The Beauty of the Pursuit

by Anna Packard

“The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast and you miss all that you are traveling for.” Louis L’Amour

I had this Louis L’Amour quote in my email signature for years because it epitomizes an important lesson I needed to reiterate to myself, over and over.

I’m a destination kind of girl. Just ask my husband. Sometimes he doesn’t like hiking trails with me because I must get to the end of the trail come hell or high water! It doesn’t matter if it’s getting dark or it’s raining, or even hailing, I am a finisher. This persistence has historically served me well in personal and professional pursuits, but focusing too much on the destination has often detracted me from the importance of the journey itself.

It’s easy to get distracted by the destination. I mean, the destination is the whole point of journeying whatever path we’ve chosen in the first place right? I pursued graduate school to get the PhD! When our perspective is that the destination is the point, we often believe that the destination (whether that be academic achievement, a certain employment, a promotion or advancement, a home, a spouse, children and white picket fence) is the thing that will ultimately make us happy. We have adopted a belief system that we will be happy when we get x, or achieve y. Read More

Personal Finance: 20 Accounting Terms You Should Know

by Jonyce Bullock, CPA

OK, admit it – you read “Accounting Terms” and thought “that does NOT apply to me!”  Let me explain why this post applies to everyone.  At some point in your life you are going to encounter an accounting term; if you know the basics terms you will handle these situations with confidence.  Here are a few examples of reasons you need to become more accounting savvy:

  • You have decided to invest in stock market:  Understanding basic accounting terms helps you become an educated investor.  All companies traded on the US stock exchanges are required to report annual financial statements.  Your investment advisor will likely discuss with you the results from the financial statements of these companies as you assess your investment options
  • You want to start a business:  You have a great idea for your new business and you are starting to outline what you hope is an amazing business plan.    
  • Your spouse owns a business:  I was asked recently to be an expert witness in a business case where the owners had recently divorced.  Both spouses were asked under oath about the accounting policies and practices of the company.  Unfortunately for the wife,  she had signed on several joint obligations, but was only able to answer the accounting questions with “I wasn’t involved in the accounting” and “I rarely saw the financial statements”.  You can and should be involved in the accounting of any business to which you are tied.
  • You want to move up in your position at work:  A solid understanding of the financial terms that affect your company is a way to help you earn a place in many business conversations.

These are just a few examples – there are many others that are just as important.  In her book “New Rules of the Game”, Susan Packard states: “Finance is a business language.  If you understand and can speak it, you will know how to communicate the financial health of your company to others…Getting to be comfortable with the language of numbers is a critical skill set for executive management.”   Let’s jump in!

  • Account:  Most people think of financial accounts, like checking or savings account, when they hear the term account.  However, in accounting terms, this refers to the accounts in your Chart of Accounts: asset, liability, owner’s equity, income, and expense.
  • Accounts Payable (A/P):  Everything that is owed to vendors, contractors, consultants, etc. is tracked in this account.
  • Accounts Receivable (A/R): This account tracks income that hasn’t been realized yet, like outstanding invoices.
  • Accrual Basis:  This is one of two basic accounting methods. Using it, you record income as it is invoiced, not when it’s actually received, and you records expense like bills when you receive them.
  • Cash Basis:  The second basic method of accounting.  Under this method you report income when you receive it and expenses when you pay the bills.
  • Asset: All physical items you own that have value.  This could be items such as cash, office equipment, and real estate.  
  • Liability:  Amounts owed by the business.  This could be items such as  accounts payable, credit cards, and bank loans
  • Equity:  The owner’s interest in the business.  Essentially,  this is what is left after subtracting your liabilities from your assets.
  • Cash Flow:  This refers to the relationship between incoming and outgoing funds during a specific time period.
  • Double-Entry Accounting:  This is the basis for all accounting systems. Every transaction must show where the funds came from and where they went.  Each has a Credit (decreases asset and expense accounts) and Debit (decreases liability and income accounts) which must balance out (other types of accounts can be affected).
  • Balance Sheet:  A financial statement that summarizes a company’s assets, liabilities, and equity.
  • Income Statement (also referred to as a Profit and Loss):  This is a financial statement that shows a company’s financial performance for a specific time period.  Shows company revenues and expenses for the given time period.
  • Net income:  This is your revenue minus expenses.
  • Payroll Liabilities:  This account tracks obligations such as payroll taxes, garnishments, and other withholdings deducted from employees’ paychecks and will remit to the appropriate agencies.
  • Post:  This simply refers to recording a transaction within one of your accounts.
  • Reconcile:  This is the process of verifying that your records and those of your financial institutions agree.
  • Trial Balance:  This standard financial report indicates whether your debits and credits are in balance.
  • Vendor:  With the exception of employees, this term generally refers to anyone who you pay as a part of your business operations.  
  • Customer:  This term generally refers to anyone you receive payments from as part of your business.
  • Aging Report:  A report that shows the length of time a company’s receivable or payable has been outstanding.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it is a good starting place to understand the accounting lingo you will encounter in the business world.  I am reminded of the public service announcements from NBC when I was growing up “The More You Know”.  The more you know about accounting terms, the more you will be prepared to speak up when the opportunity arises.


