Meet Shareholder Tessa KeenaAmina Vila
How many tax seasons have you worked?
I have spent 9 tax seasons with Hungerford Nichols and 10 years with the firm overall!
What industries do you specifically work with and what are your areas of specialty?
I work with a variety of industries and specialize in small to mid-size businesses and not-for-profit accounting, as well as managing business operations, client relations, and an outstanding team of employees. I am passionate about working with business owners and their management teams to ensure they have accurate financial information and sound business processes. My areas of expertise include accounting and business systems implementation and oversight, business processes, financial statement analysis and reporting, annual budgeting and forecasting, and not-for-profit grant tracking.
Where did you go to college – what degree – when graduated?
Cornerstone University – Grand Rapids, MI – AAS: BUSINESS STUDIES (2006 -2008) – Professional & Graduate Studies / Summa cum laude
Grand Valley State University – Grand Rapids, MI – BBA: ACCOUNTING (2009 – 2012) – Seidman College of Business / Magna cum laude
Did you have other career aspirations other than what you’re doing now?
When I was younger, I wanted to be a teacher, a dolphin or whale trainer (Free Willy!), or a flight attendant. In high school I planned on graduating and then going to college for business and fitness & nutrition, and also attending cosmetology school on the side. My dream at the time was to graduate and then open a resort in Colorado for people who struggled with health and weight loss and needed a place to go to get further help. Then, at the end of their stay, we would give them a makeover. My plans changed slightly, but I did get my Cosmetologist license and still maintain it today (almost 20 years later) and went onto get my accounting degree and CPA license.
When did you know you wanted to be an accountant and business advisor?
When I finished my associate’ degree, I realized I wanted to be challenged more than the general business program offered. My husband was attending Grand Valley State University and thought that I would do well in accounting. I ended up transferring to GVSU to finish my bachelor’s degree. I did not realize I wanted to be an accountant / business advisor until I took my entity taxation class with Professor Chris Harper while attending GVSU and he then introduced me to Hungerford Nichols…the rest is history!
What was your first day at Hungerford like?
I went on-site to a client’s office with one of the department Senior Accountants and witnessed first-hand how I would eventually be able to go out to client’s offices and help them with their accounting and business needs.
How has your career evolved since your first day?
I believe my leadership has evolved over the years as I recognized the shift that occurs as one becomes less of the doer and more of the leader and teacher. I had to evolve in my thought process, my focus, and my actions. My drive and passion for work and life continues to shift from the focus being on my own success and towards the success of others.
What were some of the toughest aspects of your career?
- Working through staffing issues and learning how to effectively delegate work.
- Working through client challenges, complex accounting issues, and tight deadlines
- Overcoming self-doubt
- Finding balance
What are some achievements of which you are most proud?
- My daughter Bella! Watching her grow into the young woman she is and seeing her graduate high school and go onto college to play lacrosse at a Division II University!
- Graduating college and passing the CPA exam – boy was that a stressful time!
- Building and growing the Accounting Solutions Team and partnering with so many amazing team members along the way!
Board positions currently held:
Community organizations our family is involved in and/or supports:
- The Local Church
- Calvary Church
- Grand Rapids Civic Theatre
- Servants Center
- Power of Education Foundation
- A. Blodgett – St. John’s Homes through the Heart of West Michigan United Way
- Compassion International
- Christar Organization Missionary Family: Van Oss Family
Additional volunteer and community support:
Over the past few years, my husband and I have opened up our home to students and families in various ways. We had the opportunity to have an exchange student from Italy join us for a school year and a few college students stay with us during the past few summers as well as family for a period of time. We have gained life-long relationships and are excited to see what the next opportunity might be!
What made you want to be a shareholder?
I did not have aspirations to be a shareholder initially. The more I grew in my leadership role and was able to be part of the evolution of our department and the firm, I realized that I wanted to continue leading and advocating for others growth, both personally and professionally. It is a priority for me to support the growth and development of those in our department and in the firm as well as our clients and those in our community.
What do you see for the future of your industry and the firm?
Continued growth in client accounting and advisory services, higher level of industry focus, and expansion of service offerings and team members not specifically with careers based in accounting.
Who are some people that influenced you and your career?
I am fortunate to have been influenced and supported by so many people in my life and throughout my career and would not have achieved my success without their wisdom, support, encouragement, and love. First and most important, my husband Dustin. He is the true example of sacrificial love and is my biggest champion in life – I would not be where I am today without him!
