For many, achieving a senior-level position within an organization follows a prescribed career path: education, credential, work experience, promotions, etc. Mine could not have been further from that. I took a very untraditional career route that has led me to my current position, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Here’s my story:
It started with my graduation from high school at 16 and one year of college. At the time I left college, I had a job and an income−what more did I need?
I came to North Carolina and worked for an international finance company. There I met my mentor and the man to whom I credit much of my success: Harry Berzack. An attorney, engineer and chartered accountant, Harry taught me how to keep books manually−in ledgers and journals−which I really enjoyed. He saw my potential and helped me realize that if I was ever going to advance my career, I needed a degree. It was a defining moment. At 25 years old I determined to go back to school and study accounting.
I earned my degree at age 30 from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, while working full time. I had set my sites on public accounting but learned that most firms hired only entry-level candidates. Because I was older and had more work experience, I decided to continue in business.
Meanwhile, I became very motivated to obtain my CPA and put those letters after my name. I understood that they would help me stand out from others. The first opportunity I got, I took the CPA exam and passed.
After obtaining my CPA license, my career path began to accelerate and took me to a variety of companies that provided advancement and rich learning experiences. I served as an accounting manager and controller for a manufacturer and worked for an international company. I was part of a small management team hired to position a distributor for growth, which we did–growing revenue from $9 million to $18 million in two years. When the revenue doubled, the owners sold the company to Masco Corporation.
During my nine-year tenure as divisional vice president of finance at Masco, I grabbed the opportunity to participate in their select cohort MBA program offered through Eastern Michigan University. I received my MBA when I was 45 years old.
As the recession took full swing in November 2008, I was downsized as many of my colleagues have experienced. Within nine months, I was hired as vice president of business, industry and government at the AICPA. What a perfect spot for me. Every day I use the skills I acquired in business to help AICPA members do their best work as financial executives.
Who inspired you to follow the path you’ve taken and where has it led you? I’m eager to hear your story and hope you will consider sharing it. Simply submit it for future publication to firstname.lastname@example.org.