Career Day: International Development

Tell us a little about yourself and about your job?

My name is Sylvia Cabus.  I immigrated from the Philippines with my parents and grew up in California.  I now live in Washington DC with my husband and son.  I am a Senior Advisor at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), working on gender equality and women’s empowerment issues in developing countries.  I majored in history at U.C. Berkeley and received an MA in international relations from the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at the Johns Hopkins University.

What does your job entail?

I work with my colleagues to ensure that USAID’s policies on gender equality and women’s empowerment are applied across our projects and programs. That is to say, “For societies to thrive, women and girls must have access to education, healthcare, and technology. They must have control of resources, lands, and markets. And they must have equal rights and equal opportunities as breadwinners, peace-builders and leaders.”  In daily terms, this might mean training staff; making sure preliminary studies include the concerns and interests of both men and women; and designing projects so that men and women contribute to and benefit from those projects equally.

An example in the area of water, hygiene, and sanitation is to make sure that school construction includes adequate and appropriate restrooms.  That’s because the onset of menstruation and the lack of safe and hygienic facilities at school are some of the reasons for girls dropping out.

What drew you to a career in international development?

Growing up I always had an interest in women’s issues, social justice, and international relations fostered by regular family trips to the Philippines and several exchange student experiences.   After college, I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon.  I taught English at the local high school for two years, which is when my interest in women and gender grew.  I witnessed the casual violence that students endured, the systematic sexual harassment of girls at school, and the general lack of rights and opportunities for women.  I also became friends with many strong women who overcame obstacles through education and perseverance, and many men who wanted better futures for their daughters as well as their sons.

What kind of education/training is required? What skills/personal characteristics are important to have/develop?

Of course an interest in other cultures and international travel is an element everyone in this field shares.   A master’s degree in addition to overseas work experience and a foreign language are standard criteria.  It’s also helpful to have a tolerant attitude, a strong stomach, flexibility and a sense of humor.  I also think that writing and presenting skills are very important, as well as specific technical skills such as training or monitoring and evaluation.

What kind of job opportunities are there in your field?

International development is a very broad field.  You can work at an non-governmental organization (NGO), a private sector consulting firm, a research institution or a university, or for any number of government agencies (many government agencies have an international office).  You can also work in different sectors; my colleagues include specialists in education, engineering, agriculture, microfinance, rule of law, public health, and many more.  Most gender specialists like myself have an additional technical sector; in my previous position I worked on gender issues in agriculture and food security, and now I work with the water and education teams.

What types of jobs have you had within your profession?

I joined an international NGO after graduate school through a fellowship program and worked as a program manager in Kenya, Morocco, Malawi, and Burkina Faso.  When we moved back to the US I worked as a program officer for a couple of different international NGOs and then joined USAID as a gender advisor for agriculture and food security.  Now I’m a senior advisor and work primarily with the water and education teams.  Like most people in the field, I started with internships while I was in graduate school.

What is the best part of your job ?

The very satisfying feeling of serving every day, even if it’s a less than exciting task.  I enjoy working with people from different backgrounds and cultures, and the challenge of trying to master a foreign language.  I love representing the American people overseas.

What is the worst part of your job?

Living overseas can be a real challenge – it was hard to be away from my parents and extended family and I know it can sometimes be difficult for the spouse to find employment.  Back in the US, the constant international travel can be a grind.  I love seeing other countries but I’m not fond of sitting on planes for long periods of time.

