Behind the W: Megan Kahnk

August 6, 2018

Megan Kahnk grew up in Iowa, studied accounting at the University of Northern Iowa, and now is based out of the Workiva headquarters in Ames as a Professional Services Team Manager, after working in different cities for KPMG.

We asked Megan about her work, the eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) that public companies use to tag data in their financial disclosures to the SEC, and the time she traveled halfway around the world.

What does the Professional Services team do at Workiva?
We work mostly with XBRL. Professional Services Managers work with customers based on their filing times and their deadlines. The customers go through and update their documents, and then we apply XBRL to all their numbers and make sure they’re good to go before filing.

Generally, we work with customers who file with the SEC for their normal US GAAP XBRL. We’ve also been working with IFRS—which is a different accounting standard, different taxonomy—and CIPC, which is for South African filings. They’re all different taxonomies and have slightly different rules.

What do you like about working at Workiva?
I like that it’s constantly changing. The company has changed so much, but XBRL has also evolved. We know a lot more about data quality, what analysts are using, and what’s important to them. It’s exciting to me. It doesn’t feel like you’re doing the same thing you were doing four years ago.

I also like the people. Everything is about teamwork. People genuinely want to help out. Things come up, no matter how much you try to plan and work ahead, and everybody is such a part of a team here that people jump in automatically without even being asked. It’s a fun environment to work in.

What are your team members' backgrounds?
One came from public accounting. One came from a REIT, doing accounting work. The other came from the private real estate industry, and one joined after college. She interned with us, and we hired her after her internship.

What is your opinion about the future of XBRL?
I don’t foresee it going away. I think it will evolve. We’ll get more understanding of how people are using it, and it will become a little bit easier to apply more broadly and to multiple organizations. All these other countries and different taxonomies have said, “This is useful, and we want to use it, too.” I definitely don’t see them cutting it back. I think they’ll find ways to make it more usable as there’s more data and it gets more commonplace among companies.

What is the biggest change you have seen with XBRL?
When I started, it was very much about getting things tagged and applied. Now that we’re getting to the point that basically everybody’s established in XBRL, especially in US GAAP, the focus has shifted to quality.

Since I started, there have been a lot of taxonomy implementation guides created. FASB sends them out to provide more guidance around their intentions—how they’ve structured the taxonomy to make it more consistent across companies, so information is more usable.

Any time they put something out, we go through every document and make sure our tagging is in line with the guidance they’ve given us, whether we’ve tagged it or somebody in the past has tagged it.

So do you have long hours? It sounds like a lot of work.
We’ve really tried to push a lot of that work up. We know when the implementation guides are coming out. We can see drafts they have out there, so we know what they’re planning.

Right after customers file and they start working on their next quarter, we can get in and start updating areas where we know the structure is going to be the same, but we just need to change the tagging.

It’s still a lot of work and a lot of hours, but we’ve definitely made progress in trying to spread out the hours and do more of the work upfront.

What are your thoughts on the SEC phasing in requirements for financial statement information to be filed in Inline XBRL, or iXBRL?
It really doesn’t change the tagging process that much. Basically, what iXBRL does is lay data over the top of a document, so when you’re reading financials, you can click on a number and see what tag is applied. We actually get fewer questions from customers when they adopt iXBRL.

What is the best compliment from a customer?
When you get customers that don’t want to let you go. That’s the biggest compliment because it means they trust you. They know the quality you’re giving them is good. They can count on you to get everything done.

Do you have any advice for customers as we dig into the second half of the year?
The one thing we’ve learned in our department is to make sure everybody is on the same page with expectations. As long as you have open communication—if everybody knows what’s going on—you can handle anything that gets thrown at you. You can make sure you have extra resources or be available after hours or weekends or mornings if they have filings.

What do you do for fun? 
I like to attempt to cook and bake. We like to travel as much as we can. We have a three-year-old, and we’re expecting another in a couple weeks, so it’s going to get a little harder. I also enjoy just spending time with family and friends and being outside when it’s nice.

What music do you listen to when you are trying to get work done?
Man, these are harder than the accounting questions. All I can think of right now is Imagine Dragons. My Pandora station is set to Ed Sheeran or Mumford and Sons. They’re generally upbeat but not so in your head that you can’t continue to work.

Is there anything people would be surprised to know about you?
I feel like I’m an open book. I think people assume I grew up in Iowa and stayed here after college and never left. But I kind of bounced around for a while. I lived in Arizona for a little bit, I lived in Minneapolis for a little bit, I lived in Washington, D.C. I studied abroad in New Zealand. I was in Columbus, Ohio, for a couple of years.

Nice. How was New Zealand?
I loved it. My best friend in college wanted to study abroad too, so we ended up going together, which was perfect. On the way over, we spent about 10 days in Fiji. Then, we were in New Zealand. At the end we spent a couple weeks in Australia. I can’t wait to go back.

Learn how our Professional Services team can help you with XBRL and iXBRL.