With Eileen Adao
On Episode 115 of The Unique CPA, Randy talks to Eileen Adao, Vice President of Strategy and Partnerships with Glean.ai. Eileen discusses her career journey from the Big Four to tech startups, and what she’s learned about the importance of culture, coaching, and diversity in creating an inclusive workplace where people can bring their authentic selves to work. She also details Glean.ai’s leveraging of AI to provide insights and efficient workflows for accountants.
Today, our guest is Eileen Adao. Eileen is Vice President of Strategy and Partnerships with Glean.ai. She actually has a very varied past in this profession, which we’ll talk about a little bit. Before we do that, though, Eileen, welcome to The Unique CPA.
Hi, Randy, thank you for having me so much.
Yeah, it’s pretty cool. We just met a couple of weeks ago, at Engage in Las Vegas, but then we decided we had met before—or no, that that was the first time, or…?
I think we’ve crossed paths several times, but never really had a conversation with each other before.
Well, and we didn’t even know we’re having a conversation. Well, we did, we just ran into each other at like the registration table or, or getting our badges. And we were both having a little trouble with what our scanners or something?
Scanners, yes, and I found it very ironic that after having that, that situation with you that I kept hearing your name throughout the conference, and I’m like, I saw that name on of that, ya know, to meet him again.
And then we just ran into each other just standing on the curbside, while I was helping some people into an Uber I think or something wasn’t that it?
Yes, it was Scott, and Dave Leary.
Oh, that’s right. So well, I’m glad that we met and we got this scheduled. So a couple things. I want to talk Glean.ai, I want to find out about that. But before we do that, let’s talk about—I said you’ve had a varied history in the profession, you know, Big Four to a lot of other places. You want to give us just some background on you and your journey through the profession?
Yeah, happy to. So I started my career at Ernst and Young being an auditor for the first six years. But even before that, I was interning starting my sophomore year, always knowing, trying to get into the Big Four. I think my most favorite part of working for the Big Four was the people and having the Oakland Raiders as one of my clients being a diehard Oakland Raiders fan.
But mostly worked in real estate and a few tech clients had an experience with IPOs, initial audits, a lot of varying experiences during my time at Big Four. And then I had to make a big life decision. You know, most people decide to leave public accounting because they were done with it. But I was actually kind of forced to be in a fork in the road and decide, okay, I’m about to be a single mother, do I stay in public accounting? Or do I make a change? And unfortunately, I just thought I can’t do 70, 80 hour workweeks as a single mother. And I decided to branch out.
And I did not expect to not be doing a day to day accounting role as my next career and fall into a startup. So that’s when I became one of the team members for Xero Americas in the US, coming in as what they called at the time a partner enablement specialists really helping kind of the transition for firms the implementation of Xero, coming off of QBD, or QBO, mostly QBD at that time back in 2012. QBD was even transitioning people to QBO. I was there for almost seven years. And I grew and led the partner consulting team that still exists at Xero today.
And then I decided to kind of take what I learned in public accounting and being at a tech startup early stage and went back into our firm helping them take their proprietary product to market, and then was with another firm, helping internally. But what I realized is I really missed talking to accountants every day, as silly as that sounds like I love talking to accountants every day. It’s the only way I feel I stay connected to the industry, and I feel like I can still use everything I learned, use the language, people understand you in a different way. And I love hearing when I’m on calls with accounting, saying, oh, it’s nice to actually speak to someone that understands, like what we’re going through. So I decided to go back onto the tech side. And in the past few years, I’ve been kind of helping tech companies pretty much start their accounting channels, is what I’ve been doing, and really looking for my next home where I can really make an impact and a difference again, at a tech startup that’s starting an accounting channel.
Nice. Well, I don’t think it’s funny at all, or that you’re talking to accountants every day and enjoy that, because that’s what I do. And I love it. Every conversation I have I learned something new and then I get to take that knowledge and give credit to others, but I get to use it when I’m educated on whatever topic I’m educated on. So yeah, I completely agree with you.
Yeah, and honestly, I think when you get out of it, you kind of lose touch. Now, going back onto the tech side, I realized I kind of lost what was really, truly going on in the accounting community as a whole. I was so focused, just like when I was in the Big Four, right? When you’re in Big Four, you don’t realize how narrow your view is. And then when you get out of it, and you see so much more of the accounting community, your eyes open up. And I feel like that happened to me again, when I went back into the firms. And then when I went back out, it’s just that you really feel the pulse of what’s happening in the accounting community, small to big when you’re working at a tech company versus just a singular firm.
