Celebrating Native American Heritage Month
Colaine Curtis is an Accounting Specialist Manager with REDW’s Client Advisory and Accounting Services (CAAS) practice. Colaine joined REDW in 2015, bringing valued accounting experience in both private industry and Tribal government. Since joining the firm, Colaine has specialized in providing financial and compliance engagements for Tribal governments, enterprises, and healthcare corporations. She is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation and holds both a Bachelor of Accountancy and Master of Business Administration from New Mexico State University.
Q: WHY DID YOU CHOOSE FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING AS A PROFESSION?
My mom is my inspiration. She was an accountant and retired with the Navajo Nation years ago. As she did not earn a four year accounting degree, most of her training was on the job, working her way up the ranks to become a budget analyst with the Navajo Headstart Program. I remember her taking me to her office and watching her work the green ledgers and 10 key calculators—she was really good at it!
As I contemplated different career paths, I decided accounting was my calling and soon discovered I was pretty good at it as well. I’ve also had many mentors throughout my career, mentors who supported me and were an important part of my growth and success. Teaching others and sharing this knowledge, whether its within our team or outside of the firm, is something I will continue to do.
Q: HOW DO YOU WANT TO GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY THAT YOU CAME FROM?
I was born and raised on the Navajo Nation. During summer and winter breaks, I would return to the reservation and find work within my Tribe’s government, earning money for college and working to gain some experience. After earning my accounting degree, I decided to join a non-tribal organization and moved away from the reservation for a few years. This experience proved invaluable as I was able to use it to further my career goals. I later returned to the reservation and accepted opportunities to work within my Tribe as a Controller for two different entities. I was prepared to take on this role, giving back to my Tribe in terms of my knowledge and experience.
“As a tribal member, I was always passionate in ensuring the success of my Tribe’s entities. It is a passion that I retain today.”
Q: AS AN EMERGING LEADER AT REDW, WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE?
REDW’s National Tribal Practice sets us apart from others within this industry and is something I am very proud to be a part of. It’s also why I am very passionate about what I do. Growing up in a small, rural community, we did not have access to a lot of the conveniences we enjoy in the city, so I understand the needs of our tribal communities and the challenges we have always faced.
In my seventh year at REDW, I’ve had the privilege to work with many Tribes throughout the country alongside the many professionals at REDW; this gives me an appreciation for what we do and why we do it. I believe there are more opportunities to expand our services to many more Tribes throughout the country. The demand for the services we offer continues to grow and being an integral part of this growth is exciting!
Q: WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SAY TO OTHER NATIVE AMERICANS INTERESTED IN THIS FIELD, ESPECIALLY OUR YOUNGER INDIVIDUALS?
Much to my surprise (!) my daughter decided to pursue a career in accounting. I was so happy when she told me this. Her desire stems from the importance of accounting in our everyday lives. She expressed to me that one day, she would like to start her own business, and as having a background in accounting is a key component to any successful business, I could not agree more. So, if the goal is to become a successful entrepreneur or become a Controller, CFO, a career in accounting is very rewarding. If these opportunities navigate you back to your Tribes, even better!
“Our tribal governments are always in need of strong accountants, so I would encourage our youth, including my daughter, to think about how they would give back to their communities after earning their education. Earning an education and bringing that knowledge back to your Tribe is something I’ve always advocated for.”