the opportunity to work on more relatable clients, and a promise of work-life balance.
What did you enjoy most about your time as an associate at ML&R?
The people. I had wonderful colleagues and the partners were invested in mentoring and developing me. Public accounting can be tough, but our team is full of kind and supportive people who care about each other, the clients, the community and the work that we do. That’s what makes ML&R a great team.
Was being a partner something you always wanted? What was the transition to partner like?
Being a partner was not on my radar in the early years of my career. When my first child was born in 2009, I seriously considered pursuing a PhD and a life in academia. I ultimately didn’t go that route and realized the role of a public accounting tax advisor was the right fit for me.
By the time I considered the partner role, I had solid relationships with most of the partners, so the transition was relatively quick and smooth. Even though I’m a partner, my career is a continuous work in progress, and there is always more to learn about tax law, business and leadership.
What did you enjoy most about your time as a partner at ML&R?
I truly enjoy working with my clients. Tax law isn’t the most thrilling topic, but if I can explain a tax issue so that a client understands its impact, it’s a small win that I always enjoy.
I also love the camaraderie of our team. When someone reaches out for mentoring or coaching on a technical question or work issue, I’m deeply honored. It may sound trite, but I care so much about our people and our clients; serving them is my main goal and joy at work.
What took you to Colorado?
A few years ago, my husband was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and allergies to mold and cedar elm. In researching how to support his health, he found that a high desert climate provides significant relief from his symptoms. Because both of us were born and raised in Texas, the idea of leaving Texas was daunting and we agonized over the decision. Ultimately, we prioritized his health and quality of life and relocated our family to Colorado Springs.
When you first shared your need to move with your fellow partners, they offered you the opportunity to work remotely from Colorado and remain a partner at the firm. What concerns kept you from doing so initially?
As a new partner, I knew I had many more years of public accounting ahead of me. I value the personal relationships with my colleagues and clients and assumed those would suffer in a remote working scenario. I also knew I would need to spend time in Austin away from my family. Although my husband and our girls’ grandparents provide excellent support to our daughters, I wasn’t willing to be an absent parent. In short, I wanted a challenging career and time with my family; I believed a local firm in Colorado Springs was where I needed to be to achieve both.
What led you to reconsider the offer to work remotely from Colorado?
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted my beliefs about my career. The technology that enables remote workplace isn’t new, but the pandemic raised awareness about how well it can work, and we’ve proven that collaboration and relationship building with colleagues and clients can be achieved through an investment in and acceptance of technology.
The events of the past several months have reminded me what is most important in my life. That includes playing to my strengths, contributing my talents, working with longtime trusted and respected colleagues and clients, and achieving work-life balance that allows me to be a present and engaged parent and have time to enjoy the great outdoors. There are many wonderful workplaces, but ML&R is the best place for me to fulfill my goals.
What were the initial conversations surrounding your potential return to ML&R with the partner group like?
My partners have given me an enormous amount of grace and understanding over the past year as I wrestled with the decision to leave and then decided to return. I’m not the first “boomerang” to be welcomed back to the firm. Our culture of putting people first was set long ago with the firm’s founders, the transformative leadership of Earl Maxwell, and the thoughtful leadership of Steve Knebel. I’m fortunate to be a beneficiary of this culture and so grateful to be welcomed back to this team.
What are you most looking forward to as you return to the firm?
I’m very excited to work with my long-time co-workers, friends and clients again and to recommit to this firm that truly puts people first. Plus, there’s always a welcome event for newcomers with cookies from Tiff’s Treats – I’m hoping I’ll receive a cookie shipment in the mail. 😊