Right. So you’ve been you’ve been at Big Four, you’ve been at smaller firms, you’ve been in tech, you’ve seen it all. One thing you and I talked about weeks ago, and then that we both have a passion for is culture, culture within firms. I’d never experienced Big Four, so I have, probably, this bias that I don’t think the culture is great there. Why don’t you give us what your thought is, the Big Four culture and the positives, and I guess the negatives and things you’ve learned?
Yeah, I think I’ll start with, I kind of always knew I wanted to go into the Big Four. And I do think that it takes a certain type of personality to go into the Big Four. So for me, why I love the Big Four, is one, I knew I wanted it, I knew what I was walking into, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. My eyes were wide open. But what I loved about it is the people, and you do have to find your people. If you don’t find your people, I think it makes it a little bit harder. But if you find your people that you kind of mesh with, then it’s similar to when you’re at a startup—it becomes almost like a family because you spend so much time together. That’s why it’s important to find your people. If you talk to anyone Big Four, no matter which one you went to their kind of will say if they had a positive experience, they’ll always say they remembered the people, you know, and that’s the good part of it. That’s the part they they miss is the friendship. So in that sense, the culture is great. You meet—I’m still friends with a lot of the people that I met in public accounting, and you work with really smart people. So you’re also just surrounded by that energy of wanting to keep growing and learning and being better.
So I think those are the positives that come out of part of being the Big Four. What’s hard is, I think a lot of people pressure accounting majors to go into the Big Four to feel validated. And it’s not really what they want. So I’ve spent a lot of time coaching college students to say, get the interview, get the offer, but don’t take it if it’s not for you. But “it’s not for you” is the hard part. Because it means that you have to have some self awareness yourself or maybe have a mentor that really understands to be able to give you some guidance if the Big Four is the right step for you. Because there’s nothing wrong with not going to the Big Four. Because you do need tough skin, you need tenacity, you need perseverance. You need to be self starter, you need to be a problem solver. It is not easy, and it’s long hours, and it can break you down. And I had moments that it broke me down, but you have to be able to pull yourself back up if no one else will. Because most people won’t—you got to do it yourself and understand why you’re doing it. And what you’re getting out of it.
Yep, I guess the pulling yourself back up. The breaking yourself down is the part I don’t like I mean, I understand it, but I just don’t like—and this is perception—I haven’t been there. I haven’t lived it. But there’s just you know, the billable hour, and we need more and push and push. And for me personally, that’s what has led to our profession and so much burnout. And I think that’s I don’t even know what percentage of people stay in the Big Four. I don’t think it’s a lot. And I think it’s it’s because of that—they just work it to death is my impression. Did you see that?
Okay. But you liked it?
But that’s why I think it’s like a personality trait, or something that you want to do. Because I’ve had friends that I’ve met through Big Four that left after year one—end of year staff one or doing staff two years. And those were the folks that did not like that that did not like all working the long hours. And that’s what I think is preventable. If like you actually know what you’re getting yourself into and what you want. Like, I think I’m driven by the results, by the deadlines. Like I enjoy that.
I think that’s why I can deal with it.
But if you’re not, then Big Four might not be right for you, right? So that’s why I’m saying like, it is not for everybody and I don’t think everyone should do Big Four. What the problem is, I do think it needs to change because there’s some people that may get a lot from working in the Big Four but don’t even have the opportunity because their personality type might not fit in what what the current culture is. So I do agree needs change.
I’m not saying it shouldn’t change, but back in the day when you’re getting into it, and there was less talk about work life balance, and you kind of just knew what you’re walking yourself into, you had to assess yourself. Now, I think, yes, the industry needs to change, because there’s so much good talent out there that you may now miss out on because people are saying, it’s not worth it.
Right. Okay. Alright, good. We’re on the same page. I think they’re that the changes needed for sure. I think changing the industry is needed. The thing that I seen is that the changes are available, we can do so much to make this profession better from a standpoint of less burnout, better from a standpoint of working less, making more being more efficient, using technology—
I was gonna say! Exactly.
—to increase our efficiency. So I want to talk about that, technology. But I also want to compare and contrast the culture that you experienced in Big Four, and what you’ve experienced in tech startups.
Yes. So I will say some of the things that you needed in Big Four were transferable skills into those tech startups, I said, like you need to be a self starter, you need to be a problem solver. All those things are also very much needed in a tech startup. But you also just need to be agile. But I think the biggest difference was that I got to be my authentic self in the startup culture.
