Celebrating Women’s History Month: Lauryn Burella
As any company knows — but especially fintechs — accounting is a core process for running a sound business. What people may not always realize is that accounting is as much about people as it is about crunching numbers. Treasury Prime Controller Lauryn Burella has spent more than a decade honing the balance between the spreadsheet side of her work and the human side. From her start as one of the few women students in her college mathematics courses, to navigating her career in the often male-dominated spaces of tech and business — including stints at Fitbit and Accolade — she’s built a deep knowledge of process and efficiency as well as strong leadership skills. Here are her thoughts on the accounting profession and career growth, as we recognize women leaders at Treasury Prime during Women’s History Month.
You have more than a decade of accounting experience. What drew you to the field and what keeps you engaged?
Ever since I was in high school, I have loved math. I love solving problems on paper — it comes very naturally to me. When it came to finding a career, I figured, why not jump into accounting?
The first few years were pretty hard getting into the field as accounting in practice is different from school. Some elements are the same, but it took me time to build my soft skills and get a well-rounded experience. I have focused on trying different areas of accounting to see what I like best and today, I get more satisfaction and job happiness from collaborating across the company, problem-solving, and building processes from the ground up. Oftentimes people have this preconceived notion that accountants crunch numbers all day, but our roles in an organization are much more than that, and the value we provide is more in solving problems related to financial reporting.
How has your gender shaped your professional experience?
I majored in business administration and accounting in college. Early on, the math classes I attended were predominantly made up of male students, so from the beginning I could feel a gender gap. The gap narrowed as I started taking business classes, and narrowed even more when I moved into accounting.
Once I graduated college and entered my career, I definitely encountered sexism. I have worked with some men in the past who treated me and my team of women like assistants. They told us what to do rather than giving us professional courtesy and seeing the value that we provided as experts in our roles. Everyone loses in those situations. I have also experienced gender pay gaps when comparing myself to my male peers in the past, which has been frustrating.
How do you cope with sexism when you encounter it?
Direct communication is an important skill I’ve picked up in my career. I put my foot down when I feel someone is disrespecting my colleagues or myself. I can be protective of my team, their time and how they are treated in the workplace. I like to face these situations head-on. It has worked best for me in the past to have a conversation with the person that is either knowingly or unknowingly causing harm. I work with them to figure out a solution and set expectations with them.
I feel it’s important that I not just stick up for myself, but for others in the workplace. I’ve encountered situations where women in the workplace tear each other down. This can happen because they feel competitive with each other, or because of a larger toxic environment. Women and nonbinary people have to build each other up in the workplace.
What skill would you say is underrated for people in the accounting field?
Soft skills are underrated. I wish I had taken more time earlier in my career to learn about cultivating professional relationships, getting my name out there, and generally focusing on the “people” side of accounting. It is not only essential to attend training, it is also important to network, and it is really important to figure out how you can be the best leader, because that's half your job. In recent years, I’ve taken on more leadership roles, so I’ve spent more time investing in my soft skills. Had I done that sooner, I think I’d be even more comfortable and confident.
What drew you to work at Treasury Prime?
I really enjoy being at small startups. Where I get the most satisfaction and happiness in my role is being able to build processes from the ground up. I enjoy looking at something that's not working, and problem solving to figure out how I can make it better. Treasury Prime offered me that, along with the challenge of a more senior role in an industry that was new for me — fintech. Previously, I worked in healthtech. Plus, throughout the interview process, I loved everyone I met. The people were just amazing. I’ve been in the role for eight months and I love my team.
Right now my team’s goal is to automate our processes. Like a lot of accounting and finance teams, we live in Excel. We’re working on breaking out of that and building a system that lets us automate key processes like invoicing. This will be a huge timesaver, and will help us scale accounting processes as Treasury Prime grows.