In this interview, Ginnette Fernández, RSM Puerto Rico Audit Partner talks about empathy, leadership, and career growth. 


 Could you start by telling us a little bit more about yourself? 

I would say that I’m a very organized and responsible person who feels the need to have everything under control (laughs). I am also Diego’s mother. He’s a 14-year-old with a huge heart and one of the people I most admire in life, not because he’s my son… 

Math was always my favorite subject in school. In fact, it was the only class I knew I was sure to get an A, and it was the only medal I earned as a student. My grandpa was an accountant, my dad is an engineer, and my older sister is also an accountant, so being good at math runs in the family. Actually, my sister was my biggest influence on getting into accounting. When she became a CPA, I was in my last high school year. Since we share many similarities, and I like math, I took it as a sign that accounting would be a good opportunity for me to develop a career. 

Tell us the story of how you came to work in the firm and your career path to partnership.

I started my career at a very small accounting firm. After that, I took a break from work to study for my CPA exam. Then I started working at EY, and then in a local firm again. The time demand from the firm was so high that I would practically get home to put my baby to sleep. I thought to myself: “This is not the life I want.” While my career is very important to me, being a mother is more important.

One day, my good friend Orlando Ríos told me that RSM was looking for an Audit Manager. My reply was: “I am looking for a job, but it has to be a place where I can also fulfill my role as a mother.” After consulting with RSM’s former manager, he said this would be a good place for me. I was interviewed at RSM and started working here in 2011. 

From the beginning, Fernando (Rodríguez Amaro, RIP) and Doris (Barroso) sat down with me, and we talked about my goals. One of them, short term, was to become partner. I knew I had to be responsible, work hard, and prove myself. With their support and guidance, which I am grateful for, I became partner in 2017. 

In the past few years, RSM Puerto Rico has managed to overcome three natural disasters, two hurricanes (María and Fiona) and an earthquake—all of which devastated the island—and a pandemic that changed the way business is done. What has been your strategy to lead your team through such challenging times? 

On a personal level, one certainly becomes more emphatic because, while everyone around you might be facing the same disaster, each person’s circumstances are different and the impact a situation may have on each person is also different. Therefore, it’s important for me to understand each employee and figure out a way to help them to overcome their obstacles and keep moving forward.

As professionals, we have learned different ways to work individually and together. We have adapted and we have learned that you don’t have to be at an office desk to be productive. What you need from employees is their responsibility and commitment to delivering on our promise to our clients. When you are an understanding and flexible employer, your employees will rise to any challenge.

What do you uniquely contribute to the team of partners?

As part of a team, I roll up my sleeves and get to work. I am very hands on. In an engagement, we must all contribute and work together, but if I must do audit proofs, for example, I do it even though that’s not the partner’s role. My question to them is always: “How can I help?” Whatever it takes to serve the client and deliver, that’s what I will do. Additionally, I am genuinely interested in my team’s wellbeing beyond work. I want to know that they are thriving in all aspects of their life. They know they can always come and talk to me. 

How are things changing in the practice of your specialization that is reshaping businesses?

In Audit, things are constantly changing. Therefore, auditors must always be on top of their game. Our role has grown from the traditional tasks expected of an auditor. Clients now rely on our expertise and look to us as guides and advisors. 

How do you envision the future of the firm?

Promising. I see the firm growing at a fast and steady pace. Which trickles down to everyone who works here, especially for those with hefty goals. We are very proud to foster an environment where employees can grow hand in hand with our firm. As soon as our talent is ready for the next level they get the promotion, and we figure out their path as a team. 

And what about you as a person outside of work – what do you like to do in your free time?

Quality time with my son is most important; we play beach tennis together. I like exercising in the morning because it energizes me (although I have lots of energy), it makes me feel good, well, happy. I enjoy going to the beach and spending time with friends and family. My family is very close, and we are always looking for things to do together. Oh, and music! I love music. I think I was a singer in another life. Not in this one, though! (laughs)


This is the fourth delivery in a series of interviews to our partners and leadership, in lieu of the firm’s 45th anniversary celebration and inspired by an internal communication initiative by RSM International.