Quirky Careers in Accounting: Chicken Counter 

Career Development 

What’s the oddest assignment you’ve ever had, either in your present position or perhaps a high school or college job? When most people think of accounting as a career, they picture an office environment with a fairly traditional tax or audit workload.

By now, young CPAs know this can, indeed, be very far from the truth. Take Jamie McCoy’s quirky assignment with Ernst & Young, for example.

Fresh out of college, Jamie—a CPA and senior manager with Jay & Associates, P.C. in Tulsa, Oklahoma and a graduate of the 2010 AICPA Leadership Academy—landed a staff position with E&Y. In the six years he spent with the firm, he had many rewarding and memorable experiences as he progressed into a management role—but there is one particular audit that sticks out in his mind when he reflects back on his early career.

“As a staff accountant, I was assigned to do an inventory by an out-of-state audit team,” he says. “The client was a poultry producer with a farm in eastern Oklahoma. I left my house in Tulsa at 3:30 a.m. When I arrived at the farm at 5 a.m., I was directed to a locker room, told to leave my clothes in a locker, and then met with plant members on the other side of a bay of showers. There, I found clothes laid out for me to wear.”

Still quite “in the dark” as to what the day would entail, Jamie suited up in the coveralls, T-shirt, socks, and work boots and went to meet with the plant controller. The two proceeded to head to the nearest chicken house.

“I soon realized that the chicken houses hold hundreds of birds in all different sizes,” says Jamie. “Throughout the day, we counted everything from baby chicks to older birds that were considered to be the farm’s prized genetic stock. Each time we left a different sector of the farm, we had to return to the office and fully wash down our truck’s exterior and interior, shower and change clothes. Ultimately, I took over 10 showers that day.

“It’s probably the cleanest I’ve ever been!” he continues. “I also had to wash my hands every time I entered or left a building in order to comply with prescribed health standards. I guess I washed my hands at least 70 times that day. It was definitely a crazy experience for me.”

Jamie could have cried “fowl” during the assignment, but instead chose to stick it out—making what was probably a wise decision that kept him gainfully employed. With that said, in the process of counting chickens, Jamie also learned that not every part of every job is glamorous or what’s expected.

“No matter what the quirky experience might be, it’s still no less important than any ‘normal’ project.”

Today, in his position with Jay & Associates, Jamie is responsible for SEC accounting consulting, and overseeing audits in and around Tulsa/Northeastern Oklahoma. Although he hasn’t had any other quite-so-quirky assignments that top the poultry farm, Jamie looks at each new project as an opportunity to teach, learn, and make a difference.

According to career experts, an assessment is often made about how “conventional” a job is based on pay and benefits. However, success and longer-term career satisfaction is drawn more from what will be learned in doing the job rather than the perks. Long-term, acquired learning helps professionals in all industries draw on their experiences to better face the challenges that can come from unexpected assignments.

Jamie seconds this, with a final piece of advice: “Enjoy the quirky experience and have fun with it. Look upon it as an experience that not many staffers or CPAs will get or expect, but know that it will always hold a special, funny place in your memory.”

Do you have a quirky career in accounting? If so, send us a note and we’ll consider you for an upcoming Edge article.


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