Kenya was the only country where I lived where I attended church in a traditional ward.  It was a real challenge to live church standards without the support of an active community but I also experienced tremendous spiritual growth with study and reflection on my own.  For example, I read through all the BYU women’s conference books – I don’t think I would have been motivated to do that in the US.

What’s the work/family/life balance like?

My husband also works internationally and to date we have not yet had a time when both of us are on trips but I’m sure that day will come!  If we lived overseas our domestic life would be much easier because we would be able to afford household help.  We both have relatively flexible work schedules and now that our son is at school (in DC kids start at age 3) childcare is no longer a huge expensive ordeal.  My husband is truly an equal partner – we trade off cooking and other household tasks, and he’s the primary caregiver for our son.

What is the biggest misconception people have about your job?

People often don’t know exactly what I do!  Or they think I am a professional unpaid volunteer.  Also, there is the misconception that working on women’s issues come at the expense of men, which is not the case at all.

What opportunities have you had because of your education and profession?

I’ve learned a lot of new skills, such as writing proposals and developing budgets, and seen many different countries that are not regular tourist destinations, like Bangladesh or Togo.  I’ve also had many tender experiences with the international church, like seeing the little branch I attended in Nairobi grow into the stake center, or seeing the beautiful African details in the temple in Accra.

What stereotypes or criticisms have you faced as an educated Mormon woman with her own career?

I am an adult convert so I did not grow up with the same expectations or pressure.  I also suspect that more traditional church members considered me “eccentric but harmless.”  When I was single, sometimes other members would comment that I would never get married, and then once we started a family, people would “worry” that I was neglecting my husband and son.  But I receive so many requests for informational interviews and am regularly asked to speak on career panels, so I know there is a great interest in this field from both men and women, especially from those who served missions in developing countries.  These opportunities to share my skills with others in the church have allowed me to model the blessings that come from God’s commandment for men and women to be equally yoked.

What spiritual guidance have you felt as you have pursued your education and developed your career?

When I finished graduate school and was contemplating whether or not I should go back overseas, I was very worried about my marital status because I knew it would be more difficult to get married than if I had stayed in the US.  But I received a very strong confirmation that to go as a single woman would afford me many special opportunities to serve.

Any other thoughts, advice, or stories you’d like to share with other women?

If you are spiritually prompted to do something “non-traditional” like live in Africa, I’d say go for it. It was a huge leap for me to leave the comfortable life of a member in the US for uncertainty as a member overseas, and it was difficult and tear-filled – but in the end I put my trust in the Lord and received many blessings as a result.

[edited by Erin Cowles]

Entrepreneur Feature: Michelle, Techtonica

Tell us a little about yourself and about your job/profession?

My name is Michelle Glauser. I’ve lived in Salt Lake City, Leipzig (Germany), Shanghai, London, and San Francisco, where I currently reside. I’ve been blogging since 2003 and wrote my Master’s thesis on mommy bloggers. In 2012, I made a big career transition and became a software engineer through a coding bootcamp, but in the last year, I’ve decided to focus my efforts on helping underrepresented people make it into the tech world and encouraging the tech world to be more inclusive of underrepresented people. I raised over $47,000 to put up #ILookLikeAnEngineer ads in the Bay Area, I lead PyLadies SF (a group for women who code in Python), and I founded a nonprofit called Techtonica in San Francisco. When I’m not doing techie or community things, I enjoy baking (and consuming the goods), burying myself in a book, going on hikes, and dog-watching.

What does your job entail?

Techtonica, the nonprofit I founded, offers free tech training, living and childcare stipends, and job placement to low-income women and non-binary adults (people who don’t identify as either men or women—there are quite a few non-binary folks in our area). As the founder and CEO, I do pretty much everything—business development, marketing, website development, research, curriculum development, hiring, operations, strategy, volunteer management, etc. The tough thing about doing everything is that I have to learn how to do all the things I’ve never done before, but that’s also the fun part.

What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture?

I’ve been an advocate for women and other underrepresented people to join the tech industry ever since becoming a software engineer was so empowering for me, but I kept seeing that there were a lot of issues with lack of diversity and inclusion in the industry, displacement and income inequality in cities with a thriving tech scene, and expectations that people pay upwards of $15,000 for intensive training programs that did not guarantee job placement. I wanted to work on something that would help solve these issues for the people who most need the help, and since I didn’t see something like that, I started Techtonica.