Which I couldn’t be in the Big Four. Like I remember a moment very much so with a good friend of mine. And this is when I was still back in the Bay Area. And we were crossing the Bay Bridge. And we even we identified the exact moment that we felt like we were switching from our Big Four personality, to our regular everyday self.
And that’s a problem. There shouldn’t be two personalities playing. And when I joined the startup life, I remember very clearly, when someone told me, one I needed to kind of stopped being so cutthroat, and two, that I could relax. That part, I love the most about the tech startup role, because, you know, I also still like to dress up when I started in the tech startup culture. And people would ask me, why do you still wear heels? Why don’t you wear jeans? I’m like, well, because this is what I’m comfortable with. But the good thing is people accepted that. They understood that, you know, I wasn’t judged I wasn’t wearing jeans and a t-shirt. So that’s why I’m saying you get to be your authentic self. So I felt like I got to take all that skills, though, that I learned from Big Four, bring them to a tech startup really got to be me, got to be silly, got to show all sides of me, which is, which is what I love about the tech startup culture.
Yep. I love that, everything you said, because I am such a proponent of that allowing people to be themselves at work, not hide who they are. It’s honestly, it’s better for everybody this way.
I’m going to read this, I don’t normally do this. But when you said this, I had just written this and I’ll probably change it and it’ll evolve over time. But I wrote something that I call our commitment to our employees. And Justin, you can cut this out or leave it in—you decide. But let me go through and at least go through half of it, I probably won’t read the whole thing. But because I think commitment to your employees and allowing your employees to be their true self is so important. But—”Our purpose is to create a welcoming environment where individuals feel valued, supported and free to express their ideas. We strive to cultivate a culture of inclusivity and acceptance where everyone can be their authentic selves without fear of judgment. We believe in recognizing and rewarding the contributions of each team member. Moreover, we prioritize work-life balance to provide flexibility for individuals to live their life on their own terms.”
I am going to read the whole thing. “We empower employees to integrate their professional and personal aspirations seamlessly. Furthermore, we encourage and celebrate pursuing passions, both within the organization and beyond. We support individuals in exploring new roles, and even making significant career transition. Our commitment lies in fostering an environment where people can flourish and follow their dreams, whether they lie within the company or extend beyond it.”
Love that. I love that, because happy people do happy work and they feel like they’re not coming to a quote unquote “job,” right? They do their best work, everything you said in that statement. That’s when people do their best work. And that’s why I think coming to work as your authentic self is when you get the best out of people, find people’s full potential, or at least find where you can grow their full potential. That’s when you build amazing teams.
Yeah, and that, for me personally, that’s the most important thing. Our people are the most important thing. I honestly like to talk about it. Oh, I’m now I’m interviewing myself. Sorry. But I like to talk on this, I think we’re on the same page. But I like to talk about the fact that I started this company—or Andy and I started this company—it was a specialty text firm. But in reality, we started with that. You don’t even have to know what we did, because we started this company with those ideals in place. And we could have been anything with those ideals, and I think we would have been successful, because if you put people first and you have that aspiration, I think it goes forward.
So okay, you’re giving me confirmation that I’m on the right path. And the tech startups are doing that as well.
You know what, though? The clients feel it.
So it starts there. And I think that’s why certain tech companies, the accounting communities gravitate towards them. It’s because of their people, right? And they’re all there. People exude that energy, and their clients feel it, and they gravitate towards those tech companies.
Nope. I agree completely. Alright. So look at us, we’re on the same page, with culture, same page.
Alright. People are important. And I agree with you completely, people are the most important thing. It goes out everywhere, it goes out, the clients feel it in the same way.
Alright, so I’m gonna transition a little, because I could talk culture all day. But let’s transition a little too, because I know one important thing to you was coaching, and how important that is, and what the Big Four, what you’ve learned there. And then I guess, just why is coaching important? What have you seen? What have you lived with? Where the positives and what would you change from a coaching standpoint?
Yes, I mean, if I think back coaching has been important, my whole life, right, because I’ve been an athlete my whole life. And coaching, starting out, having the right coaches at a very young age also made a difference. But if we just fast forward and really go into Big Four, I didn’t probably realize it till a little later, really what the impact it had on me. But when I reflect back at my Big Four time, what I realize is that these young 20-year-olds are not being trained to be coached, at least not formally, right? In typical Big Four, you have two to three years of staff, depending on which Big Four you went to. At Ernst and Young, it was two years of a staff position, and then you become a senior. And the Big Four do attract top talent, top schools, top individuals—and they’re great at what they do. But being an individual contributor doesn’t make you a good coach or a good leader. And if no one is teaching you that, and now these early staff are in the hands of a third year, it makes it feel like their careers are in the hands of someone that’s been in the profession for three years.