My daughter Bella – her strength and determination amaze me, and it is exciting as a parent watch her evolve and shine her light in the world. My parents Terry & Bonnie Walker who have loved me unconditionally through all of life’s challenges and successes and grounded me in my faith. My loving sister Danielle Williams and her husband Kevin Williams. My grandparents (memory eternal) James & Dorothy Salhaney – pioneers and way makers. My hard-working and inspirational aunts – Judith Welch (connector extraordinaire), Susi Salhaney (Godmother), Sandra Adams, and Nancy Essebaggers. My amazing in-laws Don & Roberta Keena. Our “adopted” daughter (exchange student) Giulia Marcuccio and family Mario, Giovanna & Ada, and our “adopted” son Jack Duininck and his mother (my kindred spirit) Trae Duininck. My closest friends and family, Patty Krivitzky, Kelsey Haynes Bako & Janey Haynes (memory eternal), Sarah Klotz Soleau, Kristen Klotz Roper, & Mary Klotz, and Trisha Kirk Wallace & Tracy Kirk Allers.
My Calvary Church Bible study/community group, Brad & Kimberly Nydam, Nick & Abby Venlet, Zach & Anne Talan, Ron & Cherie Brenner, Tanner & Kelsey Van Oss, Chad & Kelly Boprie, and our faithful leaders and mentors Scott & Susan Sorensen. Pastors, Dr. Jim & Lisa Samra (Calvary Church) and Toran & Brenda Scott (The Local Church). Mentors and colleagues, Kristen Rampe, Stacy Shaw, Tony Vanorny, Sandra Wiley, Rabih Jamal, Mark Ghafari, Bethany Harris, Renee McParlan, and Meghann Weinberg. So many from our firm, Professor Chris Harper (my first firm mentor and connector to the firm), Krista Koster (my health guru), Katy Felver (my momager), Greg Webb (best co-presenter), our wonderful Shareholder leadership, our amazing manager group, our rockstar Accounting Solutions Team and really all our team members from Hungerford Nichols!
What does the DEI initiative mean to you and what is the importance to the firm/field/community?
The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiative plays an important role in my life, and I am proud of our firm for leading the way in our community and in our industry! I have learned so much since our firm’s initiative started five years ago and what resonates most is that we can never stop learning and never stop advocating for all people. The DEI team taught us that inclusion is a choice and diversity is an outcome. Inequality is present in all aspects of life, but I have hope in the progress that has been made and the paths that have been blazed by so many courageous people that have come before me. As a great-granddaughter to immigrants and the fourth ever female shareholder in our firm’s 80-year history, I am proud to carry the torch and continue to lead, advocate, and inspire others to achieve their dreams!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
- Be patient
- Be bold
- Read often
- Take time to rest, even if you don’t feel tired
- It is OK to ask for help
- It is OK to say no
- It is OK to ask why
- Don’t let anyone dim your light!
Any additional information you would like to share?
It is my hope that my journey and my story can be a catalyst for the next generation of leaders. I have had to overcome personal, health, and professional obstacles, but have not lost hope or faith in the future. In fact, it is my faith that drives me, that grounds me, and that makes want to be a better person each day.
My eyes and ears are always open and my goal in life is to advocate and be a voice for those who do not have a voice, or do not have enough courage (yet) to use their voice. I am blessed beyond words to work for a firm that has encouraged me to have a voice, has contributed to my learning and growth to be able to use my voice, and has given me a platform to help others through my leadership position within the firm and volunteer and board positions outside of the firm.
Hungerford Nichols has invested in me in so many ways, especially through mentoring and leadership development programs. Our leadership and many others in the firm have played a huge role in my development and success at the firm. As a full-time working mom, life can be difficult and stressful, but the firm and my co-workers have been so supportive and have empowered me to do great things. I am excited to come to work every day and take on new challenges. We have a culture that is infectious and a team that is always here to support each other. My journey at the firm thus far has been humbling and gratifying and as I have been able to witness and benefit from the women who have paved the path for my female generation. I hope to do the same for the next generation.
When I am not working, I enjoy spending time with my husband, daughter, extended family, and friends. I love photography, traveling, live theater, film, concerts, reading, party planning, and shopping! My daughter is starting her sophomore year of college studying Digital Media & Design and is on the Women’s Lacrosse Team. We have a 1 ½ year old boxer Max, and a 5-month-old boxer puppy, Harley. I love them so much!
Any inspirational quotes you would like to share?
I LOVE quotes! I have a running note on my phone where I add quotes. If I am watching something on TV, I will stop it and rewind to make sure I get the full quote documented!
Here are a few of my favorites:
- “If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” ~ Sir Isaac Newton
- “If you have some power, then you have to empower somebody else.” ~ Toni Morrison
- “You cannot have those things you refuse to dream of.” ~Stacy Abrams
- “There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.” ~ Willa Cather
- “For there is always light, only if we are brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it!” ~ Amanda Gorman
- “When everything is going against you, remember the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” ~ Henry Ford
- “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life they what we give.” ~ Winston Churchill
- “A society grows when old men plant trees under whose shade they will never sit.” ~ Greek Proverb