Community IT Innovators Nonprofit Technology Topics

Community IT Voices: Ann Corran, Controller

August 04, 2023 Community IT Innovators Season 4 Episode 32
Community IT Innovators Nonprofit Technology Topics
Community IT Voices: Ann Corran, Controller
Show Notes Transcript

In today’s interview, Carolyn talks with Ann Corran, the longest vested employee-owner and one of the first employees at the spin off Community IT Innovators, having been recruited to join our parent company Reliacom over two decades ago. Ann recalls asking to work part time and from home to balance life with her young family, and how that emphasis on work-life integration has been a central factor in our internal culture since the company was founded. As an empty nester now, Ann has advice for anyone pursuing an accounting position – ask for what you want to make your work meaningful to you.

“I say to Community IT [when we are hiring] ‘Look for the working moms and dads; we know how to juggle… We know how to get stuff done.'”

Ann Corran, Controller

Join us for our series featuring interviews with Community IT employees. In this series, we talk about nonprofit technology career paths, career resources, skills, and certifications. We will also touch on mentoring opportunities as you start out on your career and ways to give back if you are further along. If you are wondering what it is like to work at a place like Community IT, you can learn about it here.

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Transcript

Carolyn Woodard:  Hello and welcome to the Community IT Innovators’ Voices interview series. My name is Carolyn Woodard, and I’m the outreach director. I’m so excited today to be talking with Ann Corran. Ann, would you like to introduce yourself?

Ann Corran:  Sure. Hi, Carolyn. It’s so great to talk to you and not be talking about budgeting or marketing numbers. This is a lot of fun. My name is Ann Corran, and I am the financial controller at Community IT. 

It’s an unusual name.

Carolyn Woodard:  Is that Irish?

Ann Corran:  It’s Scottish. My husband’s family was from Australia. They’re originally from the Isle of Man, and Corran is a Manx name. It’s a Celtic name.


Beginning with Community IT and Working from Home

I have been here for 28 years, so in fact, I am quite sure I am the longest tenured employee owner at Community IT. I’m not the oldest, but I’m the longest tenured, so I’m very proud of that. 

I have a degree in accounting and business from many years ago when I was a young professional, and I worked in the banking worlds, and the government world doing auditing. 

Then I had two children very close together, two years apart. Back then, you couldn’t really work part-time, you couldn’t work. There was no such thing as working from home, at least in the professional world. So I decided to stay home with my kids. I was home for about five years.

Then a family friend was working at this new company in DC. We lived in Silver Spring, Maryland. He was working at this company called Reliacom, started by Chris Chang. They did IT work for both nonprofits and for-profits and needed someone to help with their finances. 

They were a young startup, just like all the IT was back then, and didn’t really have anybody doing their invoicing, accounting or financing. They were just immersed in this new world of IT. So I thought, well, this is a good way for me to keep my foot wedged in the door as a woman staying at home, wanting to get back in the professional world, but not full-time.

So I said, “I can help out as long as you can figure out a way to set me up at home and I can work part-time.” I just kind of tossed that out there, because back then you didn’t do that. You just didn’t do that.

Chris Chang was great, and he said, “Sure, yeah, let’s give it a try.”  And so these young IT guys came into my basement where my husband’s office was; he was working on his masters and I took over the other half. We would put the kids to bed and then we’d go downstairs. I would start doing the dial-up and do the finance and accounting for Reliacom.

David Deal was working there and he was passionate about helping nonprofits. He really felt that the nonprofits in DC were being overlooked for their IT needs. And I just love Dave’s passion for this. And he said, “Hey, I’m going to go out there and start this spinoff company called Community IT, which will do IT work only for nonprofits.” So I just thought that was great.

I’m from a family where my dad worked for the Justice Department, my mom worked with disabled kids, so I always felt like I needed to give back, somehow. Being in the finance world, working in banking, I didn’t feel like I was giving back. I felt like this was a great opportunity to share my talents. 

I am good at what I do, and to help this company help other companies, which are nonprofits, was a way for me to support nonprofits in my own way. So, I followed Dave Deal and here I am.


Being the Community IT Controller

Carolyn Woodard: So what is your title now? I imagine that your role has changed a bit. It’s clear we don’t use dial-up anymore, luckily. So from those early days of being the accountant to what you do now, what is your role, and what’s a typical day now for you?

Ann Corran: Well, initially, I started off doing just about everything. Payroll, HR, all the financials. 

I realize that I embody one of Community IT’s missions for their employees, which is work-life balance. So whether it was when I had young kids at home or now that I’m pretty active as an empty nester with my own life, I’ve always just loved that work-life balance that Community IT offers.

The role that I wanted was the financial controller, where I am responsible pretty much for all the money that comes in the company and that goes out of the company. 