What is your best advice for other (LDS) women entrepreneurs?

I’d thought about a solution like Techtonica for a really long time but always felt like it was one of those “one day” things. It wasn’t until I was successful with the #ILookLikeAnEngineer ad campaign and other community initiatives that I realized I could start a program and start it now. Sure, there are a lot of things I could have taken more time to learn, but there’s no better motivation to learn than by needing to do it for a company you’re already running and passionate about. If you have an idea and can manage to make ends meet while getting your idea off the ground, I say just do it now.

What spiritual guidance have you had with developing and growing your business?

I’ve been blessed with a really open love for people who don’t always get the most love, and a passion for connecting people to make positive changes together.

If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?

I would have studied business and computer science, and worried much less about dating. I’d always loved technology, but I had no idea I could get a degree where I’d learn to make cool websites and apps. I’d probably be in a much more financially-stable place now if I’d done that.

What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

I wake up in the morning excited to get to work, because it’s my work. No one is telling me what to do; I get to decide what to focus on, and being so invested because it’s my work is really motivating. You’ll never feel better while working so hard than when you’re working on your own project.

Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years? 20 years?

I hope to see the Techtonica program and network in many locations, being run by the people who truly know the community and the industry. I’d like to continue making positive changes that support diversity and inclusion, but which roles and companies that will personally take me to, I’m not sure.

Career Day: Pilot

Tell us a little about yourself and about your job?

My name is Alyce Weber. I was born and raised in Hemet (Southern California) and moved to Utah in middle school. I have lived in California, Utah, Texas, Vancouver BC, and Seattle for the last nine years. I am a pilot by profession and a wife and mother of two amazing girls (three and five). I attended UVSC (now UVU) after high school, graduating with a degree in aviation science. I flight instructed my last two years of college before getting hired by a regional airline; four years later I moved to corporate fly—flying a plane for a company. I hold three type ratings, meaning I’m trained/certified to fly three types of jet airplanes (GV, CL604, and EMB 145). I stay current on the GV as a contract pilot.

What does your job entail?

The quick answer is I move people from point A to point B. The day starts with preflighting the aircraft, making sure we have what we need to have a successful trip. Flight planning would have been done the day before; we check the weather and hope the passengers don’t decide to go somewhere else. Passengers arrive, we close the door, start the engines, and taxi out. Assuming we’ve done good flight planning, the weather is good, and the plane doesn’t break, we land where the passengers want to be. Some days we are done; others we may sit at the airport for a few hours and then move the passengers to another destination.

What drew you to a career in aviation?

I was raised in a home where the girls were raised to be at home, take care of the home and children. Being a person who needs a goal, I didn’t understand the need to go to college if I was not going to work outside the home. My parents value education and told me I would be going to college. I struggled—for me it was a struggle, not having a goal, for the first two years of college not knowing what I was doing. My parents were great about letting me try any classes I wanted to figure out what I wanted to study. I tested this by taking snowboarding and other fun classes. Then somehow I talked my parents into letting me study abroad, so off I went to Capetown, South Africa, for five months, thinking I wanted to study sociology or social work. My brother met me to come home and we spent time on a safari. We were flown into a delta in Namibia by a woman, and I thought, that’s what I want to do. My parents thought it was too expensive. I paid for my private pilot’s rating with savings and fell in love with the sky.

What kind of education/training is required? What skills/personal characteristics are important to have/develop?

In the United States people train to be a pilot either by going through the military or the civilian route. There are colleges that have aviation programs. You can go to your local airport and learn to fly. In aviation you have to have the ability to deal with different types of people. Most pilots have pretty strong opinions. Most are men, sadly—I don’t hate men, just people who don’t think women can do things men do that have nothing to do with their anatomy. Dealing with an industry that is male dominated presents challenges.

What kind of job opportunities are there in your field?

We are on the front end of a pilot shortage in the US and worldwide. The US put if off by changing the retirement age for commercial pilots by five years, but those years have passed. The regional airlines have been feeling it for a few years; majors are just starting to feel it. It’s a great time to be a pilot looking for a job.

What types of jobs have you had within your profession?

I am a pilot. I have flown as a First Officer and a Captain. I don’t care to do much else.

What is the best part of your job?

