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CPA credits genuine relationships and hard work for career success

Written on Dec 21, 2023

By Jessica Salerno-Shumaker, OSCPA senior content manager  

Denise Harlan’s passion for the accounting profession and personal connections with others has given her a meaningful career.  

“At the end of the day, you have to be able to go home and know that you've gotten some personal satisfaction from something you've done during the day,” said Harlan, CPA, principal at SSB, LLC.  

Harlan was named a Power of Change honoree at the OSCPA Women, Wealth and Wellness Conference in July 2023. The award salutes individuals who are advocates for women’s initiatives in the workplace and business community, serve as mentors or role models, make a significant impact on their communities and break barriers for other women. She said she was humbled to receive the recognition. 

“You don't always have a chance to pat yourself on the back,” Harlan said. “And when somebody else recognizes you, it's really special.” 

Reflecting on her career so far, Harlan said some of her proudest moments have been bringing new business to the firm, including one of the largest clients of SSB. She credits this to building relationships with others and offering advice and guidance when asked.  

“I enjoy connecting with people,” Harlan said. “And I enjoy listening to them and hearing what they have to say, what their pain points are and where they need help.” 

One of the biggest lessons in her career has been learning how to keep moving forward when things don’t turn out how she expected. She said those learning opportunities are valuable because they can teach you new ways to approach problems and strategies.  

She said she’s regularly inspired by the women-owned businesses she works with and learning about their career journey and what made them successful. The mentors that have impacted her the most have been those Harlan has had a meaningful connection with, regardless of age or title.  

“To be successful, you need to know the business; you need to understand what you're doing,” she said. “And if you don’t always know, being able to admit that and still work to learn and grow is critical. The more honest, genuine and transparent you mean people will respect you and they'll learn to trust you.”  

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