Alisa Margolis went to law school with one goal: to become a trial lawyer. "I loaded up on trial courses, including taking clinics involving litigation and earning a spot on the Moot Court Honor Society trial team. I did, however, take a few tax courses just in case anything related to the topic showed up on the bar exam. (It didn't.)"
To her surprise, she really liked the coursework, its analytical bent, and its potential for having a significant impact. Notwithstanding this flirtation with tax law, Margolis stuck to her guns and became a trial lawyer, working in the South Bronx for the Legal Aid Society, Juvenile Rights Practice.
The tax itch, however, persisted, and after a couple of years she went to work in the Tax Division of the U.S. Department of Justice as a trial lawyer representing the Internal Revenue Service in district court and bankruptcy court. While at the Justice Department she pursued her LL.M. in taxation at Georgetown Law School and made the decision to move on from trial work to transactional tax.
Margolis then worked for a law firm in New York (LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae) and subsequently Deloitte, focusing on international tax planning. She was given the opportunity to work in-house for GE Capital in 2005 as the international tax counsel for the consumer business and subsequently became an operational business-facing tax director with GE Capital and then with Amazon Web Services in Seattle, where she is today.
An Excellent Journey
Becoming a tax professional has been an evolving journey for Margolis. "Joining Deloitte from a law firm gave me the opportunity to begin to learn to manage people, gave me insight into financial reporting and tax compliance, and allowed me to work on a wide variety of clients," she says. "The move in-house to GE Capital gave me the opportunity to learn firsthand what matters to the CFO, C-suite, and other business partners (and to work in both Paris and London). One of the first CFOs I worked for at GE used to say tax people are from Mars and other finance people are from Venus. What she meant is, we weren't speaking the same language. Learning how to avoid 'tax speak' and break complex tax concepts down to what the business actually cares about was a critical lesson I learned and continue to learn."
The Amazon Experience
Amazon, and in particular the Amazon Web Services (AWS) business line, is a company that is constantly changing and disrupting, notes Margolis. "It has phenomenal...