Five years ago, I was working on an audit near Sacramento, Calif., having lunch with my manager and another auditor from the CPA firm where I worked. We talked about our career goals. I said that I hoped to be working as a manager one day or even to make partner at a major CPA firm. I really loved auditing and thought that I was really good at it. I like looking at internal controls, detecting problems, tracing their roots, and creating solutions. I followed my work as an external auditor with work in tax, as well as some work in internal audit, internal finance, and internal accounting.
Today, I am not an auditor at a major CPA firm, but I am using the skills I acquired in public accounting in ways I had not anticipated. I have a private consulting practice advising businesses in emerging technologies and industries, and I am building software to help clients with their businesses. In addition to providing accounting and financial advisory services, my work has ranged from creating a luxury coffee brand to helping launch an aircraft distributorship and financing company.
One of my entrepreneurial interests has been in financial technology (fintech), and I have used the knowledge I have attained to help launch my consulting practice. Fintech is emerging technology that is aimed at improving accounting, payment processing, and other financial services and systems. This ranges from mobile banking to blockchain and cryptocurrencies. I am very excited about blockchain technology and its potential for making transactions and accounting more efficient and secure. I love the idea of using encrypted software that can execute financial transactions using code instead of accountants, can handle supply-chain management functions, and is virtually 100% auditable. Currently, many startups and large corporations are creating and refining these types of financial systems. Accounting firms are also starting to investigate how they can work with blockchain to better serve their clients. There are some critics of blockchain technology, primarily as it relates to cryptocurrencies, but I think it is important to be at the forefront of emerging technologies and industries and understand how they can be used to beneficially conduct business.
I am also a partner at a software startup made up of lawyers and accountants who endeavor to solve problems and automate procedures we come across while advising our clients. For our first project, we built Cannaledger, a software system targeted at addressing unique compliance issues faced by cannabis companies. Cannaledger tracks seed-to-sale transactions for the growing cannabis industry, which has stringent supply chain management regulations related to auditing, inventory management, and chain of custody, as well as unique cash management and tax needs. We built our product and continue to update it to address our clients’ needs, along with emerging regulations affecting the industry.
Although my focus a few years ago was in public accounting, the transition from auditing to software development actually makes sense to me. Since graduate school, I have worked for a variety of organizations, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to CPA firms, and recently for government organizations. Despite their differences, they were all transitioning to a new operating system (e.g., Oracle, PeopleSoft, Workday). In some cases they were using the same general ledger system they were using in the 1970s, so I had to use my accounting and technology skills to bring them into the 21st century.
Migrating to Oracle is not a simple task. I had to learn how each business process worked, document them all, suggest changes, and present my ideas to developers. Once the new system was in effect, my role changed to making sure the new system worked correctly, determining that the new system had the correct accounting information from the legacy system, adjusting journal entries, and suggesting further changes to the developers.
As a CPA who understands accounting functions, has worked with several broken systems, and designed workarounds, I now have the opportunity to build something great from the ground up.