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A love of planning and the lure of travel set a tax career in motion.
As a fresh-faced intern at PwC’s tax office in Atlanta, Lindsay Johnson made a gut decision that ended up determining the course of her career. “I saw a lot of people in the national tax group taking business trips to places like Idaho. But in the international group they were going to Paris.”
Naturally, Johnson decided to focus on international tax, and in six years with PwC she rose to International Tax Manager at the Atlanta office. It’s a more complicated affair than domestic tax, requiring reports to destination localities, as well as to the IRS. And given the broad spectrum of projects Johnson encountered in public accounting for PwC, a great way to build a base of professional experience.
That experience has certainly paid off: today, Johnson is Tax Director at Koch Industries in Atlanta, one of the world’s fastest expanding private firms. In fact, Koch has set – and achieved – a goal of doubling in size every six years. In only four years with the company, Johnson has helped grow the tax group at a Koch subsidiary to thirty-five people from a base of almost zero.
That kind of ambition makes it especially important to keep abreast of developments in accounting, not to mention the always-changing tax code. “Working at Koch has been a continuous education, and a great way to build on my federal and state tax skills,” says Johnson. “And the fact that Koch is a private company means that decisions are made much more quickly than they would be at a publicly-traded firm.”
Johnson’s ultimate priority is to maintain the pace of growth. And that means having an in-depth knowledge of the company’s internal affairs, a skill she further developed as international tax director at an international fast food restaurant, which was expanding its international footprint at the time. Keeping track of a company’s operations across international borders requires special attention to constantly shifting tax laws. “Lawmakers really just expect you to catch on immediately” when they roll out new taxes, says Johnson. “You have to be quick on your feet.”
Starting out at PwC helped Johnson acquire the broad focus that today enables her to put together the complicated jigsaw of Koch subsidiaries. “Being at such a big company gave me a huge range of experiences, especially when it comes to the different array of professional cultures you encounter,” Johnson says. “And people coming into the firm today will definitely benefit from encountering PwC’s high professional expectations and work ethic.” Judging by Koch’s rapid rise, Johnson certainly has. She even made it to Paris.