Employee Spotlight: Mariam Abarientos

By: Matt Hays, Senior Proposals Manager
Lewis employee Mariam Aberientos

Since joining Lewis in 1996, Mariam has grown from staff accountant to accounting supervisor and now accounting manager, responsible for general ledger, accounts receivable, and job cost. She is also a leader in Lean as co-chair of our Lean Committee, turning ideas into process improvements in her own department, and helping spread Lean improvements throughout Lewis.

Outside of work, Mariam loves the arts and giving back to her community. She paints in watercolor, designs and creates crystal jewelry, and enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter. Mariam is an alumni board member at the Seattle University Albers School of Business and Economics, and serves on the Board of Directors of International Community Health Services.

MH: What is your typical day like?
MA: My day varies with different responsibilities providing oversight to Lewis Accounting’s Seattle operations and the overall company. Most are behind the scenes. I start the week with a team huddle so that we are aligned on our priorities for the week—we could have 50-100 unique items that we each do once a month, and we have to coordinate our efforts to get everything done in the right sequence and meet deadlines. During the first quarter of each year, I prepare the annual audit for our external CPA while coordinating quarterly and monthly financial closing activities for internal users. Sometimes, project audits are also happening at the same time. The fun part is whether we have 10 operation jobs or 100, all of these activities still have to be done within the month, quarter, and year.

MH: That’s a lot to do!  What’s your favorite part?
MA: My favorite part is to be able to bring the financial pieces together into meaningful information: internally for leaders to make sound business decisions and externally for correct representation of our financials to our clients and other outside users. That brings me a lot of fulfillment knowing you’ve helped put it all together into meaningful information to guide internal and external users to the best decisions they can make.

MH: For those who don’t work in Accounting, how would you describe your core mission?
MA: My core mission is to bring added value to our clients, both externally and internally, through the integrity and accuracy of our financial reporting. I have an ethical responsibility to both the company (including our employee-owners) and its external users. The accounting department is a lean service enterprise, where most of the transactions are centralized so it’s important to be efficient, but at the same time ensure that the integrity of the information is there so that both internal and external clients can make the best informed decisions. Also, it’s important to note that even though we’re a service department, we are also team members that contribute to the project’s success.

MH: You’ve helped drive our company Lean culture for years.  When did you get into Lean, and what are some areas where it’s helped?
MA: I got into Lean in 2011. I’ve always been curious and open to new ideas. When I saw the 5S training video, I took it upon myself to convert the knowledge to my area and improve current processes. I looked at our then very manual process, applied the 6S concepts (sort, straighten, shine, standardize, sustain, and we added safety), and automated our processes using Excel queries. It saved a lot of man hours, which I can use to do something more value-adding. I continually applied the process to other areas of work throughout the years, making small incremental changes, but it paid big dividends over time. Being part of the Lean Committee also broadened my view point and gave me a lot of tools to apply at work, and in turn I share the lean concepts and ideas with others as much as I can.

MH: For example?
MA: One of the things we do daily is cash management. We manage more than a dozen bank accounts daily to ensure all cash levels and transfers are reviewed and completed. Part of that daily process involves a great deal of report printing, re-keying the data into a paper form, manually calculating our cash requirements, and record retention. Now, linked worksheets automatically calculate cash requirements at the touch of a button.

MH: What is your philosophy as a supervisor?
MA: My leadership philosophy is to empower my team so that they can make the best decision even in my absence. The best asset a company can have are its people, so provide them with the resources they need to help them achieve the vision of the company. I paint a compelling picture to my team of where we want to be in the future, and then look back to figure out how to attain our goals. Along the way, I try to make it fun as well since we spend more waking hours in a day at work. My leadership style is collaborative, investing in my team members by providing support and giving them autonomy to make decisions in their projects, as long as we’re aligned.

MH: How does safety relate to your work, and what does Working Safe for Life mean to you?
MA: Safety goes beyond the confines of the office. At work, safety could be as simple as making sure I turn my lamp off before I go home to prevent fire hazards. Outside of work, when driving on the road, I ask myself: am I being safe to my passengers and the drivers around me? At home, am I keeping my family safe with the decisions I make? Working safe for life is a mind share and a way of life and has become second nature to me.

MH: Any advice for a young accountant?
MA: I’ve met a great deal of wonderful young accountants who wanted to make a difference in the world overnight. What I can say is this: Be patient. Success and significance will come in time. Instead, build your character—honesty, integrity, hard work, excellence, genuine kindness—these are building blocks that will take one further down the road.  Always do your work with excellence and be a lifelong learner—always curious, open to new ideas, always growing with a relentless pursuit of improving.

MH: What would surprise people to know about you?
MA: I have a deep passion for music. I used to be part of a praise band for many years where I served as lead vocals and played percussions as well. I also facilitated retreats for youth and young adults and still keep contact with most. It’s amazing to see the young groups of people grow and mature into great individuals that they are now.