About Me

Hi! I’m Sophie!

👩‍💻I’m a career coach for corporate women who feel stuck, unfulfilled, or lost in their jobs. I help them find career path clarity and build the confidence they need to achieve their career goals!

😅I know the struggle- I’ve pivoted and shifted careers multiple times since I graduated pre-med in 2013. When I graduated, I made the decision not to pursue medical school, and instead try start-up life at a clean-energy company. There I worked my way up from customer service to Director of Operations within two years. I realized I had a passion for business!

📈I ended up following the start-up company across the country from Florida to Massachusetts where I interviewed and trained new employees, improved processes, and helped with business strategy.

🏝Missing the warm weather, I eventually moved back to Miami, FL where I convinced a small-business consulting company not actively hiring that I could help them grow with my prior experience. I was hired as an Operations and Project Manager and there I learned everything from web-design to sales to bookkeeping. This sparked my decision to go back to school for a Masters of Accounting degree.

💸And here I am today! I earned my CPA license, and am now a senior associate at a large public accounting firm. My role consists of managing teams, projects, and clients, but my favorite part of the job is the ability to shape careers and inspire others through my role in local and national councils, recruiting, and teaching.

❤️Although I have achieved a great reputation at work, I consider my biggest personal success to be this blog, sophieexplains.com, where I have been able to express my enthusiasm for empowering women in a tangible and real way since 2017. My goal is to grow a community of women that support and encourage each other to follow their career dreams!

🥳Inspired by my own career journey, starting today, I’m pivoting Sophie Explains! My Instagram account and my blog will focus specifically on helping corporate women find clarity in their career paths and build confidence needed to make necessary career pivots that lead to fulfillment and happiness. Thank you for joining me! 😄

-Sophie

My Mission- To Empower Women in Business

Hi, I’m Sophie!

When I graduated from the University of Miami in 2013, I thought I wanted to go to medical school. Through a series of events, I ended up working at a startup clean-energy company and then a small-business consulting company. This was how I discovered my true passion lay in empowering women in business. 

Me in 2013, reppin’ the U.

In 2017, I set two new goals for myself. 

One: Obtain a Masters in Accounting, so I could learn more about business to change the current “norms,” and

Two: Start a personal finance and career-focused blog as a way to immediately share digestible, how-to knowledge with friends and family.

Which “current norms” in business did I want to change? Let me throw some facts at you. Did you know:

  • Men hold 62% of manager-level positions, while women hold just 38% (Source: Women in the Workplace). 
  • Women earn 82 cents for every $1 earned by white men (Source: Center for American Progress). 
  • And the statistics related to Black women and women of color are even more staggering. For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 58 Black women were promoted. (Source: Women in the Workplace).

My mission is to effect change from both the inside and out.

My “Inside” Job: Currently, I work at Grant Thornton, a large public accounting firm, as an audit senior associate. My role has evolved from creating spreadsheets to managing teams, projects, and clients. My favorite part of the job is the ability to shape careers and inspire others through recruiting and teaching. 

I have worked very hard to strive to be at the top of my performance and have been taught by some amazing female coaches. By my third year, I knew I stood out from the crowd. I was chosen to sit on a local and national council to help shape the firm’s culture and help our people grow. I take these roles very seriously and use my privilege to do everything I can to address the challenges that women face in the business world. I am grateful for this opportunity!

My Outside Mission: Although I have achieved a great reputation at work, I consider my biggest personal success to be this blog. Sophie Explains has been my passion project since 2017. I have been able to express my enthusiasm for empowering women in a tangible and real way. My dream goal is to grow this blog into a community of women that support and encourage each other to follow their dreams through smart, attainable steps. 

As many of you may already know, I absolutely love Japanese culture. I recently learned the Japanese word “ikigai,” which means life-purpose. I truly believe my ikigai is to help women achieve their personal and professional goals!

Me in Kyoto, Japan in 2017

How can I help you?

