KSM’s Ben Phillips takes his role as an ally for women seriously
Ben Phillips first started attending Women & Hi Tech events in 2019 through the recommendation of a few members. He appreciated the programming and the people, as well as the goals of the organization to work toward equal inclusiveness of women in STEM. Once becoming a member, the leadership saw in him a drive that they knew could benefit the group, so they asked Ben to make a larger impact.
“They asked me to serve on the board of directors as treasurer and I jumped at the opportunity,” said Ben. “It’s been great and I admire that all members of the organization have an extreme passion for giving back and making a positive impact on women working in STEM fields.”
Ben referred to the book The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates to explain why he took on a role as a board member and officer of an organization that’s primarily thought of as exclusively for women—though it most definitely is not.
“Being a feminist is believing that every woman should be able to use her voice and pursue her potential, and that women and men should all work together to take down the barriers and end the biases that still hold women back.”from “The Moment of Lift” by Melinda Gates
TechPoint staff recently connected with Ben and got a chance to ask him a battery of questions about his life and career as part of our ongoing story series, each one highlighting a “Person You Should Know.”
What led you to tech and this occupation? What was your first job in tech?
I am very fortunate to have been raised with two math professors as parents. Problem-solving at home and figuring out the way things work (bicycle, go-kart, mini-bike, etc.) was always supported. I started at Purdue in mechanical engineering and in typical fashion switched majors to accounting after discovering where my passion truly was. My first job out of college was with the CPA firm Katz, Sapper & Miller (KSM) here in Indianapolis.
Fast-forward 10 years – I’m still in public accounting and my practice is specific to serving tech-enabled companies (SaaS, financial services, insurance, etc.). I have spent my career serving clients in both the financial audit and IT security consulting capacities.
Describe your career path so far?
After graduation I started with KSM as a staff accountant. After a few years in Indianapolis I decided to “see the Midwest” and had the opportunity to live in both Minneapolis and Chicago for a total of five years, before returning to Indy in 2017. In between now and then, I’ve had the opportunity to work with companies in various industries including not-for-profit, insurance, financial services, healthcare, technology, private equity, and venture capital.
About five years into my career in financial auditing I became interested in uncovering how companies utilize technology to run their business. I recently returned to KSM and work with my IT audit team there to understand how companies configure their overall security program—from both a technical (logical and system security, operations, change management, etc.) and a governance perspective (policies, management integrity, organizational management, etc.). We most commonly do this through performing a SOC (System and Organization Controls) examination.
What are your primary work activities and responsibilities?
As a director in the audit and assurance practice at KSM, my main goal is to help my team succeed through best serving our clients. My team is responsible for SOC (System and Organization Controls) examinations and security / IT audit assessments.
Throughout my career in public accounting, the main work activities have always been helping clients find solutions to problems or compliance hurdles (such as a financial statement audit, sales tax question, or an IT security examination). I am fortunate to work at KSM, as it provides unique opportunities for training and growth outside of my client-serving activities.
Help us picture your work environment.
My work environment usually has natural sunlight, a comfortable chair, water, cold-brew coffee and three large monitors.
What do you love about the work you do?
I love that I have had the opportunity to work with smart and positive-minded individuals at every step along the way. Within public accounting, I love that I am able to help my clients solve problems. Sometimes our clients may request assistance with coming to a solution in an area in which I personally don’t specialize (like sales tax for example). At KSM it’s easy to pull in the right team and help get the client to where they need to be given the wide array of accounting and consulting services we specialize in. I also enjoy helping people grow and develop—through coaching, speaking at conferences, or just in my daily huddle meetings with my team. The firm values of KSM include Unity, Nurturing, Ingenuity, Trust, Excellence and Drive. When you combine a group of individuals with those values in mind, it’s a win-win.
Which personality traits, interests, and abilities are important or common for a person to succeed in and enjoy this occupation?*
This goes for basically any career in tech (or any field for that matter) – the willingness to learn and take on new challenges is always the foundation. When your daily work-life includes a high amount of human interaction, the hard part is time management and keeping your tasks focused, and structuring your days to allow the necessary amount of deep work.
Which tools/technologies or technical skills are particularly important for your job?
The tools used in public accounting and financial roles include a lot of screen time with the Microsoft suite of products (Excel, Word, OneNote, etc.) as well as various accounting and tax software to help us better serve our clients. The technical skills include a general understanding of business and IT operations, finance and accounting expertise. I’ve been using Zoom and Microsoft Teams a lot as well!
Which soft skills are particularly important?
Some of the soft skills important for someone in finance, public accounting, or consulting include being a natural problem-solver, analytical, good with numbers, organized, and a self-starter. Whether it’s working internally with a fellow KSM team member (operations, cross-functional, etc.) or working directly with one of our clients, we need to always be on and ready to help address the matter at hand. This includes being human, being yourself, making mistakes and learning from them, being responsive, and trying your best.
Are new grads missing any particular knowledge, skills, or experiences that hold them back?
In my experience, the new hires that join public accounting or a finance role straight from university are prepared well with a base foundational knowledge for the role they were hired into, whether it be tax, financial audit, consulting, IT audit, etc. The important thing to remember when starting any new career is to show up with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn.
Which resources would you recommend to people who want to learn more?
This will suit any occupation – check out David Allen’s book titled “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.”
What advice do you have for others?
Try new things and always stay busy! I have been very blessed to have had the opportunity to do a lot of odd jobs, which has helped me find out what I didn’t want to do. I think coming into this occupation (and almost all others) with a set of well-rounded skills and diverse experiences is extremely beneficial.