Heather Kirkby - 2012 Most Powerful Women in Accounting

Heather Kirkby

Director Product Management
and Marketing:

Intuit, Inc.
Mountain View, CA


Educational Background: Bachelor Mechanical Engineering (Queen’s University, Canada), MBA (Harvard University)

Hobbies: Hiking, Kayaking, Mountain biking


Click here to see the other honorees of
the 2012 "Most Powerful Women
in Accounting" awards.



What advice would you give to these college students about the opportunities for women in the accounting profession?

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my career is the importance to constantly be in a state of learning. Seek roles that help you learn. Seek leaders that help you learn. Identify what you want to learn – and find ways to learn it. We grow when we learn – and it starts on day one (of life, of college, of new jobs) and the most successful people recognize that if they continue to focus on learning, they will continue to grow.

Note – one of the most powerful ways to learn it to teach – and it creates the virtuous circle of giving back to others what you have learned. This is a long pre-amble to my main point that an Accounting degree is an incredible asset that demonstrates you can learn. You can learn and master a very complex and rigorous discipline – and this opens an unlimited number of doors to you professionally.

My undergrad degree is Mechanical Engineering. Technically I was never a Mechanical Engineer. My professional choices led me down other paths but those four precious taught me how to work hard, work smart and they taught me how to learn.

If you were asked as a consultant to give advice to firms, would you have any recommendations on things they could do to better retain and advance more qualified female staff?

Honestly, 99% of it is the same regardless of gender or any other dimension. We are all human. We are all motivated by similar fundamental principles – and it is our employer’s responsibility to create a culture and environment that enables great employee engagement.

We want to believe in a dream and vision for the company, product, team etc. We want to be great at something – and make contributions that have a positive impact. And we want to have some degree of control in the equation. Different passions and interests lead us to pursue different careers and employers – but those fundamentals are universal.

My own personal thoughts beyond the fundamentals… create a culture that truly treats everyone equally, create a culture that respects that personal life and health matters, create a culture and work environment that makes it easy to create balance (benefits to help with exercise, day care, etc) and create a culture that seeks and celebrates diversity.

There’s an endless stream of research that has proven that diverse teams (backgrounds, education, gender, etc) deliver better results. One of the reasons I’ve stayed at Intuit for 8 years is because everything I have described is our culture. And I would argue, it is because of our culture that this is a company where men and women both thrive and succeed.

I feel blessed to look above me and see dozens upon dozens of very successful women I can look up to. That is definitely inspiring as a working Mom – and many of them have taken time to help me as my career has grown. And I can look across the company and see the next generation of female leaders emerging – and certainly feel the responsibility to “pay the gift forward” to them that others have given me.

What solutions have you found successful in managing work-life integration. the balancing of your career with your personal, family and social life?

It really comes down to time management. Time is the only currency when it comes to balancing what matters in your life. In no particular order – for me what matters is being an awesome Mom, Wife and Director – and my health. So it’s about making the time to do what’s important. A couple of tips that have worked for me over the years:

  1. Create clear boundaries, for example, where possible I try to avoid having meetings before 9am so I can spend time with my young daughter in the morning. I also carve out time for regular exercise – no matter what other demands I have on my time.
  2. The reality is we are all juggling many things – and sometimes too much. Know which balls are glass, and which ones are rubber, a wise female executive at Intuit taught me this many moons ago. Be very conscious about what you can drop (the rubber balls, e.g. missing a meeting where you weren’t a key player – the team will forgive you) and what you can’t (the glass balls, e.g. missing your daughter’s first day of school when you promised her you would go).
  3. “Audit your time” – and adjust. Step back and analyze your calendar for a month. How are you spending your time? What surprises you about it? Where are you over/under investing? I do this every once in a while and always find a surprise that leads me to make change to be more efficient with my time.

How mobile are you regarding your work? How have mobile devices and apps impacted your productivity and work-life balance? (Spending less time in the office?)

I’m very mobile – accessing my email and calendar across multiple devices daily. However the nature of my work involves lots of interaction with individuals and with teams and I have a strong preference to do that face-to-face. There is no substitute to live interactions when it comes to building and growing relationships. So personally I don’t spend any less time in the office even with all the new technology.

What single piece of technology could you absolutely not live without, and why?

These days I’d have to put a vote in for my iPad. As a working Mom with a young daughter, it helps me workout in the morning (videos in the garage!) and maintain sanity on long flights (lots & lots of kids games). As a senior leader at Intuit, it helps me quickly scan my email without getting my laptop out of my bag. And as an Amazon-addict, it lets me buy my next “must-have” without leaving the comfort of the couch.

What is your favorite professional mobile app, and why?

Anything that allows me to operate on-the-go is awesome… WebEx mobile is a great help because I can connect to conferences with 1-click and follow along with slideshow presentations without being in the room or near my laptop!
What do you like to do when you actually have free time without any obligations to work or family?

I love the outdoors – and frankly I love sharing my passion for the outdoors with my family. So whether it’s camping in the Sierra, or kayaking in Sausalito, mountain biking in Santa Cruz or trail running near my house – I love being outside in this gorgeous corner of the world I feel lucky to call home.