If you are…

  • Considering a career change (such as medicine to business)
  • Looking for ways to improve your finances (through budgeting or starting a side-hustle)
  • Aiming for a promotion within the next year (and need guidance on how to set yourself up for success)
  • Stuck or frustrated with your current career path (and want to talk with someone who has overcome this struggle)
  • Applying for jobs in accounting (such as audit)

Let me know!

The fastest way to reach me is through a private message on Instagram (@sophieexplains). Send me your questions or concerns, and I’ll help however I can. Whether it’s giving you advice from my own experience or referring you to a helpful resource, I got you!

Thanks so much, and I hope to hear from you soon!!

-Sophie

An Alternative to Video Happy Hours at Work: Interest-Related Chat Groups

The Problem: Video call burn-out.

Are you as burnt out as I am with video happy hours at work? I love my coworkers and miss them, but at times I have been suffering from video call fatigue when the end-of-day conversation revolves around how we are dealing with the effects of the pandemic and discussions of client issues. I have been searching for a promising alternative that involves engaging with my coworkers and meets the following requirements:

The Requirements: 

  1. Encouragement of bonding between employees who don’t work together frequently; 
  2. No restrictive “meeting time,” which allows participants to contribute at any time that works best with their schedule;
  3. A written component so that the quieter participants can have a voice since they may often be spoken over in video calls; and
  4. A low-maintenance, ongoing solution that can stay in place indefinitely, even post-pandemic.

The Solution: Interest-related breakout chat groups for any and all hobbies. I discovered this idea on this blog post. Thank you, Trello!

Imagine this: Separate Microsoft Teams or Slack chat groups for various interests such as pets, yoga, books, etc. Anyone in the office can create a group and/or join a group. A listing is kept of all the groups so that when the new employees start, they can easily identify groups they’d be interested in joining (or starting, if there is not one already). 

These low-maintenance open-to-all chats will motivate bonding among employees, allow the group-members to contribute whenever they want, and give a voice to all. 

The Benefits: 

  1. Encouragement for team members to share their full selves at work; 
  2. Comfortability for participants to contribute because of a clear center to the discussion; 
  3. Trust-building across levels, which leads to: 
    1. Informal mentorship opportunities,
    2. New employees feeling comfortable bringing fresh, creative ideas to management, and
    3. Friendships outside of work;
  4. A selling point for recruiting employees and future intern classes; and
  5. An easy, low-commitment way to bond remotely.

If you want to suggest this idea at your company to encourage team-building while we work remotely, please feel free to share this post and let me know how it goes! What groups would you be interested in starting?

In my office, I can already envision groups forming for the following hobbies that my co-workers are passionate about:

  • Pets – Sharing adorable pet videos or social media accounts.
  • Golfing – Discussing the best courses on which to play and sharing photos of their golf swings.
  • Video Games – Setting up Call of Duty sessions or discussing Animal Crossing turnip prices.
  • Fine Liquor – Sharing Total Wine discounts and recipes for favorite cocktails.
  • Netflix – Suggesting the latest and greatest shows and movies on streaming subscriptions.
  • Accounting Memes – No explanation needed – a given in public accounting!

I would definitely join the pets group, even though I don’t have a pet myself…yet. Puppy videos and photos are the best! I cannot wait to see how these groups evolve over time and what new hobbies are introduced. I feel these groups would be a great way to connect during and after pandemic times without coworkers having to rely on work-centered discussions!

To reach me directly and for more content, follow me on Instagram and Facebook (@sophieexplains), and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

How I Found a Job!

When my first post-college job moved their headquarters from Miami Beach to Amherst, Massachusetts, I decided to move along with it, even though I knew the move was temporary. I wanted to gain new job experience and live in a new place. After nine months of living in Massachusetts, I started to put feelers out for new job opportunities back in South Florida. This blog post is an abridged version of my job-hunting process and how I found my second post-college job! 

