A sense of place

“I love Houston. It’s a phenomenal place that’s not fully recognized by those outside,” says Tandra Jackson.

For Tandra, who’s lived in the city for more than 20 years, and is Managing Partner of KPMG’s Houston Office, these words are backed up by action. She serves on a number of charitable boards contributing to the health, education and wider economy of her fellow citizens.

“It’s kind of in my family’s DNA to support your community. From a young age we were taught that we should help others who may have greater needs than us. Among other things, I volunteered in women’s shelters, which certainly opened my eyes to different experiences.”

Nowadays Tandra is bringing some of her professional skills to bear in areas like governance, technology and recruitment.

With a place on the Board of Ronald McDonald House of Houston, for example, she is part of a team that assists families with seriously ill children. “It’s a relatively small organization resources wise and doesn’t have a full-time CIO. So, when it needed new service providers for systems and infrastructure, I was able to write the requests for proposals, and help set out processes for evaluating vendors. I’ve done this many times for KPMG so it made perfect sense to get involved.”

By contrast her work for the board of Central Houston Inc. – a foundation dedicated to strengthening the economic base of the city’s downtown area – has focused more on organizational culture, specifically driving innovation and helping recruit the right talent.

“City centers are a vital part of the fabric of society and we have to ensure they stay vibrant and progressive – to attract businesses, people and maintain and improve quality of life.”

Tandra is a firm believer in following your passions – hence her involvement as a founding member of the Houston chapter of CEOs Against Cancer, a network of American Cancer Society executive supporters.

“A few years back my husband was diagnosed with cancer, so I can relate to the distress this disease causes to families and friends. Health and wellness are very important to everyone and I’m glad to offer my services to ensure that those impacted by cancer get the kind of support and comfort when it’s most needed.”

In addition to the satisfaction of making a difference to others’ lives, Tandra feels that charitable work also brings professional rewards.

“You meet an incredibly broad range of people from many parts of Houston’s commercial, industrial, and civic community. As we all know, networks play an important role in business life, and the contacts and relationships I’ve made have enhanced my performance and my career significantly. I’ve also learned a lot from many of the impressive people I’ve worked alongside.”

As managing partner, Tandra is responsible for a large, thriving practice of 1,200 partners and professionals. Subsequently, one question she’s often asked is how to balance work, volunteering and home life.

“I can’t pretend it’s easy, and occasionally I can feel conflicted, for example if I have a demanding client engagement that clashes with a charitable board meeting. Most of the time I am able to meet my charitable commitments, but on occasion I seek back-up from some of our younger KPMG professionals. When the Greater Houston Partnership, which champions regional growth, required help with recruiting, I brought in two of our directors who were specialists in this area. They did an amazing job and hopefully the project has sown the seeds for them to continue volunteering in the future.”

Our discussion with Tandra took place just ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2019, and she’s a firm believer that a charitable board role can be a sound career move for women in particular.

“It’s no secret that we’re only part of the way along the journey to get more women on boards of major public companies. The experience of nonprofit work – and the exposure to other professional and business contacts – can definitely help us further down that road.”

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