I love visiting new places and meeting new people. I love the problem solving involved when there is a problem. I love the smell of jet fuel.

What is the worst part of your job?

Sometimes if the plane breaks down you can get stuck somewhere for a few days. Really the hardest part is dealing with closed-minded people.

What’s the work/family/life balance like?

Different pilots have different schedules. When you are gone, you are gone. But when you are home, you are home. Especially with kids, I have had to give up control of things so I can spend time with them. This job requires a SUPER supportive partner and allowing others to help you.

What is the biggest misconception people have about your job?

It’s something only men do or that it’s a great life for a working dad but can’t work for a working mom.

What opportunities have you had because of your education and profession?

People love talking about my job, which is good because I am not super outgoing. The ability to travel, to know I can take care of myself/my family financially if I need to. I’ve met people who were shocked I was LDS, and that has opened conversations about the gospel.

What stereotypes or criticisms have you faced as an educated Mormon woman with her own career?

Most of the stories I have about criticism come from members of the Church who don’t think women do this type of job. I don’t worry about stereotypes and criticisms; they are “that” person’s problem, not mine.

What spiritual guidance have you felt as you have pursued your education and developed your career?

Pursuing this education/career was done through divine guidance. My first two years of college were done because my parents told me I would go to school. I struggled the whole time with what I was doing. I came home from Capetown, received a blessing for something unrelated to my career, and the answer came in that blessing. There have been times when I have felt I could be done with flying and have been TOLD I’m not. I feel in limbo now—who knows what is next?

Any other thoughts, advice, or stories you’d like to share with other women?

Careers are something we spend SO much time doing. Do something you love. The money will come. I love going to work! I love telling my girls I get to go fly airplanes for work and am so happy and rejuvenated to come home to them after. Life here is so short—don’t spend it doing something that doesn’t bring you joy.

Interview with Janiece Johnson and Jennifer Reeder, Authors of The Witness of Women

with Dianne Orcutt

As I sat in Gospel Doctrine class yesterday, our teacher excitedly commented that she loved how every four years as we come back to the Doctrine & Covenants there are more stories, more records, and more information illuminating the experience of the Restoration. I loved her enthusiasm for seeking out the lesser known voices and stories from Church history.  In the recently released book The Witness of Women: Firsthand Experiences and Testimonies from the Restoration, historians Janiece Johnson and Jennifer Reeder, have done just that. Specifically, they have made accessible the testimonies and experiences of over one hundred Latter-day Saint women from the 19th Century.  One of the book’s strength is that it shows Latter-day Saint womanhood was, and continues to be, a varied and individual experience – and that the way each woman approaches the Gospel is likewise unique. Organized by topic, the book makes it easy to find and incorporate  women’s stories into lessons, talks, and personal gospel study.

The authors, Janiece and Jennifer, graciously agreed to talk with Aspiring Mormon Women about their experience compiling this important book. Please enjoy their interview below, and then, go buy the book!

Dianne: Tell us a bit about yourselves.

JANIECE: I am currently a visiting professor in Religion at BYU-Idaho. I have a PhD in American History from the University of Leicester in England, a Masters of Theology and a Masters of History from Vanderbilt and BYU respectively. Prior to returning to school for my PhD, I worked for the LDS Church History department on the Mountain Meadows Massacre. I am General Editor of Mountain Meadows Massacre: Collected Legal Papers, which will be published by the University of Oklahoma Press this spring. My MA Thesis at BYU looked at the religious experience of the earliest Mormon women and though I’ve had a few opportunities to continue to work on women’s history, The Witness of Women has been a lovely diversion.

JENNIFER: I am the 19th-century women’s history specialist at the LDS Church History Department. I have a PhD in American history from George Mason University and an MA in history, archival management, and documentary editing from New York University. My academic interests include women’s history, religious history, memory, and material culture. I have most recently been engaged in a book project collecting women’s discourses, which will be published by the Church Historian’s Press in March 2017. Read More

Financial Fitness

by Sheila Sawka

If you are like me, and the rest of the world, you have once again made a New Year’s resolution to become more physically fit in 2017. I’m hoping this year my goal will survive past January 14. We have constant reminders of the state of our bodies as we look in the mirror and get dressed every day. These regular reminders may be motivating factors in setting our goal of getting physically fit. However, daily reminders are not as visible regarding our financial health. How about making 2017 the year of getting financially fit? Just like our bodies are in various stages of physical fitness, our finances also vary in their levels of fitness. The first step in making a financial New Year’s resolution is to evaluate our financial fitness level and then make an appropriate goal. We can’t expect to run a marathon if we can’t even walk a mile.

