Go ahead, ask. How the hell did you get into accounting?
Whenever I tell people the industry I’ve been working in for the past 10 years, people always get that glazed look in their eye. “What? Like you write about accounting? That’s a thing?”
I didn’t always have this dream (note sarcasm here).
But here’s the story:
I always had the desire to move to New York City. It’s where my parents are originally from and where we would go to visit extended family, I always just wanted to be there. Maine was great and all, but New York City was where it was at. The fashion. The style. The culture. Basically, everything.
I wanted to go there and turn myself into a success. I wanted to write for The Village Voice. For Paper Magazine. I wanted to interview and write about underground culture.
So, when I was 30, I made the decision to go.
In Maine, I was living in Portland and had a great apartment. I had a full-time job as an editor of a weekly newspaper digging up local news, was slinging sushi on the side and had a girlfriend. Things were pretty good. But I was turning 30 and it was time to make a decision.
First thing first. I needed a job. I had two opportunities: the first one was to be the editor of the newsletter at the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. The second was to be technology editor at Accounting Today. The chamber opportunity came to me via my aunt and was interesting to me but I thought I was selling out writing about business in the form of a newsletter. Plus I wasn’t in love with where the office was located in the Fulton Mall area. The Accounting Today opportunity came via my mom. She had been a financial planning conference with my dad and met the wife of an editor there. When she met him, he said for me to send my stuff to him. So, when I picked my folks up at the airport, my mom shoved his card into my hands and said for me to contact him. So, I did. Love my mom.
I landed an interview with the editor-in-chief of Accounting Today and it was the most casual interview I ever had. We talked about cowboy boots and martial arts. He didn’t care that I didn’t know a lick about accounting (in fact, it took me four times to pass statistics so I could actually graduate from college). He could see from my previous work that I could write a story. Everything else would come.
And you know what? He was right.
So I choose AT. In the Financial District. And I was excited because I thought I was going to be trained to be a business reporter.
I won’t tell the leg of the story where I moved my girlfriend there with me, knowing it was not the best idea and then told her days after that I needed her to leave and be in NYC alone. Not my best moment in life.
I remember in those early days, when I started my job. It was so quiet in the office. Like the quiet was screaming in my ears. The only sound I could hear was my cube mate crunching on almonds and my other colleague grilling people on the phone while conducting interviews. Otherwise. SILENCE. It was weird.
The adjustment was hard. I would just cry on the subway home. Here I was, in New York, finally, and I was writing about a subject that couldn’t be more foreign to me: accounting. It was not writing about emerging artists or fun, hip events in the Meatpacking District. I was writing about accounting and accounting technology, at that. Which to me, was like fingernails on a chalkboard. It sucked.
I would get on the phone with a product manager who had just released version 4.0 of their software and I would literally ask them, “OK so in layman’s terms, what does this version do differently than this last version?” Then I would hear them stammer and try to answer my question without using jargon.
Because that industry jargon is such a wall and I would stop them when they would go there.
But then something happened one day. They moved me to another section. I made a friend with my colleague and we decided we needed to write about what wasn’t being written about. I was tired of all the white men in suits I was talking to on the phone and seeing in person at conferences. I had to keep it interesting for myself, so I decided to dig a little and find the people who weren’t so visible. The people who weren’t the go-tos for article sources. Then things started to get interesting. I mean, for an accounting pub. I decided to write about the human side and the changes that were slowly starting to take place.
And that’s how I started to write about women, people of color, and the younger generation. That’s why we decided to start a blog about the intergenerational dynamics happening. At that point, very few people were talking about it.
Do you know when I was there, our company made us write a proposal for our publication to create a Facebook page?
I feel very old saying that, but it’s true. Twitter was just coming onto the scene and accounting firms were admitting that they were needing more sophisticated websites.
Open toe shoes were a debate among women in the profession. Were they appropriate? Shouldn’t you always wear nylons?
This was a decade ago. 10 years!
I was at that publication for four years. I never thought I would say working at an accounting publication would be the highlight of my career and here’s hoping I have a lot more reporting ahead of me. But I did learn a lot. And while I took the job because I needed work when I moved to NYC, it turned out that after I left and went freelance, people followed me because people knew me. I took on some clients, made some mistakes in figuring out my own business and realized working for clients directly is not so easy. At the pub, I was an influencer. As a freelancer, I was a consultant, I was a service provider. It’s a different vibe. And the writing was different, too. I was now helping to provide content to build up and promote firms, instead of questioning them and urging them to do better.
Then when I went inside to a Top 25 accounting firm, that was really an eye-opener. As the copywriter on the marketing team, our clients were the partners. We were working for the same company, but we were sort of outsiders in this way. And the partners had to be pleased. All. The. Time. It was ridiculous, really. It was a dynamic I did not like. Most of the partners were great. Super kind and super appreciative for writing support and PR help. But there were a few that swung their power around in whatever room they were in. And they were not all male. You would think women in a corporate environment would help others, but that’s not always the case. So, lesson learned.
That job gave me hives. So I went back to freelance.
I thought by now that I would have been able to pivot in a new direction. But the thing is, it seems I can’t shake accountants. I go out and who do I meet? Bookkeepers. CPAs. Accountants. The finance people seem to gravitate toward me. It’s been a love/hate relationship admittedly.
But here’s the thing.
I’m into telling the unknown stories. The stories about women who are radicalizing the old ways of doing business. I’m interested in highlighting those who are the risk takers, like those CPAs taking on the cannabis industry. I get inspired by the stories of making the profession more inclusive and diverse, so it’s not just a bunch of old white guys in a room with one woman or one person of color.
So when people say “accounting?” I always say yes.
It’s a thing.
And I’ve been doing it for a decade.
What have I learned?
That it’s easy to get stuck. That you shouldn’t try to fit into the dominant culture just because you find yourself there. That you have to own your talents and skills and observations and use them to your advantage. That accountants like to party (in Vegas, usually). That I’m grateful that it has sustained me for 10 years. That I prefer to work with people who share my progressive values and many accountants are not progressive politically (though more so, because this administration is forcing people to get on the right side). That a good accountant can make or break your business.
That I can really truly, find the juice in any story. And that, my friends, has been pretty important for me to realize.