Leading the way: Linda Himeback - Herbein's Trailblazing 1st Woman Partner

March 29, 2024

Welcome to the Herbein Conversation podcast, where we explore the issues that matter most to your business.

In this Women's History Month episode, we invited Linda Himeback, Herbein’s first woman partner, for a discussion with Marybeth Olree, Herbein partner and co-leader of the firm’s women’s initiative, HWomen RISE.

Linda shares her unique perspectives on the progress of women in accounting, and her personal story of her first days at our firm through admission to the partnership.

Join us for this special Herbein Conversation.


Amy Klatt: Hello and welcome to the Herbein Conversation. I'm your host, Amy Klatt, CMO at Herbein, and today's episode is not just another episode. It's a special edition for Women's History Month, and really a historic episode and time for us. Today we're joined by Marybeth Olree, who's joining me as a co host.

She is a non profit partner for Herbein and chair of our internal women's rise initiative, as well as Linda Himeback, Herbein's first female partner and our non profit and government partner. Here at Herbein, Linda's been at the forefront of our nonprofit and government auditing practice. And as she prepares for a new chapter, we're here today to really celebrate her legacy and the mark she's left on our firm and industry overall.

Thanks so much for you both to be here. 

Linda Himeback: Thanks for having us. 

Marybeth Olree: We're excited to be here with you today. 

Amy Klatt: Great. A little bit about Linda's background. So, Linda, you joined Herbein in 1985. You became our firm's first female partner and really built the nonprofit government practice from, from the ground up at, at our firm.

And I know that today we'll talk a little bit more about that process and really Marybeth jumping to you. Um, let's kick it off by starting to talk about what it's like been like working with Linda over the last 12 years and what that that experience has meant. 

Marybeth Olree: To you. Sure, thanks Amy. I'm thrilled to be here today celebrating Linda.

It's so important to me that we recognize the women who came before us and I and their impact on us and I think that's really what Women's History Month all is about. Linda has had an impressive journey throughout her career and I'm so thankful to have had a part in it. Linda's been impactful through my career here at Herbein and I really appreciate all the roles you've played throughout my career here, Linda.

Uh, you know, from boss and teacher to now partner and friend, you've really been there through it all for me here at Herbein. I appreciate your support and your guidance and your impact on my career. I think your tenacity and technical knowledge, your commitment to our clients and community are all attributes that are key to the success that we see here today and your impact on the firm, our team members, our clients, and our community is really a legacy that will continue far into the future.

Amy Klatt: I think that's amazing and really sets the stage for today's episode. So, um, I, I know that our listeners are really going to benefit from hearing a little bit about the background and the path that you took to get to where you are today. 

Marybeth Olree: All right, Linda. So let's start now with the beginning of your journey at Herbein.

What drew you to focus on the nonprofit and government sectors here? 

Linda Himeback: Before I joined Herbein, I actually worked for a small firm in Philadelphia, and their practice area was small business and tax. When I started with Herbein, the first day was orientation, similar to anyone that joins today. The second day I went to CPE, how to audit a school district.

And then the next two months I spent auditing a school district. At that point in time, the audit was kind of unique because it was done while we followed the Pennsylvania Department of Education reporting requirements. I actually joined the firm at the same time, the Government Accounting Standards Board was established and the related guidance on how to do government audits was just coming.

When I started at Herbein, we had two schools and a handful of non profits. I saw the need as a small firm, um, that somebody had to really learn this area. I found also that working with governments and non profits, many of them had bookkeepers. They didn't have controllers or business managers, so their needs were greater. They needed more hand holding and more help with doing the reporting and tax work they needed to do 

Marybeth Olree: That's pretty amazing to think that, you know, we went from a handful of nonprofits and two schools to over 200 nonprofit and government clients today. That's quite a journey that you've had. And I think it's really telling that you, you know, attended a training one day, you worked on a client the next day, you address their need, you know, became that subject matter expert and the rest is history.

Amy Klatt: It's neat to see. the progression of when, where you started and how you've built out such a successful practice. And really, now that we are so ingrained into our, our women's initiative as part of our Horizon Committee, as someone, Marybeth, who's been so inspired by Linda and now leading that initiative, how do you see Linda's influence really shaping the next generation at Herbein or, or Young professionals in general.

Marybeth Olree: That's a great question. Linda's impact on our firm is immeasurable Her legacy really is a blueprint for blazing your own trail and as chair of H women rise I just want to take a minute again to celebrate that Linda was our first female partner at Herbein I can't express just how important that milestone was for Linda and for the firm You know, through H Women Rise, we really emphasize mentorship, community, and the courage to lead change.

And I think Linda's path demonstrates those qualities and really shows us that with determination and support, we can break barriers and drive that positive change that we all want, you know, within our firm and our industry. Linda really paved the way for those of us who came after her as well. And to me, that's really what leadership is all about.

Creating progress for those who come after us. You know, not only was she the first female partner, but she built two really important niches, both to our firm and our community with our nonprofit and government groups. Linda's influence is going to continue for years to come because of that foundation she built for us.

And we all really appreciate all of the hard work that you've put in over, over the years, Linda. So reflecting on your career, Linda, could you share a particularly memorable challenge that you overcame and what it taught you? 

Linda Himeback: As I mentioned, when I started, Herbein was more of a, uh, general practitioner type firm.

I think most firms in the industry were, except for the big four. At that point in time, niche accounting was just a buzzword. It was being tossed around. Um, I had nobody in the firm to really mentor me in the non profit government arena, so the only place you could really become educated was going to the PICPA, government, accounting, and not for profit seminars they held each year. And I looked to those individuals for instruction and help, answering questions. I had the opportunity to actually join both of those committees. I got the support from the firm and I did join both of those committees. Um, that was really the method I used to actually grow my knowledge and to actually train our clients as they grew.