A little background. My approach to job-hunting stemmed from what I learned in the book, “What Color is your Parachute?”. A new version of this book comes out yearly; I read the 2015 edition. The biggest lesson I learned from this book is to connect your skills and passions to a job-opportunity. Don’t be afraid to research thoroughly and reach out to companies, even if they are not currently hiring. If you do this, it shows the company that you have a special interest in them! Instead of stating that you are a ‘go-getter’ in your resume, this is a tangible way to show an employer that you know how to take initiative.lisa-fotios-9SnCcsIchOQ-unsplash

Here is the step-by-step approach that landed me a small-business consulting job.

  1. First, I identified my skills and passions:
    • My first job out of college was as a customer service representative at a start-up clean-energy company. Due to the start-up nature, I was able to rise through the ranks to Director of Operations within just one year. I knew after this experience that I was passionate about business operations, and I had a skill for helping make business processes more efficient. Skills and passions- check!
  2. Second, I narrowed down my job search to my ideal careers:
    • Specifically, I wanted to work for a small-business consulting company. I wanted the company to be less than 50 people and to be based in South Florida. I wanted the opportunity to learn and develop quickly. These factors helped narrow down the search.
  3. Third, I utilized the LinkedIn search function:
    • LinkedIn has a great, detailed search function where you can narrow down companies by location, services, number of employees, etc. Even more search capabilities are unlocked if you upgrade your LinkedIn account. When I searched in 2015, I did not upgrade the search function, but it may be helpful to do so now! Using the tool, I compiled a list of 25 ‘ideal’ companies.
  4. Fourth, I created a Google Spreadsheet to track my progress:
    • On a spreadsheet I listed the 25 companies, their websites, phone numbers, key emails, and other notes I found during my research. I located the emails from the company website or from LinkedIn. I also created columns for “First Contact Date,” “Follow-up Date,” and “Company’s Response,” so I could keep track of progress. It’s definitely important to stay organized while applying for jobs, as the process can require multiple follow-ups before any response.
  5. Fifth, I cold-called each company via email and phone:
    • I first sent a targeted email (See the email template below!) with my resume, in PDF format, attached, then within the hour I called to see if they received my email and if they had any questions, or if I should forward the email on to another employee.
    • These were the initial responses I received:
      1. 18 out of 25 companies- No response via email or phone. I followed up with these companies a week later, and got a few more responses then! The tracker from Step #4 was useful here.
      2. 4 out of 25 companies – Upon phone call, the company clearly stated they were not hiring and asked me not to email or call again. One was quite rude, but that was a good sign I did not want to work for that company!
      3. 3 out of 25 companies – Responded positively, but stated they had no current openings. Here is one of their responses: “I wanted to acknowledge receipt of your resume and let you know that at the present moment we don’t have any opportunities I can share with you.  Rest assured that I will keep your information and should we come across any positions we will contact you.” I marked these emails for follow up in my calendar for a month later.
    • Remember, I reached out to companies even if they were not currently hiring! These responses are to be expected. This can be an exhausting process, but you can do it!
  6. Finally, get an interview!
    • One of the three companies that had initially responded saying they appreciated the email but had no opportunities, actually emailed me back two weeks later asking to set up an interview. After seeing my email they started thinking about how I could be an asset to the current team and re-evaluated their initial response. I ended up getting the job and worked for that amazing company for almost two years before I went back to school for accounting! 

I know there are a million ways to find a new job, and above is just one idea. This method may also become trickier when the company is bigger. I understand that many large companies are more formal and rigid in their hiring processes and may not be as open to cold-calls (or emails). Despite the limitations, I still think Steps #1 and 2 are invaluable for everyone. Being able to link your passions and skills with a job-opportunity is a great way to find an amazing life-long career!

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To give you a few other job-hunting ideas: concurrently with Steps #1-5, I also did the following to expand my search:

    • I used my college’s career portal to make another list of companies that were  currently hiring and sent in my applications. This is how I found my first job out of college! It’s important to use all resources at your disposal, and college career centers are a great resource.
    • I reached out to family and friends with my resume and the type of job I was looking for. I emailed uncles, teachers, third-cousins, literally nothing was off-limits! Just be sure to be extra, extra respectful and grateful if they offer to help on your behalf. Connections are your biggest asset when it comes to job-hunting, but I want to empower you to not see a lack of connections as a setback to finding the perfect job for you.  
    • One thing I did not get a chance to do, but I will definitely do in the future, is informational interviews. Use LinkedIn to see if you have a connection with someone at a company in a field you are interested in. Maybe they went to the same school as you or grew up in the same hometown. Reach out to them and ask if they would be willing to chat with you about their job and come prepared to the meeting or phone-call with thoughtful questions showing that you took time to learn about them and their industry. This may not lead to a job opportunity directly, but it will help you decide if that industry is for you!

