Moss Adams Voices

Megan McFarland: Self-Care and Boundaries

Megan McFarland addresses her experience creating boundaries at work during this year’s Women’s History Month celebration.

Megan McFarland

The firm Megan McFarland joined in 1996 later combined with Moss Adams in 2017. Since then, Megan has managed her many roles at Moss Adams, including assurance partner, partner in charge of the Dallas office, and national practice leader for Oil & Gas, along with her roles of wife and mother of two. This year’s Women’s History Month celebration is focused on self-care, and Megan speaks about her experience creating boundaries at work so she can successfully balance her responsibilities to the firm and her loved ones.

What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

Women’s history is pushing through the door whether it’s been cracked open or not. That strength is where we come from, and I get a sense of pride and accomplishment from that.

Early in my career and shortly after childbirth, I was approached to consider a career move as an internal firm accountant. At the time, the path of a working mother was not well defined. I really wanted to maintain my collaboration with clients, so it took strength to decline and stick to my path, but I did it. I’m glad I pushed through those barriers.

Can you speak to how you embody good leadership in your role at the firm?

I feel privileged to have lived a fulfilled life while also working full time, so I want that opportunity for the people coming up behind me at the firm. I want to make things easier for them than it was for me, and I know that will translate out to others they work with.

Personally, I don’t believe in work-life balance as most people discuss it because I think something will always be out of balance. We always prioritize something in the moment, but I think we flip those priorities over time. Sometimes that’s work, or family, or our pets, or our hobbies. My goal is rotating the balance so that, when all is said and done, everything was equally prioritized at the end.

I’m interested in what you said about shifting priorities. Can you provide an example?

Every week after a hard week of work, I celebrated with a colleague and our team at a local bar’s happy hour. She and I were the first two women to have a child and return to work at the firm. Initially after kids, we kept it up. We went to work, picked up our kids from daycare, and brought them in our baby carriers to happy hour. At some point, we looked around and realized we were in a different stage of life. We couldn’t keep doing that. Our priorities shifted.

The same is true for work. What you give may ebb and flow over time, but if we do it right, we keep our people and our clients happy. When you have less to give, almost always another team member can jump in to help. At other times when you have more to give you jump in to help so your team member doesn’t feel the pressure of imbalance. It’s cyclical and things don’t stay one way forever.

I remember when my daughter was just a little more than a year old, I had to work a Saturday during busy season. My colleague and I grabbed our audit bags and made a play pen at the office while we worked. We were terrified someone would judge us or get upset, and of course the guy who owned the firm walked in. What does he do? He played with our kids while we worked. He thought it was great. We had perceived heavier expectations for ourselves than were real.

Can you talk more about where those expectations come from?

We all come into the workforce with a certain set of perceived expectations, sometimes derived from the job description. We also apply what we’ve heard historically and create our assumptions about what expectations are. Public accounting, and the industry I chose to focus in, were both historically male-dominated. It’s closer now than it was. 

I believe many of us believe that, to accelerate our careers, we must be 100% available to our job during all waking hours. We’re too embarrassed to carve out time for things we care about in our personal lives. When we operate from a mindset of that being the expectation, we’re not setting boundaries that make sense. It’s on us to ask and understand the true expectations—not make assumptions based on our perception.

How can we better protect our boundaries to care for ourselves?

I believe boundaries are all about communication. For example, as a parent, I always set the boundary that I’m going to be an active participant in my children’s lives but my work won’t suffer. I block my calendar so people know where I need to be. They know I’m going to get the work done even if it means completing it outside of normal business hours. They also know I am going to be present in my kids’ lives in a meaningful way.

Not only do my colleagues accept that, but they now do the same thing. Our clients respect that we respect our people, and next thing you know all of us are blocking our calendars to be available to what’s important to us. When you set boundaries, others can set and maintain their own boundaries, and it becomes this understanding rather than us operating within our perceived expectations.

How is Forum W advancing opportunity for women in the industry?

Before the advances toward equality that have helped us succeed, women had different expectations for working full time. Personally, I expected I would work full time until I had kids. Then I’d go into a part-time role.

The GroWth Series evolves women leaders and builds camaraderie. Joining Forum W helps us see beyond those perceived expectations. It enlightens and educates us so we’re not making assumptions. It gives us a safe space to discuss our challenges and develop the tools to overcome those challenges and allows us to learn from the experience of others.

We have to deliver for our clients, but our profession is very flexible. It is not just possible, but highly probable that you can be successful in your career and with whomever or whatever means the most to you. I think it’s important to give people avenues to understand what has worked in the past so we can help them find their own path to success. It’s helping us evolve beyond those perceived expectations for women—and empowers us to trample all over those expectations.

Go Beyond the Desk

At Moss Adams, we believe in the power of possible to empower our clients and people to pursue success however they define it. Explore stories about our professionals, including their personal achievements, at our Beyond the Desk page.