So, I would say that You know, when you're looking for mentors and people to help you advance in your career, think outside the box. Sometimes it's not somebody in the firm. Sometimes it's outside in the community. Um, you just need to think and look and, and act as to what will help you advance. 

Marybeth Olree: I love that.

Thinking outside of the box and always looking for different ways to tackle challenges. I think that's a really strong takeaway for our team members and clients to hear. So when you look back on your career, is there a decision or project that really stands out as a turning point for you? 

Linda Himeback: Up to a certain point, I was actually the firm's quality reviewer too.
So I did for profits, nonprofits, governments, and it just got to be too much. Um, if you remember when I, when I started GASB started, so we were at GASB one, we're now at GASB 96. So it, There was a point in time where I just said, you can't be all things to everybody. And I had to make a decision and I really enjoyed the nonprofit government area.

So that's the area I pursued. So, you know, when you get an opportunity, just pick an area that really excites you and it challenges you because that's where you're going to be able to excel. 

Marybeth Olree: That's great advice. Can you also maybe share a story from your early days here at Herbein that highlights the impact of our work within the non profit or government sectors?

Linda Himeback: As I mentioned before, when I started, the GASB kind of started. So, um, one of the big changes in the government community was the reporting model changed. GASB 34, um, myself and a peer from the school district arena, we actually went across the state and presented the new reporting requirements to both accounting, Um, individuals as well as our clients.

We also had the same opportunity to do that in the non profit arena, because at that point in time, um, we had reporting for, uh, Contributions with donor restrictions and without donor restrictions. That was impacting the community. So I had the opportunity to do that and I picked up a lot of Clients that way from people hearing me speak.
I also developed a lot of friendships It was those client, um, developments and the friendships that continued to help drive my, uh, success. 

Amy Klatt: Maybe this is a question for both of you, but we're talking a lot about obviously the nonprofit and government practice as a whole. Um, what kind of a personal or professional impact does working with those areas have on either of you?
Um, you're talking about building relationships and, and creating connections for, for your network. Um, Currently and in the future, just wondering how that plays into your working relationships. 

Linda Himeback: I think just being around all the boards and the nonprofits, it helps you see the needs that are out there and it helps you, um, want to volunteer your time and make them better organizations.

Marybeth Olree: I think for me, really seeing the missions of the organizations and the impact that they have on. The community is where we live and work is so important. Linda mentioned earlier, finding something you're passionate about. And to me, social responsibility is just. Something that's so important to me. So being able to work with these organizations and help them in a way that, that works with me professionally is really exciting.

And as Linda mentioned, I think the majority of the people here at Herbein, me included, we really just enjoy supporting and volunteering with the organizations as well. That 

Amy Klatt: Makes sense. It's um, it's notable when you look at our practice area to see what kind of an impact a lot of our clients are really making in our communities.
And Linda, as you're preparing for your next chapter, what kind of advice do you have for maybe women in our industry that are looking to grow their careers? 

Linda Himeback: I would say basically embrace the opportunities provided to you. Recognize needs that are both in the community as well as what you see in the firm and then surround yourself with people that can actually help you make that journey.

Um, you're going to want to find something that you have a passion for. Volunteers for projects that do come up because you never know what kind of path they're going to take you on. 

Amy Klatt: I think, I think that's incredibly well said, really embracing the opportunities and, and the surrounding yourself with the right individuals, I think is something that always speaks to me a lot.

And, um, and another question for, for both of you, really reflecting on your successful careers, what's one piece of advice that, that you wish that someone had given to you early on that would be beneficial for today's young professionals? 

Linda Himeback: I'd say don't be afraid to fail. If you don't try something, you will never realize if you can do it or not.

Marybeth Olree: That's great advice. I think, I think for me the biggest thing is that you can be successful without compromising who you are. I remember when I was a young professional, I was always being told, you know, what I could and couldn't do as a woman in the profession, how to dress. I remember being told for interviews how to wear my hair.

I mean, it, it went on and on. And I, I just want to be sure that every young professional today and here, you know, understands that they have the ability to shape their own career. They can create their own successful path and be true to themselves at the same time. So I would just say be bold and dedicated, be courageous, work hard, focus on your professional development and be willing to continuously learn from others.

And you'll find a path, you'll be successful and you'll have a career you can be proud of. That's, that's 

Amy Klatt: Great. And, and continuously learning I, I feel is a theme that we refer to quite a lot at Herbein. And I think that We all as a firm can learn a ton from the both of you. Um, and Linda, as you really think about that continuous learning theme overall, and you think about the legacy that you're leaving on all of us and, and at Herbein, what do you hope will be remembered about your leadership style and impact?

Or how should others think about building their own legacies within their companies?

Linda Himeback: When I think back and I look at my history and the items that I remember the most are the things that I tried and actually didn't succeed at the first time. You will have successes and failures as you go through your career.

Just try and, um, really embrace the opportunities that come up for yourself. I try and provide those opportunities for my team members now. And I hope that they will embrace those opportunities and learn from them and grow from them. 

Amy Klatt: Well, thank you both Linda and Marybeth for today's conversation and a really exciting episode of the Herbein conversation.

Linda, your journey is just such a testament to the impact that truly one individual can have on an organization and its culture as a whole. So you've absolutely paved the way for future leaders at Herbein and beyond and, and Marybeth as well. And. following in your footsteps, doing the same thing for, for your team members, um, throughout the next 50 years and beyond.

So to our listeners, thank you for joining us for this special episode of the Herbein Conversation. We look forward to continuing to share stories and insights that really inspire and guide all of us. So until next time, thanks again, Linda and Marybeth for joining us.