Financial Evaluation

In order to set an appropriate financial goal, we need to assess our financial situation and then prioritize our spending. Basically, an assessment consists of knowing what is coming in, what is going out, and what is left over (if any). A simple Excel spreadsheet or even pen and paper can accomplish this objective. Unless you are a budgeting fanatic, it may be surprising to find out exactly where your finances stand. There are many free tools available on the internet to help assess finances. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has a valuable website called Feed the Pig which provides several financial calculators, information, and tips. Another free online tool, offered by Intuit, is Mint. Not only does Mint provide assessment tools, but it can also help with financial goals.

Once you get that raw look at where you stand, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I spending more than I earn?
  • What is my debt-to-income ratio? (visit Feed the Pig for a handy calculator)
  • What is my savings-to-expense ratio? (visit Feed the Pig for a handy calculator)
  • Do I regularly contribute to a savings account?
  • Do I have a retirement plan and am I on track with that plan?
  • What has changed in my life in the last year or will be changing in the current year?

If you found that your income is greater than your expenses or your income is equal to your expenses, then increasing income or decreasing expenses may be the New Year’s resolutions for you. Contributing to a savings or retirement account may not be an appropriate goal if your current situation is increasing debt. It is important to set your financial goal equal to your current financial fitness level.

Eight years ago I was a single mom with five children working in a day care center. My financial fitness level was rock bottom. It was not possible for me to decrease expenses any more so I had to increase my income. I made a goal to go back to school. It took four long years and much mental agony and stress, but I accomplished my goal. Since my financial fitness moved up a level, so have my financial goals.

Prioritizing Financial Goals

If you are not quite ready to run the monetary marathon, what should be the first financial fitness step? Here is the part most of us do not want to hear. Step one is to make and follow a budget. Why do we cringe when someone mentions the word budget? Perhaps budgets are restricting to our former free spending way of life. Maybe we wince because budgets require accountability and work. If you need some motivation and/or help preparing a budget, please refer to prior articles wonderfully written by Jonyce Bullock here on Aspiring Mormon Women. I’m a firm believer that every dollar needs a home. Free floating dollars usually end up hurting our fitness level. Making and following a budget helps to ensure every dollar is put to its best use and that it aids in making and keeping financial goals.

Alright, we have completed our financial assessment and created a budget. What’s next? I’m a huge fan of Dave Ramsey and the way he prioritizes financial goals with The 7 Baby Steps. The basic idea is to complete each step sequentially. Here is a summary of the steps:

  1. Set aside $1000 to start an emergency fund. (The idea here is to decrease the chance for future debt.)
  2. Pay off all debt except the house. (Dave recommends starting with the smallest balance and working your way up.)
  3. Put 3 to 6 months of expenses in savings. (Calculate how much you need and set a monthly savings goal.)
  4. Invest 15% of household income into retirement. (Research the best options to fit your needs.)
  5. Start a college fund for children.  (Help your children start off right by not racking up student debt.)
  6. Pay off the house early. (What would that be like, right?)
  7. Build wealth and give. (And enjoy financial freedom!)

For more information on these steps and additional tips, visit Dave Ramsey’s website.

After finishing school, getting remarried, and gaining five bonus children, my husband and I have some work to do on our financial fitness. We have been working on Step #2 for a while and are getting close to being debt free (minus the house) and it feels so good!

Success Past January 14

Why do most New Year’s resolutions fizzle out soon after the year begins? It seems like I always have great ambitions at the end of December, then my high aspirations get forgotten, set aside, and neglected. According to George T. Doran, my goals in the past were not “SMART”. Here are some SMART tips and considerations for making successful goals:

S – Specific: If your goal is to get out of debt, what is your plan? Which debt will you tackle first? How much will you pay and when? If your goal is to decrease expenses by eating out less, an example of a specific goal would be to prepare a home-cooked meal at least four times a week.

M – Measurable: A successful goal will have an indicator of progress. Financial goals are easily measurable. Track your progress using a spreadsheet, MINT, or another app. Reward yourself for reaching certain levels of progress.

