What draws a young accountant and senior assurance associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to take a position at a small supply-chain technology and services company with 75 employees? The same thing that draws the person to teach accounting and business ethics nationwide, serve as an area governor for Toastmasters, and even swing dance on a weekly basis: a natural drive and sense of curiosity.
The Edge sat down with Elizabeth Pittelkow, CPA.CITP, CGMA, a 2013 graduate of the AICPA Leadership Academy, to learn a bit more about what makes this unique young woman tick.
Wearing a Variety of Hats
A senior accounting manager with ArrowStream, Inc., Elizabeth was drawn to the small company through a desire to help it grow, and she is appreciative that the company allows her to spread her wings. In her current role, she oversees Accounts Receivable, manages the financial policies for the company, and performs month-end reporting and controls testing. She also manages shareholder relations and her interest in the risk management side of finance has her managing insurance for the company.
Another one of Elizabeth’s interests is in marketing, so she helps ArrowStream with marketing and public relations by reviewing press releases, writing blogs, and editing. As if that is not enough, she is also co-founder of the company’s Business Continuity Committee, organizes company philanthropic endeavors, and serves as the president of the company’s Toastmasters chapter.
“When I left PwC, I thought I would end up at another big company, she said. “However, I landed at a small private company because I loved the mix of meaningful projects and skilled people collaborating on them.”
A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Elizabeth continued the family tradition of finance, albeit the first female in her family to do so. She ended up falling in love with accounting after her first class, and graduated with both accounting and finance degrees. She now enjoys serving as a business career mentor for several students at the University of Illinois to help guide them in their academic journeys and show them potential career paths.
“IT, economics, business valuations, forensics, and more; there are so many avenues available to accountants that I did not know as a student,” she said. “We are not boxed in as accountants if we do not want to be.”
The Ethical Choice
Elizabeth refuses to be boxed in. Her natural curiosity and drive inspire her to volunteer in a variety of venues that have opened up further opportunities. For example, her involvement in the Illinois CPA Society’s Ethics Committee led to her teaching ethics classes at the state and national levels.
“The research is fascinating as to why fraud happens and why seemingly ethical people make unethical decisions.” said Elizabeth, who taught a class with an accountant who was arrested and served jail time for fraud. “Frequently, fraud is committed to protect people. An error temporarily fixed to protect the shareholders can quickly and unintentionally turn into fraud. In most cases, there are many people involved in cases of fraud. The issue is that no one steps up to say, ‘Hey, I do not feel comfortable with these actions!’”
AICPA Leadership Academy
Naturally, Elizabeth’s drive navigated her interest toward attending the AICPA Leadership Academy.
“I wanted to build my leadership skills and to connect with people from around the country of similar ages and career situations,” said Elizabeth who, as with everything Elizabeth does, spent time researching and analyzing before applying to the Leadership Academy. “I watched the great informational video on the AICPA website, and then I started looking on LinkedIn for people who had attended the Leadership Academy in the past. They looked so impressive and are my accounting heroes! I wanted to live similar experiences and grow my career in similar ways.”
The Leadership Academy had a lasting impression on Elizabeth, especially the positive psychology PERMA model taught there, which helps humans flourish in their overall well being, to reframe negative thoughts, be more positive, and think about how to manage “drains” that zap energy and happiness. She hopes to teach this PERMA model at her own company in the near future.
Summing It All Up
Elizabeth’s varied interests lead her in a variety of directions daily and keep her challenging herself.
“During the Leadership Academy, we were asked to identify activities that make us happy,” she said. When asked to sum up her favorite activities, she admits it was hard to choose between her interest in business ethics, Toastmasters, and her love of swing dancing. “Reflecting on my friends and experiences from the Leadership Academy now makes me really happy, too!”
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