Why did you go into accounting?

My original plan was to pursue a career in finance, before I realized that accounting was more what I was looking for. I like how the accounting field is very versatile, giving me the opportunity to dabble in tax, consulting, and technology all at the same time. And since every company needs an accountant, I have a wide range of different businesses and industries I could work for and learn about.

Who were your influencers?

One of my greatest mentors is actually one of my supervisors at work. Though we’ve only known each other for a little over a year, what I’ve been able to learn throughout my time working with her has been an invaluable asset to my career. Since entering the firm, I have had the privilege of working alongside her to automate several repetitive processes in the construction, treasury, and payroll department within the firm. Through these experiences, I learned firsthand the true power of technology and started developing the itch to innovate and to make processes around me better and more efficient. She showed me that technology is the future, and the greatest service I could do for myself was to embrace it head on. It’s not just about knowing how to use the technology, but also how to understand it, learn it, apply it, create it, and eventually improve it. Because, as she once told me, “If you feel like there’s probably a faster and better way to do something, find it.”

Do you know what CPAs, CMAs, CGMAs, and CFAs do?

CPAs are accounting professionals who are legally authorized to sign off on financial statements, and are deemed highly proficient in performing audit- and tax-related services. It is definitely the first license I will try to attain. I have heard of the CMA and CGMA certifications as well, but do not personally know of anyone who has gotten them. It is my understanding, however, that people entering managerial positions, such as the role of a controller, typically consider attaining these certifications. Ones I’ve more commonly heard of are the CIA [certified internal auditor] and the CFE [certified fraud examiner], which are for individuals interested in pursuing a career in internal auditing or fraud examination. I actually know of someone who currently has both of those certifications alongside his CPA.

Which areas of accounting are you interested in?

I have a strong interest in pursuing a career in tax. Ever since taking my first tax class, I found myself immediately drawn to the analytical and challenging task of deciphering tax law. Especially since tax laws are constantly changing across different countries, states, and industries every year, I don’t see myself ever running out of new things to learn about. I have also heard about predictive analytics being in its early stages of application in tax, and I think it’s really cool to be entering the field at such a transformative time.

Do AI, RPA, and other technology advances make you concerned about the security of your career?

They actually don’t concern me at all; one simply has to be prepared for them. I think some worry that technology is replacing the role of accountants, when in truth it is simply transforming their role. Technology merely automates the tedious, time-consuming, and routine tasks of the job, freeing up more time for accountants to dedicate to more consulting-based work. Instead of working harder, technology actually helps firms work smarter, allowing them to deliver better and more cost-efficient solutions for their clients. One way to guarantee a place in the future of the profession is to embrace technology.

Understanding the basics of data analytics platforms such as Tableau or Alteryx, or even accounting software such as Power BI or SAP, can give you a real leg up. Especially considering the obscene amount of data available at our fingertips nowadays, the ability to actually filter out the useful tidbits and convey that information in a visual, user-friendly, and easy-to-understand way allows you to successfully gather insights that will help management make better business decisions.

Where do you want to go after graduation, and why?

After graduating from my five-year combined degree program and passing the CPA exam, I plan to explore a career in public accounting. Though the hours will be crazy during busy season, I think it’s a great place to start an accounting career and have the opportunity to learn about tax at an accelerated pace. I also think it’s really cool to constantly be working with the most cutting-edge technologies and business platforms of the accounting industry while learning the ropes of the field itself.

Jeanette Lew is a rising senior at St. John’s University, majoring in accounting and minoring in business analytics. She plans to pursue her master’s in taxation during her fifth year and start sitting for the CPA exam by the end of summer 2020. After that, she looks forward to exploring a career in tax and technology, where she will have the opportunity to offer up technical yet creative solutions to address the complex issues of the accounting field. During her free time, she enjoys travelling to new places and spending time at the seaside.