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The Big One

Claire Danielson, the new VOA Controller, is explaining about the Big Four: The four biggest accounting firms in the United States. They are Deloitte, Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and KPMG.

"Big 4 accounting firms are some of the largest in the world and have vast amounts of resources to train their people. But they don’t seem to care about their people very much outside of training them."

Claire grew up near Birmingham, then Dallas, Scottsdale, Tucson, Memphis, and finally back to Tucson. Her mom Carol consulted for drug companies, helping shepherd anti-malaria and HIV drugs through the FDA approval process. They moved where Carol’s job took them, and her Dad found work teaching photography.

Before there was Claire the Public Accountant, there was young Claire, the girl who rode horses, earned Tae Kwon Do belts, read and re-read Harry Potter, and tried to make it work at a new school every couple of years. The middle-schooler who’d wear button-down sport coats one day and dress like a hippie the next. The teen who loved Salpointe Catholic High School in Tucson, where she finally made lasting friends and decorated her shoes or wore flashy ties to add flair to her standard-issue navy blue polo.

At Arizona State University she leaned toward journalism and then pivoted to economics, which required her to take Accounting 101. “A professor told me I had a knack for it. I really like organization and a lot of order. To me, it’s kind of a puzzle.” After a year at the London School of Economics, learning in the heart of the UK’s Financial District, Claire transferred to University of Arizona in Tuscon and completed her Accounting degree.

Claire started her accounting career at Make-A-Wish, where she discovered her passion for non-profit work. "It was such a wonderful work environment and good cause that I knew non-profit accounting is where I wanted to end up in my career. I went to my boss at the end of my internship and asked 'How do I get to where you are?' and she said to start at one of the Big 4 public accounting firms because of the world-class training I could get nowhere else."

Over two years at Big Four companies opened her eyes. “When I went into Public Accounting, I had visions of working to advance democracy through accountability and the free market. But mostly, I worked for private companies, making rich people richer.”

Claire found VOA last Spring, and continues to be amazed. “Every day my mind is blown at everything we do. I’ve learned about these big societal needs, and then another program we do to meet these needs. I learn about all the different ways we try to help.”

As she moves up from Accounting Manager to Controller, Claire has big ideas. “I’d like to modernize us, make us more efficient and less dependent on paper, and improve our processes.” Moving out of the day-to-day work will give Claire the opportunity to work with CFO Jen Nobiling and VOA’s leadership on big picture goals, and integrate some of the tools and strategies she learned in the world of the Big Four.

After all of her experiences, Claire now has one big priority: "To protect the people who need us the most.”

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Claire Danielson was recently promoted to serve as VOA’s Controller. Her story appears here as a part of our #IAmVOA campaign.

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