And I say that because I had an experience as a staff one, in my very first interim audit, where a senior handed me an invoice related to fixed assets and told me how to audit fixed assets. And I must have had a confused look on my face, because then he ripped the invoice back out of my hand and said, forget it. It’ll take you 20 It’ll take me five.
And you know, in an audit, time is everything. But the thing is like, I was never coached, I never got to ask questions. He made a judgment based on my face. And this person was a very well respected senior in our office and was known to be very smart. But because of that, I got a low rating, and I was unassigned for many weeks. Again, back to the culture and the tenacity. This is me picking myself back up.
Having to go to every manager, almost like knocking on their door, give me an opportunity, please give me a chance. Because if you’re unassigned too long, there’s gonna be a way out the door. And I got lucky that someone really needed help, which happened to be an IPO, which I didn’t know at the time. But the senior manager on that account really took the time to teach me, answer my questions, coach me. And it made a huge impact, because then I was doing the status update calls with their VP of Finance, and they didn’t even know I was a first year.
That made such an impact. So then, fast forward to when I became a leader in a tech startup. So actually, let me rewind a bit. So since then, I always wanted to find the leaders at Ernst and Young that I knew were good coaches and teachers. And I attached myself to their engagements to have a better experience. I learned early on to do that.
Oh, yeah. I think that might be part of your growing up as an athlete too, because you’re always pushing yourself. You’re always trying to find better ways to do it. That’s pretty cool about that. You. You learned that early on.
Yes. It’s so critical. So then when I became a leader in the tech startup role, I remember the first time I was kind of forced to hire someone that I didn’t think was too qualified for the role, and I didn’t spend too much time with them, I mean, I was their manager, but I was simply that I was their manager. And then a year came by, reviews came, and I was kind of told, maybe you should let that person go. And I was like, I can’t do that. And they questioned me, like, why? You didn’t really want to hire this person in the first place? Is it because I can’t genuinely tell you that I’ve spent the time to coach this person. And I couldn’t in my good will, do that to someone because I wouldn’t want that to be done to me. So then I took the time to actually coach that person.
But it’s coaching is just one step of it. So yes, I took the time, and kind of technically taught them things, spent more time with them to walk through things, answer their questions. But there still wasn’t that true connection, for them to be their authentic self and feel comfortable of making a mistake, feeling comfortable that they don’t know, because of the relationship that was already built. So I actually I did a team building event and made sure that I really spent time one-on-one with this person, to really, for us to get to know each other to feel comfortable. And that was life changing. And what I realized was, that person was good, they’re just not in the right role.
So I found a way my team was growing, new roles are being created. And so I made it a mission of mine to create this role, I thought he’d be better in which was client success manager. Because I always knew that it’s not that his weakness was this, it’s just his strength wasn’t the technical side—he knew it, but not to the level of others on the team. But he was really good at client relationships, which is still needed when you’re helping firms and consulting with firms and bring them onto a platform. So I found the right place for him that made him happy. And that’s why I think like coaching, and part of it is coaching, right part of it. And then the other part is relationships, and back to the people and really knowing and, and identifying people’s potential and strengths, honing in on those.
Yep. And I think what you just said, is the importance of allowing people to bring their entire selves to work, because they’re outside of work passions, create who they are. And if you know, those, I mean, probably this person that was really good at being the client success manager, there was probably skills or passions he had outside of work that would have shown you that.
Yeah, he’s very social. Over certain things, right. So and he bonds over those things with these clients, like the heat finds what those things are for the clients, so.
Perfect. And then how about from that any difference that you’ve seen with coaching and tech startups, or I mean, you personally know is brought what you’ve learned in years of experience. But is it any different in that environment?
It was in a sense of, they give training, like training across the board. And I’m sure probably the Big Four does now to be honest, but during my time, there wasn’t in the early stages. I’m hoping at least, the Big Four has changed that. So even as a first year manager, what actually this is what helped me we came in and everyone did DiSC training. So for yourself, and then how to use the DiSC profiles identify how people are. And actually with this person with my peer, I was a D, which is very like driven, results, assertive…
I had a feeling you were there.
And I had a peer of mine who was an I, who was more like influential, more needed, recognition or reward. And I was telling her how I would give feedback to this person that I just told the story about. And she was like, did you say that to him? And I said, yes. She’s like, I would cry if you told me that. Because I also identified this person to be an I. And that was an eye opener. So those trainings are helpful, but I think you have to want to learn other ways. And I’m not saying this is the only one. But what I liked about tech startups as they did invest in the people, so that meant training for managers.