A – Assignable: Who will do what? If you are working toward financial goals in a relationship, it is important that each party is invested in achieving those goals.

R – Realistic: Evaluate your goal. Make sure you have considered all aspects. Leave room in your budget for fun and for unforeseen events.

T – Time-related: Setting a deadline is crucial for financial goals. If you want to pay off all debt in two years, what does that make your monthly payment? Is it realistic?

Another tip to having successful goals is to write your goal down and set reminders for yourself. I’m obsessed with sticky notes. They are everywhere in my life. I know that if I want something done, it better be either in my phone or on a sticky note. What works for you?

Let’s make 2017 the year for becoming more financially fit. Money certainly does not create happiness, but being financially secure can create a feeling of peace and can help avoid heartache in the future.

One final thought from Sam Allred, a leadership trainer:  “Excellence is rooted in continuous improvement. It is never an accident; it is always the product of a purposeful effort. While few travel its disciplined path, those who do enjoy an uncommon view”.

Good luck with your goals this year. Please leave comments for any additional tips that have worked for you in the past or share what you’ll be working on this year.


Sheila Sawka is a CPA working for Squire & Company, PC, where she is a member of the Audit and Assurance Services Practice Area.  Sheila received her MAcc from the University of Utah.


Entrepreneur Interview: Sui Lang Panoke, Women Politics Media

Describe briefly who you are, your background, and your business.

Hello.  My name is Sui Lang Liliu O’Kalani Pumehana Panoke and I am originally from the beautiful islands of Hawaii.  I was born in Honolulu, raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, and currently reside on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC with my daughter and our adorable red toy poodle, Rue. I graduated from Cottonwood High School as a proud Cottonwood Colt, attended BYU Hawaii for my first year of undergrad and completed my BS in Political Science from the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics in 2003.  Shortly after graduation, I gave birth to my beautiful and intellectually curious daughter, Kaleila Dae Relle Ka’iulani Alaka’i Wren and moved to Washington, DC to pursue graduate school in 2005. I earned my Master’s in Public Administration from American University with a Certificate in Women, Policy and Political Leadership from the Women & Politics Institute.

My passion for empowering women in politics is very much rooted in my experience growing up in Utah. From a very early age, I observed the disparities that existed amongst women serving in leadership roles, most particularly, public leadership roles. This confused me because so many of the women I knew were already such inspired and extraordinary leaders in their families and in their communities and I saw a need for more of that type of leadership in the public arena. Throughout the course of my academic and professional career, I have gained a wide range of experience learning and working in essentially every aspect of the political arena from the Hill and the campaign trail to the nonprofit sector, international development, public opinion, the education space and local and federal government. It is through this diverse lens, I can honestly say that all of these professional experiences have uniquely prepared me to do what I do now.  In every professional role I have played, I have observed, learned and developed effective leadership and communication skills. I believe one’s level of skill and development in these two key areas is what differentiates the good leaders from the great ones.

I currently serve as Founder/ Director of Women Politics Media, LLC a global leadership and communications training organization designed to train today’s leaders who have historically and remain underrepresented in the media and public policy arena — namely, women, minorities and emerging young leaders — on how to use the media as a vehicle to impact public policy. Our mission is to empower today’s leaders with the tools they need to be SMART leaders and communicators through personal empowerment, leadership development and professional communications training.  To learn more about our trainings and to book a training or free consultation please visit us at  

I also recently launched the RE-Think Tank for Women, a project of WPM, on June 10, 2016 in Washington, DC that serves as a social think tank designed to challenge women to RE-Think how and what they think through thought provoking conversations and reflective mediation. Its purpose is to create intimate and diverse social circles where women can engage in meaningful face to face conversations on a wide range of topics. Each conversation incorporates our shared values of: power conversations, equal and valuable exchange, equitable partnership, diversity of thought and reflective meditation.  The RE-Think Tank for Women is currently operating in Washington, DC and Salt Lake City, Utah. To learn more or to join a RE-Think Tank near you please visit us at  

What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture or to make significant changes in an existing business?

