On Wednesday, June 17, 2020, St. Louis Managing Partner Wendy Henry and Tulsa Manager Mark Fiegener received one of the firm’s highest honors—the BKD PRIDE Award.
PRIDE Awards have been handed out to one partner and one employee each year since 2003. The recipients are nominated by their peers for living out the firm’s guiding principles—passion, respect, integrity, discipline, and excellence—and are recognized during BKD’s annual Leadership Conference.
“Our PRIDE values—the essential glue that binds us together—are the driving force behind all we do. And our commitment to PRIDE is especially critical during this unprecedented global health crisis,” says BKD CEO Ted Dickman.
Trusted advisors rise to the challenge
Those who nominated Wendy and Mark consistently recognized their contributions as firm champions.
One of Wendy’s great accomplishments is the development and growth of BKD’s SKY program. As chair of the SKY Advisory Council, Wendy has made lasting contributions to the firm’s diversity and inclusion initiative and has helped provide and facilitate education, mentorship, connections, and opportunities for many BKDers around the firm. Houston Managing Partner Kimberly McKay worked with Wendy for more than 17 years in BKD’s Colorado Springs office and regards Wendy as a mentor, coach, and friend who has helped her through many challenging times in her career.
Mark started with BKD as an intern in 2013 and has become a highly prominent leader in the Tulsa practice unit. He has repeatedly gone the extra mile as a key participant in the implementation of numerous tools and initiatives—often centered around improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the audit by deploying technology—including BKD’s Audit Phoenix Team, BDMP Technologies, Kira, and MindBridge. Mark’s willingness to take on new challenges is widely admired throughout the firm.
Building knowledge to create lasting change
In the SKY champion role, Wendy has worked through difficult topics like alternative work arrangements, promotion time frames, compensation, and other potentially sensitive subjects, and has worked with individuals at nearly every stage of their career, explains Kimberly.
“Wendy has always made it a point to be an expert in everything that she does. To implement a program like SKY, we really had to understand the business case of why a diversity and inclusion program was important. Wendy not only became an expert in this area—she also helped others to become one as well,” says Kimberly.
Partner Tammy Rivera also worked with Wendy in Colorado Springs before Wendy made the transition to St. Louis managing partner and has served on the SKY council under Wendy’s leadership since inception.
“Wendy has spent countless hours researching the ‘why’ behind SKY. She has worked to become our resident expert in understanding the importance of diversifying our workforce, which in turn diversifies our thought leadership. She then passed along that information to empower the council, the champions in each office, firm leadership, coaches, sponsors and protégés, and employees throughout the firm to influence change,” says Tammy.
Managing Partner Carley Williams has worked directly with Mark on growth strategies, client service, billing, realization and collection activities, recruiting, mentoring, and routine office operations.
“From day one of starting his career, Mark has sought to truly understand how things operate and why things are done the way they are,” says Carley.
The office even gave Mark the nickname Question Mark, since his inquisitive nature often led to multilayered discussions to build his technical, operational, and managerial knowledge base. In addition to seeking out information and mastering tech tools, Mark also leads various training sessions and is an especially passionate leader of the audit team. His co-workers regard him as a kind, patient, and reliable teacher who prepares his team in whichever way they need to be successful.
Partner Travis Webb has been the firm’s leader for adopting and deploying Kira and MindBridge and has worked with Mark throughout these processes.
“Mark immediately understood the opportunities, impact, and leverage points that Kira could bring. His ability to understand the tool and spread that understanding to others helped create greater leverage by highlighting the firm’s potential and placed Oklahoma as the leading practice unit in deploying Kira,” he says. “With any new tool or experience, having a champion makes all the difference.”
Lessons in leadership
Wherever there’s major success, lessons are sure to follow. And for Wendy and Mark, some of these lessons focus on making a difference.
“When you trust the firm and its processes, you trust the individuals it hires and develops. With my team, I freely share our common goals, progress and challenges in achieving those goals, my past mistakes and what I learned from them, and any new information that may empower the team to create potential solutions,” Mark says.
Mark’s leadership is a shining example of the successes that can be reached when individuals lean on trust and further cultivate a culture that values fluid, transparent communication. And the firm’s SKY program has increasingly enhanced this rewarding culture at BKD. Sometimes, creating change means shaking the status quo.
“Developing SKY was all about education,” says Wendy. “I read everything I could get my hands on and intentionally shared this information with our leadership. Before SKY, high-potential women were leaving the firm because they thought they had to choose between BKD and their family, but I knew that didn’t have to be the case.”
There are many moving parts to any strong team, and education is one. The SKY program rose from the ground because Wendy helped spread necessary information throughout the firm. And although there is still work to be done, we have set a course for continued success.
“When there is a problem,” says Wendy, “be part of the solution.”