My hope is that this post may inspire or help someone who is currently looking for a career change or trying to find a new job due to COVID. If you try this method and it works, please let me know so I can share any tips or tricks you found as well!  I am also happy to talk one-on-one if you have any specific job-hunting or resume questions as well! Please feel free to reach out to me on social media (Facebook or Instagram). 

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See below for the email template I used in Step #5. It works best if you tailor as closely as possible to the person and company, but I hope it gives you an idea of where to start!

Example Cold-Call Email Template

Dear [THEIR NAME],

I firmly believe that I would be an asset to your consulting firm because of my experience successfully working my way through a number of jobs at a start-up company to become Director of Operations.  I have a strong passion for operations improvement, superior customer service, managing change, and motivating staff. Consulting combines these passions with the added excitement of travel and meeting new people, which I love. 

[COMPANY NAME] is also passionate about transforming companies and organizations to produce better results through leadership and culture development, talent acquisition and more. A quick phone call would help convince you that I could be a very valuable addition to your consulting firm. Attached is my resume.

Thank you in advance for your time.

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME]

[Also attach your PDF resume!]

Side Note: I am currently working at my third post-college job (public accounting), and I love it! I am not personally looking for a job right now. I would love to share more about accounting as a career in future posts. Stay tuned!

Starting a New Job: 5 Essential Qualities

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I’m back! The last three months have been non-stop craziness at work, including traveling to Austin for three weeks, learning to adapt to a new schedule, and building the endurance needed to survive (and thrive in!) 60+ hour workweeks.

I can confidently say that I have learned a lot about myself, my new company, and the business world as a whole. I am so grateful for the experience. As a close friend reminded me, “Experiences, whether good or bad, are always important.” This sentiment helped me get through a few of the tough weeks in the middle of busy season when there seemed to be no end in sight. Looking back on those tough weeks, I learned invaluable lessons.

Today, I want to share with you some of these lessons from the past few months. Whether you work in a team or with customers, focusing on developing these qualities can help you create and cultivate strong bonds with co-workers and clients. I hope that this list will inspire you to find little ways to improve both professionally and personally!