On a day-to-day basis, I’ll be looking at the cash flow in the bank. I’ll be doing all the invoicing for the company, all the accounts payable, so any purchases that need to go out. I make sure we have the funds needed for our payroll, although I don’t do [payroll myself.] We have an HR department, but I provide the funds for [payroll.] I evaluate all our internal controls and systems to make sure we have a very efficient but secure finance department.

And then most importantly, I provide all the financial data for our leadership team. So every month I do revenue reports, I do financials, and these are all shared with our employees. Community IT is wonderful in sharing what our finances are. We’re not trying to get rich. We’re just trying to provide a good work-life balance for our employees, and most importantly support our mission to support these nonprofits that are doing this great work.

That’s kind of my day-to-day. Sometimes I’m working eight hour, ten hour days. Other times I can take the day off and go biking. I do work part-time. I’m back to 30 hours a week on the average and it’s worked out really well. I was able to move here to Fort Collins, Colorado from the DC area and still keep this position and watch over the company.

Carolyn Woodard: I think you are kind of our institutional knowledge and just kind of the heart of the company and our company culture as well.

Because Community IT is an employee owned company, are there different financial things that you have to do? You mentioned sharing financials with the employee owners. There’s a lot of transparency around our financials, but are there other things that you need to know about or you had to learn about when we became employee owned?

Ann Corran: No, we have an outside consultant who does our ESOP. So employee stock ownership, it’s called an ESOP. It’s very complicated. We do have a consultant to help us with that. We also have internal employees that are advisors to our ESOP. So no, there’s not really anything different. 

It’s just that there’s nothing really hidden about our finances. It’s given to the leadership team every month. The leadership team shares that with the employees. We’ve always been very open about our finances and we’re very fortunate. 

I’m fortunate because we have great clients. We don’t have an accounts receivable problem. They’re happy to pay their invoices. We charge very good rates. I think we do great work. I get to work with Jenny Huftalen, who’s our Director of Client Services. And I think she and I make a great team. I love working with her.

So [I work] setting up the agreements, setting up the projects, trying to find wording for our clients on their invoices where they understand what they’re receiving. 

I always tell our internal IT guys who help me out tremendously, Matt Eshleman and his team, to make sure all our finances are kept secure and safe and that the systems I’m using are safe and reliable. I always tell them, explain to me what you’re doing. If they start using acronyms, I’ll break it down into language that I understand and I think our clients understand. 

I feel very fortunate in my position and what I’ve been able to build it into. Like I said, I’m the only one that’s doing the invoicing accounts payable, but we have all our systems in place, so no paper. Our clients pay everything online.


What’s it Like Working at Community IT?

Carolyn Woodard: You said you kind of created the role and it was a brand new company, brand new role. Was there anything that you thought moving into this kind of a role as accountant would be that turned out to be totally wrong? Did you have any misconceptions about it?

Ann Corran: Yeah, I think when I tell people that I’m the controller for this company, they think, oh, you’re just in this dark little hole getting these numbers done. And sometimes it’s true! 

But I love working out problems, so I love puzzles. And I like the challenge of reconciling something. Sometimes you are crunching the numbers, but most of the time you’re in touch with clients, you’re in touch with staff, and you’re helping these clients understand what they’re paying for. And it feels good. It feels good that you’re working at something larger than you.

Someone [at our clients] who’s helping with climate change or children in a disadvantaged position, that makes you feel good that, hey, I’m making their life a little easier by giving them an invoice that’s easy to comprehend, easy to pay. 

They can get in touch with me. They can get in touch with Jenny quickly, find out any questions they have. That part of it is definitely different from when I was working in the banking world or in the government auditing world. It’s definitely more open and sharing of your numbers.

Carolyn Woodard: It sounds like you kind of lucked into this position in a way. It definitely wasn’t a totally planned career transition. If you were giving advice to somebody who’s starting out today, who loves numbers, is doing a degree in accounting, but either is interested in going into more on the nonprofit side or maybe, like you, finding out that working at a bank isn’t totally what is making them feel good about their work.


Work Advice from Ann

Would you have any advice for them on how to even look for a job like this?

Ann Corran: That’s a really good question. Kind of what I tell my own kids is, number one, work on your communication skills. Know how to ask for what you want. Know what you want, but learn how to write well. Communicate in the email, communicate with your fellow workers.

Then figure out what your passion is. If there’s something larger than you that you want to work with, if you’re passionate about women’s rights or the environment, there are places, those companies, those nonprofits, those people who are supporting that mission who need your help. They need people of all walks of life. And if you’re curious enough and if you’re persistent, don’t give up. I think any job that you walk into is just overwhelming. And so many people just say, I don’t belong here.