Another one they did provide training for is how to interview. That one I think is also important. Because you have so many courses on like, how to like how to be the interviewee but no one trains like how to be the interviewer. I love this training, which totally changed my approach on how to build teams and how to interview because they taught how to interview based on characteristics because the first question the trainer asked was, what do you look for in top employees, your top team members, what do they have? People write characteristics down. The top thing on their list isn’t Excel or Google Sheets, you know? And you kind of interview for those skill sets instead of people’s character. And so that changed also. So I think the beginning of how you bring a team in and then the coaching when they’re in, which is a different path.
Yep, that’s great. We did as a company, the Clifton Strengths Finder, and that we did last fall and we kind of identified everybody’s—there’s four domains, executing, influencing, building relationships, and strategic thinking. So we knew this last fall. But that by itself didn’t tell us a lot. We knew who was what, but we really didn’t even like break into groups to see who really fit into those groups. But that was stage one.
We just did stage two last month of where we got deeper into it. And we ended up we were all together in one room, and this, the coordinator of this program, who came in and was talking to us, separated us into four corners of the room based on what you’re, where you fell into. And it was really just that alone was eye opening. Because I looked at, I was in the influencing side. And then I looked around the room at the executing and the relationship building—that was my second, was relationship building—and then the strategic thinking and the executing were not my top two. Not that that’s bad. It just means that’s my lower. But I looked around the room and I go, man, if everybody in this room was like me, we would go nowhere. This company wouldn’t be nothing. I need those other four to do what we’ve done. Because, you know, out influencing? That’s great. You build relationships, but you don’t get any work done. Looking at the strategic thinking and then executing it, it just brought together how important all these different personality traits and skills were. And each one is unique. And each one is important. But we need all of them. We need every person to be successful.
Yes, I 100% agree. Like you need well rounded teams. To your point. You can’t just have all Randys.
No, that’d be bad. Very bad.
So you know, that’s part of I think, you know, the interview process, too, is that’s how I think people create amazing teams because they realize that. It’s just, people need to complement each other’s. There’s nothing wrong with having differences. You need those differences, because that gives you the diversity of thought.
Yep, for sure. And speaking of diversity, then. Wow, good segue, you set it up there for me very nicely. I know you’ve been active with DEI for a long time, and why don’t you give us your background in that and what you’ve been doing?
Sure. And I think actually, probably back when I was involved, it wasn’t really called DEI. It was just “Diversity” back then. But it was more so that I got involved, really early on in my college years. And honestly, probably because I needed it for myself—being an immigrant, you know, being born in the Philippines and having parents that really didn’t know how to manage the business world, because neither of them were in business, per se, when they came into the US, and actually frowned upon the fact that this is the route I wanted to take—I had to figure out how to get my foot in the door. But even little things. Like I ate with a spoon and a fork. I didn’t know how to do dinners. I didn’t know how to look at table settings. I probably shouldn’t admit that, but I didn’t.
So the first organization I found was called Inroads. And it was a minority internship program for college students and you had to apply and interview to get in. And they actually put you in a talent pool that teaches you all these things: dinner etiquette, resume writing, interview skills, they teach you everything. And then they put you into a career fair. So you’re not an “inroader” until you land an internship. So they give you all the proper training and say, okay, we gave you the training. Now we’re going to put you out into the real world, and you got to try to learn something, but the good thing is they were paid internships.
So that started off where I met my advisor at the time was part of an organization called NABA, which is the National Association of Black Accountants, which she kind of just told me you’re joining Naboth as well, didn’t really have an option. But it was life changing because you don’t, I knew I had to get my foot in the door. And but I don’t think I really knew how important networking was till I got in these organizations, and the amazing support that I received through these organizations.
So in college as well, I joined NABA. and actually my best friend and I who she went to Deloitte, we went to a small private school in California, we would stand in our like quad area and try to recruit other minorities to join this program and recruit people to be accounting majors. So, but the importance of this is now their motto is “lifting as you climb.” So I had amazing mentors during my college years that helped me kind of just worked my way through understand how to navigate my way through Big Four interviews when you got into Big Four, how to kind of manage yourself who you should talk with, who you should connect with, tell you hard truths that you needed.