5 Essential Characteristics For Starting a New Job

  1. Willingness to learn: When starting a job, new hires are not expected to master industry skills or company culture day one, but willingness to learn and absorb as much as possible is appreciated and valued. This shows the company that you have the drive to become a value-adding employee from the very beginning. Willingness to learn includes staying curious about your job and company and asking questions, but it also means taking responsibility for, and learning from, mistakes.
    • Reflect: How did you react the last time someone pointed out your mistake? Did you get defensive or upset? Although it may feel like a blow to your ego at the time, accepting responsibility for your mistakes and finding ways to learn and grow from them will help you gain respect from your peers and show your willingness to improve.
  2. Patience: All jobs come with the expectation of a learning curve. Whether it’s learning a new trade, the company culture, or essential soft skills, practicing patience with others and, more importantly, yourself is important. So often we have such high expectations for ourselves that when we don’t succeed on our first attempt, we can easily become discouraged. Just remember learning can take time. Before you know it, you’ll be the new expert!
    • Reflect: Think back to that last mistake you made. Did you get upset at yourself? Did your ego berate you for your failure? Now think about how it would feel if you instead cut yourself some slack. Think about how you would feel if someone else had made the mistake? You probably would not have been as hard on them as you were on yourself. Yes, making mistakes sucks, but while you are new – take risks, make mistakes, and, most importantly, learn from them.
  3. Attitude: Especially when working closely with others or in a team setting, attitude and emotions are contagious. Embodying a positive attitude will cause others to want to work with you, and positive emotions can also improve your productivity! Sometimes you might struggle to keep a happy demeanor, especially if you’re feeling exhausted or overwhelmed. I found it helpful in those moments to excuse yourself for 5-10 minutes and take a quick walk around the block, listen to some good music, and remember that you are doing your best! Another strategy is to write down what you were happy about that day and what you are excited about tomorrow each night to help maintain a positive attitude.
    • Reflect: How did it feel when your teammates were disagreeing with each other? Was the vibe in the room caustic, negative, abrasive? A quick attitude check can turn a negative argument into a friendly debate. When you take time to listen to your coworkers before refuting their ideas, it can generate better ideas, make people happier, and increase efficiency.
  4. Adaptability: A new job means working with a new set of people. In public accounting, associates rotate teams every few weeks. Being able to adapt to a new boss, coworkers, and clients is essential for success. Take some time when you start on a new team to listen and learn. Once you are familiar with the habits, stressors, and communication-styles of your teammates, it becomes easier to meet their expectations.
    • Reflect: How long does it take you to understand how your coworkers think and work? For me, it is usually a month or two, but at my new job, I found that this time is dramatically reduced through open feedback, communication, and honesty (and maybe all of our hours together!).
  5. Self-reflection: Asking your coworkers and boss for honest and constructive feedback is just as important as taking time to evaluate your own progress. Again, as you evaluate your progress, remember to focus on areas within your control, such as your communication style and attitude. Be sure to practice patience in areas that you are still learning, such as a new computer system or industry skill. Self-reflection not only helps us improve but also keeps us humble and honest. I find it to be a great motivator as well!
    • Reflect: When is the last time you took 5-10 minutes to review your performance on a project or within a team? If you have received criticism or compliments, did you agree with them? If you felt you performed poorly, why did you feel this way? Was it a lack of resources, a negative team environment, or something within your control? Take time to think about past self-reviews when beginning a new project, and you will see a dramatic improvement in your performance and feedback.

What are some other traits that you find essential when starting a new job? What qualities do you look for in hiring a new employee? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to comment in this blog post, and please follow Sophie Explains on Facebook for new posts and updates!

Thank you again for being so patient these past few months during the mini-hiatus. Stay tuned for more soon!

Ready for Success: Starting a New Job

Starting January 2nd, I will begin my new job as an auditor for a large public accounting firm in Miami. Yay!

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Most people assume I will be crunching numbers at my new job, but I will actually be doing investigative-type work. As an auditor, I work directly at client offices and spend weeks or months learning everything about their industry, the organization, and their daily processes. My main goal is to make sure their financials are free from errors so that investors can rely on them, but another part of public auditing is understanding if a company runs efficiently and if not, how to make this happen. Being an auditor is a great way to get a larger understanding of the business world because our clients range from financial entities to hospitals to non-profits, even companies like Disney are audited!

To stay on track with my long-term goals regarding work, I want to make sure I am in the best position to get a head start at my new job. Whether you are beginning a new job soon or not, I hope this list helps you consider some aspects of setting goals you hadn’t considered before!

Before Starting

  • Ask questions ahead of time:
    • From what to wear to what to bring (documents, laptop, etc.), asking questions beforehand can be helpful in making sure you show up ready to get to work. If you forget your laptop at home or didn’t get the dress code memo, you could be distracted from important first-day meetings and run the risk of continuing a negative cycle of giving the impression you are not prepared.
    • Email HR or your future boss to give them a heads-up before your first day if you already have a trip planned in the first few months on the job. Many people plan events in advance, and sometimes this overlaps with starting a new job. As long as you give your boss a heads-up they should be understanding. On the other hand, if you wait until the week before starting your job to tell them, it may reflect poorly on you work-ethic because it seems as if you are a last-minute planner and do not have high regards for your work schedule.
    • For the overachievers: Ask HR for material to read before your first day. This may span from benefit plans to employee handbooks, and will help you get an overall understanding of the basics of your job and allow you to ask the more important clarifying questions in person on the first day.
  • Do your research:
    • Do you have a friend who works (or has worked) at the company? Send them a short email with a few specific questions about the day-to-day lifestyle, the organization’s culture, and names of staff members that you should know. Stay away from vague questions like, “What should I know about Company X?”, “Any advice for a newbie?”, etc. Vague questions turn into vague answers and also make it seem like you are not fully invested.
    • If you work for a big company, you can often find important information online. News articles will give you a bigger picture of the company’s strategy regarding improving stock prices, future mergers, and new CEOs. Online forums can give you an idea of the day-to-day lifestyle from employees. Be sure to take those comments with a grain of salt, though! It is common for disgruntled employees to write negative reviews even when their experiences are very unique!