And so I say, especially to young women, you belong. Show up and just keep showing up until you figure it out, because you’re going to be [lost at first.] Every time I try something new, whether it’s at work, or I join a new bike club, or I try something that’s really hard, you feel lost and you feel like these people all look different from me. They’re more buff, they’re so much stronger, and they’re all guys, and I don’t belong. But you have to just keep showing up and make them realize that you belong. So keep leaning in and speaking up and knowing what you’re worth. Don’t underestimate your knowledge.

You’ve got to work really hard. I put in a lot of work at the beginning of my career. I stayed up many nights trying to figure things out, trying to figure out the systems, and thankfully, I’m very lucky. I work with my coworkers, the internal IT guys. If I don’t know how something works or something’s not clicking, they fix it for me. They make sure it’s safe.

I would say know how to communicate, know what your strengths are, know what you want to do, and just keep showing up. Show up on time, too.

Carolyn Woodard: That’s so interesting that you said that you just asked for what you wanted. You wanted to be able to work from home and work part-time. And they were like, sure. And I think sometimes in our careers, we’re kind of like, oh, they’d never agree to that. You second guess yourself before you even ask.

I have a similar story where I actually just had a very stressful role, and so I walked in to quit, honestly. And my supervisor’s supervisor actually was the woman I talked to, and she said, “Well, how can we get you to stay?” And I named this number that was, like, insane. It was $20,000 more than I was making at the time. And she said, “Done. We want to keep you.”  

So sometimes you have to just ask. And I felt like once that happened, I had a lot more street cred to walk into other meetings and just like you said, say, “I belong here. I should be here, clearly.” So sometimes you have to just ask.

So I’m going to ask you,


What is the Best Thing About Your Job at Community IT?

Ann Corran: Well, I’d say the work-life balance. Like I was saying, I was able to work throughout all the years my kids were growing up. I was able to work a flexible schedule. 

So many people would say, oh, you’re so lucky. And then I started saying, yeah, I’m lucky. But Community IT was lucky too, to have me, because as you know, as a working mom, you are working two jobs, and you know how to delegate your time, figure out what’s important, get it done, know what’s urgent and what’s important and get that done. A lot of stuff is just noise, you let that go. So I think I was able to prioritize.

I do feel like that work-life balance is critical. I wouldn’t still be here if I didn’t have that balance because there’s so much more in my life than my work. And that’s one of the cores of Community IT. So it’s not like me telling Community IT, “You have to let me do this.” They want you to have a rich life, whatever life that is.

And then I think, what I love about my position is I have a bird’s eye view of the whole company. So I can see what agreements we’re doing, what projects we’re doing, what clients are really needing, what they find important, which employees are in high demand. It’s just amazing because I feel like I am just up above and I can look into all the different facets of Community IT and see how it’s doing. And it’s a really healthy company.

I think that the overall best thing about my job is that, just like our mission statement says, we’re helping others meet their mission.

Sometimes you feel overwhelmed with climate change, what’s being done. But we have a lot of clients out there that are working so hard to combat climate change. So even though in my job directly, maybe I don’t feel like I’m doing something about climate change, I feel like I’m supporting someone who is doing [something about it, I’m] making their job a little easier. So, yeah, I’d have to say that my favorite thing is our clients. 

Carolyn Woodard: It’s interesting that you bring up that even at the very beginning, there was this focus on the work-life balance and having a rich life, recognizing that employees are people and they have full lives and you want them to bring their best self to the work and letting you work from home. I think that set Community IT up well to be able to take advantage of remote work.

Since 2020, we’ve had some people work in the office or go into the office sometimes, but a lot of us work remotely. And then we also are supporting so many of our clients who are now working remotely or have a hybrid office where they don’t go into the office all of the time. So I think that’s also given us a little bit more insight into that kind of culture and what makes those arrangements work. And especially from the IT side, how you can make it really work. So it’s interesting for me to hear that that was at the very beginning of the company.

Ann Corran: Yeah. That’s funny, you were talking about just the work-life balance. My daughter, her whole job is change management, which has just gone gangbusters. But it’s all about all these people who are used to going into the office and working, having their bosses watch everything they do. They don’t want to go back to the office. Some people do, a lot of people don’t. It’s really changed. And I think people like you and I, we were doing it before covid, trying to juggle everything.

I say to Community IT, look for the working moms and dads. They know how to juggle.

Carolyn Woodard: They know how to manage, yep.

Ann Corran:  Yeah. You know how to get stuff done.

Carolyn Woodard: When you are at a dinner party or meeting someone and someone asks what you do, what do you say that Community IT does?

Ann Corran:  I tell them I do the finances. I’m a Financial Controller for Community IT Innovators, and we support nonprofits. And most people get that right away.

Carolyn Woodard: Exactly. Thank you so much for your time today, Ann. I really appreciate it. It’s been lovely talking to you.

Ann Corran: Sure. This has been fun. Thanks so much, Carolyn.

Carolyn Woodard: Thank you.