But you know, it was really important as a college student to pay it forward and join as a professional. So that’s exactly what I did. And I was part of the professional board in the Greater San Francisco chapter. But alongside that, kind of the student aspect was really important to me. So the first thing I did was my my mentor, I took over for her what they called elements of success for NABA, which was a Saturday that started at 8am, where everyone that’s in the local student NABA chapter comes, and you learn about resume writing, how to dress, how how to interview, all in one day. And even on that day, you come in a suit. And it’s hard truths, like I would have to tell black men to not have braids, if they want to get into the Big Four. And my mentor like using me because I had a piercing at the time that she would always call out and say, you know, Eileen couldn’t wear that piercing when she interviews, you know, like, that’s kind of when you first had to learn you, in a way not your authentic self to land the job, which is sad. I hope those sessions don’t ever have to be taught again, you know, like, but that is what happened. But back in those days, it was what’s helping us to get in the door.
Yep. Understood. And I’m hoping that the braids, the piercings, the tattoos, whatever it is that makes you “you,” that might be different than, you know—I shouldn’t say like this, but I will—somebody that’s been in the profession for 40 years probably doesn’t think that that’s what the professional looks like. Hopefully, that has changed. And hopefully we don’t have to, you know, worry about that as much. But I know it’s still out there.
Yeah, it definitely was. But, and I do see the shift. I see it shifting, and I hope it continues to shift. But that’s one way I kind of gave back in a sense of DEI. That was really important to me. And the other organization I was involved with through NABA was ACAP, which is the Accounting Career Awareness Program. As you probably know, Randy, like a topic that’s always talked about in this industry is the lack of people coming into the industry, you know, people wanting to be in accounting anymore. So I think programs like this are amazing, because it does, one, attract more people into the accounting industry at a younger age. This is high school. And it attracts minorities.
Yep, that’s important.
That’s what I used to just do NABA Night, which I did different things like I did a brand session, which was really in high school terms, your reputation, like what is your brand, right, like already craving that at a young age or even again, during the dress for success? Because some people don’t know how to come to an interview and present yourself in a way. Because the sad truth is, first impressions are made visually.
Yeah, I know.
Instantly, when they look at you when you walk in that room, right? You don’t want that to to be against you. And I think even without even today, right? We’re trying to have less biases, but it’s there—there’s the unconscious bias is still there
Yes, it is unfortunately, and you don’t even know but it kicks in and you’re not even aware of it probably.
Yes. And I will say like all the work that I used to do with the I drove me like it was a passion I had. And I left the Bay Area as the Vice President of the National Association of Black accountants and a co-chair for the West Coast Western Region Conference. And I miss it a lot. I miss giving back. And so one thing I have on my personal goal this year is to get back involved in my local NABA chapter in the Greater Hartford area and start giving back again and really making a difference again, in that community.
Well, your D is showing through in the DiSC assessment. Definitely driven, that’s what the D stands for, right
Yeah. One of one of them.
Yeah! Okay. Well, it’s definitely showing through. So we actually completely skipped over Glean.ai. But I want to get to that now. Because anything that has AI in the name is obviously the talk of everything right now. So why don’t you give us what Glean.ai is and what you’re looking to do. And you, as the strategic partnership alliance, or whatever it was, strategic—that part, you can explain better than I can! Tell us about Glean.ai.
No worries! Yeah, I joined Glean.ai, gosh, I think four months now. And I was brought in as the VP of Strategy and Partnerships
There you go.
Yes, we’re really focusing in two areas right now. The major area is really to build the accounting channel for Glean.ai, because Glean understands the importance of accountants and what their role is in businesses in general and how we can make an impact in businesses through accountants.
But Glean.ai, yes, it does have that catchy term “AI,” we actually do use AI. So what we are, is an intelligent AP platform. So what that means is yes, we do the AP workflows, the AP automation to be able to pay your bills and track all the keys related to a business. But we also give insights, which is the intelligence and the AI piece. A lot of AP systems out there do OCR, and they read what we say “the header” of invoices, which is kind of vendor name, invoice number, invoice, date, due date, amount. But we actually read the line items on an invoice—quantities, dates—within the body of the invoice. And because we’re able to take that and put it through kind of large language models and train it, we’re able to give insights on the invoice level and line item level. So that it is to me, I think you can use it, one, to be able to start conversations with your clients. And also just make you aware of things without having to dig down into the data. Without having you to export into Excel and that and like kind of analyze it all yourself. So you actually save time. And I just think there’s great talking points, because we do things like identify when renewals are coming up, especially if they’re auto renewals. So it’s like, okay, time to have a conversation with a client about this vendor, or even using these licenses, should we renew, should we not renew?
But we also do help with the efficiency part because we identify potential accruals. And then you can book them. I remember when I was in order accruals were a big pain point in my looking through Excel spreadsheets to see if it was accounted for cut off. So like having this is great. And I think another big winner that I’ve seen accountants give such good feedback on is our prepaid amortization schedules, we generate those for you, and then they can be booked into the GL.
