- October 17, 2019
The path Catherine Palmisano took to become a senior audit manager of a large accounting firm — where her department’s revenue has grown threefold under her leadership — before turning 40 was nontraditional.
It started when she graduated high school, with a newborn baby in tow. She worked retail jobs, including a as cashier for Eckerd drug stores, where she recalls the salary barely covered child care for her baby daughter, Marqasia. Then she learned about the Gladiolus Learning and Development Center in Fort Myers, a nonprofit that provides child care for working adults who can’t afford it. “When you have a child, and you’re not really sure where else to go, you need a place like this,” Palmisano says. "It allowed me to go to college.”
Palmisano made the most of the opportunity. While continuing to work in retail, she attended Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers and graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in accounting as a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society. She got a job at Hughes, Snell & Co., one of more established Fort Myers accounting firms, after graduation. Palmisano started as a staff accountant, earned her masters at FGCU while working — and while her daughter was a toddler — and later developed the firm’s audit and accounting internship programs.
Now a senior audit manager, Palmisano has worked with the firm’s managing partner on quality control standards and processes. She has also started and grown a firm specialty, in employee benefit plan audits. “Catherine is a role model for young mothers, working women and the next generation of professionals,” HSC Partner Sharon Thompson says in Palmisano’s 40 under 40 nomination.
Palmisano also hasn’t forgotten the GLAD program that provided a child care lifeline. (Her daughter, Marqasia Solomon, is now taking classes at Hillsborough Community College.) She spent more than a decade on the program’s board, as treasurer and assisting with myriad other accounting and financial work. Over the years she has helped the group turn around its finances, going from drawing a line of credit to make payroll to paying off debt and having positive cash flow. More recently, she helped facilitate the merger of GLAD Center with the Heights Center.“[GLAD] has been a big part of my life,” Palmisano says.
ON THE RECORD: Catherine Palmisano
City of residence: Fort Myers
Employer: Hughes, Snell & Co.
Title: Senior Audit Manager
Birthplace: Weymouth, Mass.
Years on the Gulf Coast: 27
Marital status/children Single with one daughter
Alma mater/degree Florida Gulf Coast University: Master of Science in accounting and taxation
Where is the best place to network? Events with my best clients and referral sources as they are your best "advertising"
What's the best business lesson you've ever learned? "All professionals should be expected to have a personal career strategy for making themselves continually more valuable in the marketplace." — David H. Maister
What's your top tip for being productive? Make a plan, and protect my "thinking time" by blocking out time in my schedule.
What's the weirdest job you've ever had? I've only had five jobs, including being a mother. I'd have to say being a mom was the weirdest. Being in charge of a little person can get a little strange sometimes.
What community group or organization are you most involved with? Gladiolus Learning and Development Center
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be? Doing something with environmental science. I almost switched my major in college from accounting to environmental science, and it is still a passion of mine.
What's your favorite off-hours activity? Spending time with family, working out, traveling and enjoying Southwest Florida waterways.
What's your favorite board game or video game? Mexican train/dominoes
What's the top item on your bucket list? To visit every continent at least once
Where is your happy place? Nothing is better than having my toes in the sand. Floating in the waves or lying under the hot sun is all I need to just unwind. Whenever I just need a day to breathe and decompress, the beach is the first place I always want to go to.
What's your favorite podcast? "The GaryVee Audio Experience"
Who/what is your favorite musical artist/band? I have a lot across several genres, but probably Bob Marley.
Who would play you in a movie about your life? Toni Collette. Literally everywhere I go, people say I remind them of her.
What was your first album/tape cassette/CD? First cassette: Paula Abdul "Straight Up"
What was your first concert? Reba McEntire
What's one song that will get you out on the dance floor? "Just Fine" — Mary J. Blige
What's your favorite karaoke song? "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" — Whitney Houston
What instrument/role would you play in a band? Drums because keeping the beat allows the entire band to stay together
Please describe yourself in three words. Motivated, ambitious and leader