Opting for a career in the accounting field, Brownwood High School Class of 1981 graduate Dodie Brown felt her desire to make a difference for those who truly need it was at times left unfulfilled.
Now serving as the Vice President for Financial Services of Goodwill Industries of Central Texas, Brown is able to excel in her profession of choice while also assisting to provide a multitude of services throughout the greater Austin area.
Brown first arrived at GICT 10 years ago as a controller and has worked in her current role as Vice President for Financial Services for the last eight years.
“I’d been working in public accounting doing tax and audit work and when we moved back to Austin, I was working downtown for a CPA firm and doing technical reviews, a little bit of audit work and some tax work,” Brown said. “A board member at Goodwill knew they were looking at that time for a controller. I was ready to go back into industry and do something different and feel like I was making a difference. I sat down and talked to them and next thing I knew I had a job here and I’ve been here 10 years now. It’s been great.”
In her current position at GICT, Brown has a plethora of responsibilities which always keep her on the go.
“I do everything from managing the accounting team and making sure everything goes well with them to working with a financial analyst to do projections and decide if investments are the right thing for us — if we’re going to build a store, where are we going to build it, is it going to be profitable enough to serve the mission, all those kinds of things,” Brown said. “I make sure there’s financial stability within the organization. I’m responsible for all finances, the internal reporting, all the reporting to Goodwill Industries International and reporting to the finance committee and the board. I attend finance and board meetings and we have a financial audit every year because we have a lot of grant funding, so I also work with that audit team to make sure everything goes smoothly and everything is correct.”
Though Brown enjoys all aspects of her job, it’s playing a role in helping programs flourish that brings the biggest smile to her face.
“If I just had to sit behind a desk and do accounting all day I would go insane,” Brown said. “I have to be interacting and feeling like I’m touching people and adding value to their life and making a difference.
“I was in accounting for so many years and I was the one who got the non-profits and small governmentals because it was fun for me to step in the door with someone who really didn’t have a lot of skills and show them how to try another way. I felt like I made a difference as an auditor, which is probably a little strange. That and the teaching, I’ve been teaching a lot of classes, and to see people’s eyes sparkle and feel like you’ve added value to them, it’s something that drives me.”
Brown admitted there are some challenges that come with the GICT being an $84 million autonomous 501c3 non-profit program, but the rewards far outweigh any hiccups along the way.
“In a non-profit organization you never have enough resources so we work cross functionally across the organization,” Brown said. “Goodwill is an interesting animal. It’s non-profit, but we have to run it like a business because we have commercial service contracts and we’ve got all kinds of mission service work. Recently we turned in an application for a pilot charter school for adults. Adults up to 50 years old can get their high school diplomas and we feel like that will make a huge difference in their life. We’ve got a really visionary CEO and just trying to keep up with him is fun.”
Among the accomplishments of the past year alone, Goodwill Industries of Central Texas placed 3,135 people in jobs, diverted more than 29.2 million pounds of material from landfills and won the Texas Award for Performance Excellence.
And Brown could barely contain her excitement for some of the plans GICT is currently developing.
“We’re also working on a career academy that goes hand in hand with the diploma program,” Brown said. “We’ve seen, through our mission work, that some of the great barriers to people getting jobs that really matter and really make a difference in their life is education. That need just isn’t being met in our community. We figured out that they can get their high school diploma and at that same time work on a certification, for example if there’s a shortage of plumbers, electricians, certified nursing assistants, etc. There’s any number of gaps coming up because people are getting older and no one is training for those positions.”
Another aspect of this program that thrills Brown is the advent of “life coaches.”
“The other thing we’re going to do for these folks is a lot of times they come out of generational poverty and they don’t have the skills all of us have,” Brown said. “They don’t know how to troubleshoot if a babysitter calls in sick. Most of them are single parents and have a lot of these challenges. Part of our model is to provide life coaches with every student that walks in the door so they have somebody who can teach them what sometimes hasn’t been taught. It’s a really interesting thing that’s been so successful, so we’re very excited about that.”
Looking back on her career, Brown stated her initial desire to enter the accounting profession was due mostly to job security. But she’s extremely thankful to be in the position she now holds.
“I think I took accounting because I knew I would always be able to have a job and it was comfortable,” Brown said. “As an 18-year-old, do you think things through that well, who knows? I started out at Howard Payne and then transferred to Tarleton and then I started working in small CPA firms. Then when Paul and I married, we moved to Abilene and I got to work for a regional firm so I got to do a lot more, including mentoring and teaching and I really found the niche that I like. I don’t know that I planned it very well, but I stumbled into it and enjoy it.”
Dodie and Paul Brown, a 1980 graduate of Brownwood High School, were married in 1998.
“I’m going to forever blame Lewis Locker,” she joked. “I was working at Howard Payne at the time as controller and he kept telling me there was this guy I just had to meet. I was done with dating, I was divorced and had been on a few dates and didn’t want to go on any more. He harassed me so much, so I told him to tell me who it is and I’ll think about it. He told me who it was and I remembered Paul from National Honor Society and Spanish Club and he was such a nice guy, so I said OK, fine I’ll go out with him one time. Two years later we were married.”
As for her work-related future, Brown envisions herself hopefully continuing to climb the professional ladder with Goodwill.
“About a year ago I completed the Goodwill Industries International Executive Development Program,” Brown said. “Some day I might like to lead an organization like this. I think that would be something I would really enjoy doing. So I’ll be doing that, or be in a CFO role somewhere where I can make a difference.”