So the AI piece is really the ability for us to read the invoices and give you insights or actionable whether that’s for efficiency purposes, or for client conversations.
Perfect. Efficiency is, that’s a big key that I like seeing with technology and AI and what’s going to come down the road, because that’s gonna help with us with the work in so many hours.
I was gonna say, it’s back to the work-life balance that you had mentioned earlier, like, how do you create that work-life balance, it’s to leverage technology, and it’s to put the right app stacks together, that’s gonna give your firm efficiencies to manage your clients. But I also think it’s a mindset, right? Like, people need to get away. And I would say the industry has done a lot better of getting away from the billable hours mindset, right?
And they’re the ones that I think that are a lot less adaptable to technology, because they’re like, I can’t bill as much. Well, you have to take the time to switch to value based or fixed pricing. But that is when efficiencies matter, because every minute you spend with a client will decrease your margins, if you’re not using the right technology to make sure that you have those efficiencies in place to do that type of pricing model.
Yep. I completely agree. I think it’s the biggest thing we need to get fixed in our profession is the selling of hours.
How do you think we do that? Randy? Sorry, now I’m interviewing you!
No, no. How do we do that? It’s education. It’s all education. It’s just show. People don’t understand how can I charge for this? How can I, you know, I only spent two minutes on this, how am I going to be able to charge for this? Well, because there’s a value to what you just did. And you just need to, you know, show the value of that.
And once you do, hours don’t matter anymore. And people get concerned about well, we profit on this job or that job, and what’s our realization, you know what? Look at the overall, the overall is the bottom line. And you can find, especially with AI coming in, you’re going to be able to find, without keeping track of time, you’re still gonna be able, there’s gonna be ways to find out how profitable a certain job is here or there, if you, to the job level, If that’s something you have to do. I don’t think you have to. Overall, how are we doing, I think is more important.
Exactly. And honestly, a client may be profitable. But if they’re your biggest headache, is it worth keeping them?
Exactly. No, that’s the other thing. So you and I were on the same page with everything here. This is nice. So well, unfortunately, we’re gonna have to start to wrap up. But I have a couple last questions. Actually, probably three, before I aske my final two. First, you mentioned it earlier. You grew up an athlete. I’m curious, what was your athletic endeavors?
Sure. So I was forced to play sports pretty much my whole life. It started in second grade. My mom put me in soccer, which I lasted for one whole season, which I hated, I think because they put me in goalie and that was painful. And so I was done with soccer.
And then I did Taekwondo, which I was forced to do with my older sister because we had free passes, which I excelled at actually, every, every time we had a testing, I got the highest promotion, which was three stripes. And in one of the testing for promotion, my sister only got two, and I got three—she’s older by the way. She didn’t like that so much. So when we were up for red belt testing, she decided to quit right before, and because I was the younger sister. I just decided to follow him like, oh, I guess I’m done too. I actually really liked taekwondo.
And then I played basketball starting, I think maybe fifth or sixth grade. Loved it, was part of a traveling team. I thought I was. That’s when the WNBA started. I was like, I’m going to be in the WNBA. And I realized I’m way too short to be in the WNBA. I played that through my freshman year in high school.
So my freshman year high school, I played three sports, again. My sister made me play field hockey, which she did her junior and senior year in high school. So I was on the team even before freshmen were out there, because she decided she knew the coaches.
I did not love field hockey when I first started. But after my freshman year, I was already told I was moving up to varsity my sophomore year. And then my third sport I did was track and field. And when I was in junior high, I ran a pretty fast mile. And our PE teacher was the head coach of the high school track and field team. So I always tried hard, and I could run a mile in under six minutes, high fives.
So I thought I’m gonna be a mile runner for him. The basketball bled through beginning of track season. And I’m hard to believe but I’m kind of an introvert at times. I went out for track and everyone already knew everybody. So I was so shy. And so you did your warm up laps. And the coach said, who was my PE teacher in middle school said, “Break up to your groups.” Um, like groups, what groups? So I followed these group of women and girls. They ended up being hurdlers and I was too shy to say “no, I want to run the mile,” so I became a hurdler.
But I trained hard. My coach worked me and I didn’t understand it, like, why he worked me so hard. I made subsections my freshman year and in the hurdles, and then he didn’t come back as a coach. But I saw him again a couple years later, and my middle school when I was teaching the kids to play hockey. And he told me he’s been keeping up with my track and field career. And I was like, why did you push me so hard? I felt like you hated me. He’s like, no, I just saw your potential.
