IMA Volunteerism: Planting a Seed

By Tanya Thirlwall
November 1, 2020

The old saying, “It isn’t what you do, but who you know,” often gets tossed around when people discuss trying to get ahead in their career and elsewhere.


Like all aphorisms, it may not be 100% accurate, but it still contains a kernel of truth. As an IMA® volunteer, I have a similar phrase that I’ve also found to be true: The more you do to move forward, the more people want to get to know you.


I first learned about IMA in 2013 when I was working on my second bachelor’s degree and majoring in accounting at the University of Texas at Brownsville (now UT Rio Grande Valley). I was in my late 20s at the time and, like many others my age, the recession had left me with an obsolete degree. Accounting seemed like a reasonable career choice—as I saw it, accountants always have work.


When I met with the dean of the accounting department, he directed me to look at IMA and, because of my prior experience, to create a student chapter. I jumped at the chance to bring an international organization to my small community and to create greater opportunities for my fellow students, including the kind of real-world exposure I had enjoyed having worked in Houston for the previous eight years. Plus, the mission and values of IMA fit very well with my drive to develop people and businesses.


Fast-forward seven years to this summer, and I received the 2020 IMA Exemplary Young Professional Award. I also serve on IMA’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Committee, in the working group that published the D&I Jump-Start Kit; I’m active with the Texas Regional Council and am the president-elect; and I still work with students in South Texas.


Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and be mentored by Bud Kulesza as well as the late Jimmie Smith, who was instrumental in my volunteer work and would often volunteer me knowing full well that I wouldn’t say no. My fellow Texas Regional Council members have become an extended family, checking in not just about my IMA activities but also career and personal matters, like when I had a family emergency during IMA’s Annual Conference in San Diego in 2019. Their love and support were un­paralleled and so appreciated.


Servant leadership is about doing what you can do, making change happen, learning to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations, and being a disruptor. But you receive so much more when you go into volunteering with pure intentions. I keep volunteering and moving forward not for the recognition or awards, which are nice to have, but because I like seeing people succeed and better themselves. I like knowing that I’m planting a seed for future generations to be better and that by doing these small tasks, I’m helping the profession—and those who serve it—be something greater.


Tanya Thirlwall is director of sales for Sandler Training in San Antonio, Texas, and the owner of Dynamite Business Coach, LLC. She’s a member of IMA’s Houston Chapter. You can reach Tanya at tanya@tanyathirlwall.com.
4 + Show Comments
    BABU RAZACK November 7, 2020 AT 10:27 am

    Well said Tanya

    Ohijeagbon Osuare Esther November 7, 2020 AT 7:11 am

    I would like to become an IMA member and also volunteer but I currently reside in Nigeria West Africa.Do you have any advice for me how to go about it

    Mary Zisk November 7, 2020 AT 10:23 am

    Here is information about membership: https://www.imanet.org/membership?ssopc=1

    Bud Kulesza CMA CFM November 6, 2020 AT 3:27 pm

    Tanya, I appreciate you sharing your insights on volunteerism and the need and benefits of networking to help others grow. Our interaction has provided me with a greater perspective and help me grow as a leader! From one leader to another, THANKS!

Comments are closed.

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