On St. Patrick’s Day 2016, dressed in a professional green suit, I successfully defended my PhD dissertation, crossing a stepping-stone on my path to living my dream, a dream that the CPA designation has made a reality.
I first became aware of accounting as a sophomore in high school, when I took an introductory accounting course to fill an open elective. I knew from the first class that I had discovered a new interest. The instructor magnified that feeling through his engaging teaching skills and concern for students, giving us an awareness of the many exciting opportunities for CPAs. I decided that I was going to attend college and major in accounting.
Between graduating from college and becoming a CPA, I focused on public auditing, serving a variety of clients and traveling to different places. After that, I did manual accounting system for a subsidiary of a public corporation, and then explored internal auditing. These experiences gave me a foundation for advancement, but I soon realized that my vision was incomplete.
At that point, I asked a partner of a public accounting firm, “Should I become a CPA?” The answer was, “Only if you want to stay in a public accounting firm.” Every classified advertisement and recruiter I consulted, however, stated that the CPA was the preferred candidate for countless positions. I realized that the CPA designation was an important part of my résumé and future career path.
My first position after passing the CPA exam was with Westinghouse, where I worked for 12 years. I progressed from coordinating payroll and tax information for expatriates living overseas, to performing accounting duties for various divisions in one of the business units, to managing financial planning in the science and technology center, which consisted of approximately 800 employees. There, I worked with engineers and scientists involved with commercial and government contracts.
During this time, I also completed my master’s degree at night school. Afterward, I started teaching part-time for Carnegie Mellon University. Toward the end of my career at Westinghouse, I decided to start my own accounting and taxation consulting practice.
I also had a strong desire to continue teaching in higher education; as an instructor and academic advisor, I felt great satisfaction helping students learn and begin their own careers. My part-time work expanded to other universities, including Robert Morris University, Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Duquesne University, and I discovered that teaching was my true passion. But to teach full time, I would need my PhD. It took more years of hard work, but today my dream is a reality.
The CPA license has enriched my life and afforded me the opportunity to enjoy my work every day. As the president of my current university has said, “Sometimes achievements appear improbable, but they are not impossible.” Words like “I’m too old” or “I don’t have enough time” are excuses preventing you from success. Throughout my career as a CPA, when one door closed, another door opened. At different points in my life, the CPA designation provided flexibility in both my career and my personal lifestyle. I encourage all readers, CPAs and potential CPAs alike, to be happy, have fun, aim high, and keep dreaming.