Ah, nice. Coaching!
Coaching! And so I ended up coaching other girls that came on to the track and field team, the ones who hurdled, because we never got a hurdle coach again. And for field hockey, when I was going into my sophomore year, we went to a camp, I was identified to try out for Futures, which is the Junior Olympics training program, which I didn’t love field hockey, so I don’t even want to do it. But my coach filled out all my paperwork and said, you’re going. Going to a tryout at Cal Berkeley. I’m from a small town in northern California. It was so scary to do this. I was like,tThere’s no way I’m making it with all these top women, top girls, and I made it.
And so my sophomore year, I was running track and field, and driving five hours on the weekends to go play field hockey, eight hours at Stanford. So it was, yeah, hard work. And I played field hockey all the way till I was 32, I think it was, when I moved to Denver. And I’ve been, I still have my sticks, been trying to find a league ever since I can’t find one in Connecticut for adults. But my son picked up tennis. So now I’m starting to pick up tennis lessons because I need a sport in my life
Nice, well apparently, you ended up liking the field hockey if you played till you’re in the early 30s. So the last two questions then—and I love that story. And this might be one of the answers you give, but you know we talked about work and we actually talked about your athletic career, but when you’re not working, whether you’re outside of work passions? what are those things that make you “you” that you’re allowed to bring to the office?
I know this isn’t going to be on the camera but Just Dance. Dance is my other passion. I think that if I was allowed to have taken dance lessons when I was younger, man, I mean I did, again, I’m from a small town called Yuba City, home of the honkers.
Just the name that probably should tell you, small town. But I actually, I saw a flyer one time to sign up for a hip hop class. And I did it and I was hesitant, but then the class never even happened because not enough people signed up.
But I always loved to dance. I didn’t always know how to dance when I was younger, I got made fun of but then I kept at it. And it’s kind of what I’m known for. If you ask anyone back in my zero days, if you ask them. What I do that I’ll tell you, I dance.
Alright, nice. So this is the thing, people know you as the dancer, they know who you are outside of work. That’s nice. So you get to bring your authentic self to work.
And then then last thing, if anybody wants to learn more about you or Glean.ai, where would they look?
Perfect. Well, Eileen, this was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the conversation. I’m glad we decided to get this scheduled and get it done so quick after we met. So this was a lot of fun. Thank you.
Yes. Thank you for having me. Randy. This was a lot of fun getting to know you and I feel like we’re kindred spirits.
About the Guest
Eileen Adao currently serves as Vice President of Strategy and Partnerships at Glean.ai, a tech startup with the stated goal to “power finance teams to spend intelligently,” and which utilizes AI to improve efficiency. Eileen has a wealth of experience in various areas of business, having started her career in the Big Four. In 2018, Eileen was recognized as one of Practice Ignition‘s Top 50 Women in Accounting, who emphasized her commitment to leveraging technology to streamline processes and allow individuals to prioritize other aspects of their lives. She has experience working with half a dozen startups, leading teams in various business development and strategic roles.
Eileen has a history of prioritizing DEI and giving back, becoming a Vice President of the National Association of Black Accountants after joining the organization in college. She earned her Bachelor’s in Accounting from Saint Mary’s College of California in 2006.
Meet the Host
Randy Crabtree, CPA
Randy Crabtree, co-founder and partner of Tri-Merit Specialty Tax Professionals, is a widely followed author, lecturer and podcast host for the accounting profession.
Since 2019, he has hosted the bi-weekly “The Unique CPA,” podcast, which ranks among the world’s 5% most popular programs (Source: Listen Score). You can find articles from Randy in Accounting Today’s Voices column, the AICPA Tax Adviser (Tax-saving opportunities for the housing and construction industries) and he is a regular presenter at conferences and virtual training events hosted by CPAmerica, Prime Global, Leading Edge Alliance (LEA), Allinial Global and several state CPA societies. Crabtree also provides continuing professional education to top 100 CPA firms across the country.
Schaumberg, Illinois-based Tri-Merit is a niche professional services firm that specializes in helping CPAs and their clients benefit from R&D tax credits, cost segregation, the energy efficient commercial buildings deduction (179D), the energy efficient home credit (45L) and the employee retention credit (ERC).
Prior to joining Tri-Merit, Crabtree was managing partner of a CPA firm in the greater Chicago area. He has more than 30 years of public accounting and tax consulting experience in a wide variety of industries, and has worked closely with top executives to help them optimize their tax planning strategies.