What made me want to become a CPA? Well, I have to acknowledge that the 18-year-old me was neither wise nor worldly. When I matriculated to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, I had no specific career plans. After earning an “A” in Accounting 101 and witnessing the stock market crash of 1987, I realized accountants are needed in any economy, declared accounting as my major, and applied to the business school.
The accounting classes were like learning a new language while immersed in a foreign culture. My parents were academics, and I had no background in business. Nothing had context for me, but I was determined to stick with my first choice. When another recession hit as I graduated college, I felt lucky that Coopers & Lybrand (now Pricewaterhouse-Coopers) hired me as an auditor. The summer after I graduated, someone asked me what I’d be doing in my new job. I had no idea.
My first fall in public accounting was rough because I was assigned to several clients that had financial irregularities. I ended up working more overtime than any first-year staff member ever in the Milwaukee office. At times I whispered to myself, “You’re lucky to have a job, you’re lucky to have a job…” just to get through.
Then the moment came where I finally got it. I was ticking and tying payables, and suddenly I knew why it was important. From then on, the job was increasingly fun and interesting. Our office had a large manufacturing base, and unlike many of my coworkers, I loved doing inventories. How else could I get an inside tour of factories and meet the people who did the physical work every day? I discovered how numbers told a story and why the rules mattered. I met a wide variety of people at my clients and recognized commonalities across organizations in completely different industries. And I really enjoyed the “work hard, play hard” lifestyle.
I was told by a few people that I would be a “lifer,” and I did enjoy the work. Then two things changed for me. First, I got married, and began to notice when managers and partners went through the pain of divorce. Work-life balance was definitely not discussed in those days. Second, I became more familiar with the expectations of a partner, which involved client development and sales. I was convinced I could do neither. I never communicated either of these concerns to anyone at the firm, which is a shame. As a result, after just 3½ years, I was recruited away by Coopers & Lybrand alumni to lead an accounting system conversion at a local mutual fund company.
I’ve had an interesting career with many twists and turns, but all along the way I have drawn from my experience in public accounting. With my current company, LeaseCrunch, I feel like I’ve come full circle by working with CPA firms. I’m back among my people! Plus, I’m still married to the same man, I remain a workaholic, and sales are now a foundational part of my job.