USA What made you become an accountant? Interview for University

Oct 5, 2021
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United States
I am pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting. We have to conduct an interview with an accountant this week.
If you are interested can you answer one, or more, of the below questions.

  • What sparked your interest in this career field?
  • What does a typical day entail in your line of work?
  • What do you like most about your career field?
  • What are some challenges you face in this career choice?
  • How do you handle your work-life balance?
  • What suggestions do you have for someone who is interested in this field?
  • Who else do you recommend I talk to?

Thanks again in advance.
Aug 10, 2020
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United States
What sparked your interest in this career field?

I was lucky to have a 101 professor who was personable and generally had a positive attitude. He did not fit the mold of an introverted "bean counter." He was an encouraging primer for my absorption of the field and outlook on it as a career path. A former Big 4 Partner turned consultant turned professor, he conveyed the image of accounting as a profession that improves living standards for people from all walks of life. I was inspired by the idea that I could someday help small businesses transition out of a "shoe box" accounting system, and from teetering on closure. He was good at telling those kinds of stories.

In contrast, I later had a professor who preferred to tell stories of closing big deals for big companies and making a lot of money. Those are inspiring too for obvious reasons. But I'm not sure if I would've made it my major had that been my initial impression of the profession.

Also, the word accounting is a derivation of accountability. Amongst all the disciplines in the business realm, it is the one that ensures integrity and credibility. It is accountants after all who attest and assure. Markets serve a noble purpose of lifting people out of poverty while creating value for society. The field of accounting provides the framework for ensuring equity, validity, and efficiency in the transactions which comprise those markets.

What does a typical day entail in your line of work?

Lots of communicating. I am constantly in meetings. There is an inconceivable amount of coordination between team members taking place. I specialize in a forensics related field that is industry specific. In a team project there is a divvying of responsibilities simultaneously converging with a melding of efforts. In short, plenty of "unsung heroism" but that is what it takes for a project to succeed. And, since we are perpetually intersecting with regulatory considerations, there is a lot of research that is involved. So, it's a combination of independent research, coordinating efforts, and good old fashion elbow grease.

What do you like most about your career field?

I like that it isn't stagnant despite some popular conceptions. There is a belief that it will be automated by artificial intelligence someday. That is true to the extent that the system processes like recording and reporting will be automated. But the field extends vastly beyond those functions. Accounting exists to provide a framework for consistency and soundness of interpretation for the dynamic environment that is financial markets. Thus it changes as markets change. And, as markets change, stakeholders will require the same soundness and principles in financial reporting upon which they've previously relied. The adaptation and interpretation involved could be done by AI, but that is not the kind of AI people refer to when discussing the automation of accounting. AI that independently uses judgment, offers interpretations, and adapts to markets will transform all industries, not just accounting.

What are some challenges you face in this career choice?

The biggest challenge is trying to stick to a single element of the curriculum. In the business world, it is too easy to "wear different hats." There is a temptation to fixate on something like data crunching, learning more of the nuances of the software analytics than is actually required. Or, when interpreting regulations and pronouncements, it's easy to get enamored by the language of the guidelines. For example, while researching the evidence threshold for issuing an opinion, you might get drawn into the fascinating world of legal arguments. You could spend hours researching cases and legal theory for the sake of enjoyment. It's enriching, but try billing that to a client.

How do you handle your work-life balance?

I am not going to delve too much into this one. I think we're all guilty of getting carried away in our work to better our careers and ultimately our living standards. But lately I've thought about the long-term ramifications. I think we as a society need to think about the world that we're leaving behind for future generations.

What suggestions do you have for someone who is interested in this field?

Accounting is what you make of it. It's a tool for creating value for markets, and markets are a part of every facet of our existence. As far as recorded history goes, it was invented in Italy some 500 years ago. Forgive me if I don't remember the specifics.

It served a purpose, which was to create confidence in stakeholders by ensuring the accuracy and transparency of financial reporting. But that purpose of confidence is compounded by the perhaps infinite number of factors that define what it means to have confidence. It is integrity, ethics, and principles in addition to the popular context of adding up the number of beans.

So, accounting's purpose is to be useful, but useful in a way that is positive and constructive.

Who else do you recommend I talk to?

Talk to someone who isn't an accountant, but whose job somehow requires some type of interaction either directly or indirectly with an accountant or accounting information. Ask that person what accounting means to their job.

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