Your First Day

  • Get there early:
    • To make a great impression on your first day, be sure to get there at least 15 minutes early. Google Maps can help you estimate traffic beforehand, but if you live in a busy city like LA or Miami, be sure to give yourself even more time for those too-common car accidents that can turn highways to parking lots. If you are commuting via public transportation, be aware of any construction delays and plan an option B in case the trains are stopped. Maybe even consider a less convenient or more expensive commute option on the first day just to make sure you get there early!
  • Dress to impress:
    • Be sure to wear your best-fitting, most professional outfit on the first day. Anything too tight or too baggy will make you stand out (in a negative way) or make you look younger and less experienced than you are. Be aware of the dress code as well. If you have any doubt, it is better to dress up than dress down!
  • Make friends:
    • Plan to go to lunch with coworkers on the first day, or bring a lunch to eat in the kitchen if that is part of the office culture. Take advantage of this time to form friendships, especially if there are a lot of new people starting on the first day. Making friends, whether with other new employees or friendly experienced employees your age, will help you later on when you have simple questions you do not want to ask your boss.
  • Prepare an elevator pitch:
    • Plan a brief introduction about yourself and how you fit into the company for other employees and people you meet on your first day.
  • Take notes:
    • Carry around a notebook to write down and remember all of the new names and small, but important, details like your new computer login information. You should also write down any questions you plan on asking your boss or the HR.
  • Stay positive:
    • Smiling, listening, and paying attention will help show that you are excited to be there and ready to learn.
  • Act confident:
    • Even if you are feeling nervous, which is completely normal, remember that you worked hard to get to this point and that you deserve the new position! It is expected that you will make mistakes as a new employee, so be sure to take criticisms gracefully and learn from them for the future.

Your First Week

  • Absorb the culture:
    • An organization’s culture cannot be learned from any employee handbook. Be sure to listen and pay attention during your first few weeks on a new job to see how your managers present themselves and interact with clients and other employees.
    • Do employees communicate via messenger, calling, or face-to-face? Are there sports teams or volunteer organizations to join? Do employees often go out to happy hour? Be on the look-out to see how you can get involved and stand out.
  • Know the goals:
    • What are your goals in regards to your job description, and just as important, what are the company’s goals? Knowing the company’s mission and organizational goals will help you align yourself quickly and meet expectations quicker.
    • Sometimes jobs start off slow. Be patient and use your time wisely. You may reread the HR materials or do background research on tasks you will soon be assigned. This will help you do your best work when it is finally assigned.
    • On the other hand, if you seem to finish all your work at once, ask your manager what you should be completing in your first week, month, and quarter. Understand their expectations of you in order to stay on track or ahead.
    • Try to figure out the biggest priorities or challenges of your new team so you may organize your work accordingly. Be on the look-out for solutions to these challenges, but be cautious about making new suggestions your first week or you may come across as critical of the work culture.
  • Learn how you will be evaluated
    • Will you have performance meetings quarterly or yearly? Do these align with raises or promotions? What criteria will be tested? Will you have to complete a personal evaluation? Being prepared and understanding these possibilities will make you a stronger candidate for promotions in the long-run.

A new year and a new job, let’s work towards achieving our goals together! Please connect with Sophie Explains on Facebook and feel free to send any questions or comments via the Contact Page. Thank you for your support, and have a Happy New Year!!