Accountants are typically depicted as being cold, aloof and impersonal in addition to being boring and dry. Many people believe that accountants spend all of their time counting beans in their offices. I had a hard time believing all the stereotypes about accountants so I set out to clear up their reputation.
I met with Ms. Lisa Jennings, a recent Alberta School of Business alumnus. She was cooperative and incredibly enthusiastic (couldn’t have anything to do with her mundane job…) while answering a few questions.
Sam: When did you graduate from the Alberta School of Business?
Ms. Jennings: In 2008.
Sam: 2008 was a good year. What was your major and minor?
Ms. Jennings: I majored in Accounting. I did not have a minor because I was too busy taking every Accounting class there was. You can’t have too much of a good thing!
Sam: I also have an undeclared minor, but academic reasons were the contributing factor behind this.
Ms. Jennings: You shouldn’t sell yourself short, Sam. My family members are avid readers of your blog. With that being said, we are basically family…
Sam: Down to business. Were you involved in any extracurricular activities in University?
Ms. Jennings: I did not participate in any School of Business activities, as I was involved with Varsity athletics. However, since graduating, I have had the opportunity to attend several events such as the career energizer, CA Alumni Golf tournament, CESA dinner and many others. If I went back to University I would definitely get more involved in the School of Business.
Sam: I heard you were quite the Pandas soccer player in your day. How did you find time to juggle a Varsity sport with your Business studies?
Ms. Jennings: Juggle, pun intended? Playing soccer for the Pandas was one of the highlights of my University career. At times it was challenging as I missed a lot of class. I was the kid who would show up on the mid-term and no one would have seen me before. There were definitely people betting on me to bring down the class average. Fortunately, I had a friend on the U of A Hockey team and our competitive seasons were at different times of the year and we would help each other out with notes and getting up to speed. Many of the professors in the faculty would also go out of their way to make sure I was still getting all the materials I missed. However, on behalf of all student athletes, I want to clarify that writing tests on the road is not an advantage. It typically occurs either while you are on the plane (a little cramped and time does not stop for turbulence or to get a pop from the flight attendant) or on a hotel bed after a game at 10 or 11pm at night.
Sam: People are always betting on me to bring down the class average and I am not even on a Varsity sports team. What do you currently do now?
Ms. Jennings: I am currently a CA working in financial advisory services. My main focus is litigation support (quantify damages related to shareholder disputes, personal injury claims, and loss of income from expropriation) and forensic accounting.
Sam: That sounds pretty impressive. Did you know what you wanted to do when you first started at the School of Business?
Ms. Jennings: I had no idea. I think when I applied to Business I had Marketing as my major.
Sam: You said that you were a CA. I have heard that CASB is a battle. How did you focus and get through this cruel mistress?
Ms. Jennings: I went with the approach of going through it as fast as possible so I could put it behind me. Fortunately, most of my friends were still in University so I didn’t feel as bad studying on the evenings and weekends. The CASB program is relentless at times but it does a great job in preparing you for the UFE, which makes it all worthwhile in the end. I definitely credit the CASB program with my success on the UFE.
Sam: Wow, that is quite impressive. I heard that you are now involved in the CASB program? Why go back to something that people have so much trouble with? What do you do?
Ms. Jennings: What is this? 20 questions? I am very involved in the CASB program as it is important to give back to the profession. After having such as positive experience with CASB, I really looked forward to being part of the program. I am currently an online facilitator, a facilitator mentor, a student mentor and a chat moderator (a bunch of accountants discussing accounting in a chat room for a few hours a week).
Sam: Beautiful words, the profession should be proud to have you. I have heard that you are still studying and writing tests. What are you working on completing now?
Ms. Jennings: I am currently working on a Chartered Business Valuator designation, which is complimentary designation to the CA. It focuses more on finance and business transaction services.
Sam: I have had enough trouble trying to complete my BCom degree. Why Accounting? I have heard that all accountants are dry and boring. You are full of life.
Ms. Jennings: I chose accounting after I discovered my soccer coach for my club team was a CA and he was always at practice, games and travelling with us so I figured it seemed like a good idea. Then I discovered during my first year that accounting was pretty easy for me to get great marks in.
Sam: Sounds like a match made in heaven. Any advice for a BCom student?
Ms. Jennings: Get involved, it is a great time to build friendships with like-minded people.
Sam: That could be a title for my first book. Any advice for a young Business student who does not know what they want to be?
Ms. Jennings: Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to be and don’t expect to get any clarity on what you might want to do after your graduate. As you get different experiences in the world outside of school, you will realize that the business world is full of diverse career choices and it may take years for you to find the perfect fit. As you get out in the ‘real world’, ask questions and if you see something that might interest you, find someone who is currently working in the area and ask them for a few minutes of their time. People love sharing their experiences and it is a great way of getting direction for your career. I have yet to be turned down for a coffee yet.
Sam: Sounds like I can stop worrying. I might ask a few land tycoons to sit down for a coffee. Thank you for your time Ms. Jennings! I wish you all the best in your future accounting endeavors.
There are many negative stereotypes surrounding certain professions in the Business world. I have learned from Lisa Jennings that the accounting stereotypes are not always true. Lisa also inspired my tip of the day:
If you don’t know what you want to be when you “grow up” don’t stress out about it. Find something that makes you happy and stick with it!