Hmmm, great question. It’s hard to describe that “spark” feeling with words, but I will say this, when you feel it, you’ll know it — without a doubt.  It starts at the crossroads between the realization that a particular need exists in the world and you coming to the conclusion that a solution for it does not yet exist.  Or, at least not a solution that could satisfy the need as well as the idea that exists in your head.  It then turns into this passion inside of you that grows more and more rapidly as thoughts and ideas come racing to your mind — so fast that you can’t type fast enough to get them out of your head in fear that you’ll lose your train of thought before you have a chance to write them down. This ball of fire, or as we call it in the yoga room “fire in your belly” gets to the point where you simply have to get it out… you have no idea how to get it out, how it will come out or what it will look like when it comes out, but you just know it cannot sit inside of your belly any longer.  When the “spark” gets to this point for me, I turn to a state of reflective meditation.  As I take my mind, body and spirit into a meditative space, it begins to organically organize its thoughts and all of a sudden, the vision, the mission, the strategic plan the business model… right down to the very people who will support me and assist me in bringing this idea to life… begin to take form and the process of creation in real time starts to unfold… I know it sounds crazy, but this has been true for me… and I know it can come true for you too if you are open to pursuing entrepreneurial ventures. I can also attest that even if this is not the path you choose, if it is your purpose, it will choose you — so be open and get ready! 🙂     

What spiritual guidance have you had with developing and growing your business?

I do this exercise with most of my clients at the beginning of our trainings with the intent to draw out the personal empowerment that resides in each and every one of them. I’m big on personal empowerment for women, especially Mormon women, because we believe in personal revelation and since we don’t hold the Priesthood as our male counterparts do at this time, I believe our power to receive and administer through personal revelation will be magnified significantly if we prepare ourselves to receive and use this power for good. Okay, back to the exercise, I have my clients take a moment to envision their life as a nonprofit organization and have them go through the steps of defining their vision, their values and their definition of success for their lives. I then have them take a shot at drafting their own “Personal Mission Statement” and conceptually recruiting their very own board of directors.  Who would you recruit to serve on your board?  Who are your “go to” people?  Who would you like to serve as your senior advisor?  One of the most powerful benefits in doing this exercise is it gives individuals a chance to first think about what their life’s purpose and mission is and then secondly, putting it down on paper.  As the famous anonymous quote states, “An idea is only a dream until it is written down — and then it becomes a goal.”  Far too often, we spend our entire professional lives carrying out someone else’s mission and achieving someone else’s goal. But, how often do we take the time to sit down and turn our focus to our own mission and assess whether or not we are on track to accomplish our own goals and carry out our own personal mission statement?  Not to undermine those of us who have shared visions and shared goals and find joy and fulfillment in carrying these out as a member of a team. It is not everyone’s purpose to become an entrepreneur. But, I share all of this to say that I do this exercise for myself every year and I have always put Jesus Christ at the head of my personal board of directors.  And, so far, he has never lead me astray.  This personal choice, for me, has made the difference in every way in developing and growing my business.   

Sui Lang PanokeMany years ago, as a young professional starting out, I used try really hard to compartmentalize my life in order for it to make sense to me and those around me. I would break down everything from my goals, my time, my social circles into different categories like… these are my health/fitness goals and my workout friends… these are my professional goals and my work friends… these are my spiritual goals and my church friends, etc. But, the more life experience I gain on this earth, the more those rigid boundaries start to come down and I begin to see everyone simply as, my friend and every goal, simply as my will aligning with God’s will.  And, the more we align our will with God’s will, the more we are open and susceptible to receiving everything our hearts desire.  

I engage in prayerful meditation every morning, every night before I go to bed and especially before I am about to speak before an audience.  Whether it be an audience of 1 or an audience of 100, I pray that the spirit will be with me and that all members of the audience will receive what they need to receive in the moments that we share. I have literally had to consciously stop myself from closing some of my trainings and speaking engagements with the words, “I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.” ha ha I know all the Aspiring Mormon Women will get that one. But, honestly, all jokes aside, those are some of the most rewarding moments I have had in my career because I knew there was a genuine connection between the Lord, myself and that particular audience.  

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

Every moment in which I felt that I made a genuine connection with someone else. Every time I read an email, receive a phone call or open up a thank you card from a client, a colleague, a partner or a training participant and I learn about the small and big ways in which something I said or did changed them in some way for the better.  This my dear friends, is what it’s all about. Using our divine gifts to bless others. I can’t think of a better way to make a living.  

Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years?  20 years?

Happy, healthy and thriving! 🙂

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