Friday, July 19, 2019

Top CPA Exam Scorer Katherine Griesemer on Studying, Work-Life Balance

At age 23, TSCPA member Katherine Griesemer, CPA already has an impressive list of achievements in her accounting career. She was a top student all through college at Lee University and received many awards, including three scholarships from TSCPA’s Educational and Memorial Foundation and a place in the Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities & Colleges® for 2017. She graduated with a 4.0 GPA with her Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Bachelor of Science in Business, Finance Emphasis in 2017. This spring, Griesemer was awarded TSCPA’s John Glenn Award for being the top scorer on the CPA exam in Tennessee in 2018.

Griesemer currently resides in Ooltewah, Tenn. and is a member of TSCPA’s Chattanooga Chapter. She has been a member of TSCPA since 2013. She is passionate about nonprofit financial management and currently works as CFO, Assistant Director and Principal Touring Artist at Unity Dance Troupe in Cleveland, Tenn.

What drew you to the profession of accounting?
My mom, a former CPA, encouraged me to take a dual enrollment accounting class, which I did my sophomore year of high school. My professor, Dr. Hart, truly made accounting fun. With that experience and the knowledge that accounting can open a variety of opportunities, I decided to study accounting at the age of 15.

Why did you decide to join TSCPA?
I joined TSCPA as a student member while attending Lee University. The professors encouraged involvement in TSCPA and the accounting profession as a whole. Working as an intern to Lee University’s CFO Chris Conine, I was able to attend TSCPA events with my colleagues as well as apply for TSCPA scholarships.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to those currently studying for the CPA exam?
I wish there was a magic secret! The best training tool is time. Start early because cramming is impossible. Stick to a weekly study schedule and be consistent to avoid last minute stress. As Nike says: “Just do it”: Review ALL the material and do ALL the practice problems and tests. I created detailed outlines of the material to review instead of re-opening a huge review book with hundreds of pages, which feels overwhelming.

You have always been very active in school, work and your community. What is your advice for staying balanced?
Staying balanced is tricky! I saw 4 a.m. more times than I would have liked while studying for the CPA exam. My grandfather says if you enjoy what you do, you won't work a day in your life. Enjoy the process to fill each step of the journey with joy. If you remember the reason behind what you do, you will have all the passion and energy you need to accomplish it. On a practical note, it is important to have something you do just because you love it! For me, this is ballet. I enjoy the physical exertion and creating something beautiful. Finding your own version of ballet will help shed the stress of life and refuel you for what is next.  

Where do you see yourself in your career in ten years?
My ultimate goal is to build a network of sustainable funding sources to support orphanages in Eastern Europe. Whether or not this will happen in just 10 years, I am not sure, but hopefully in 10 years I will be on the path toward that end.

Originally published in the July/August 2019 Tennessee CPA Journal

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Get Involved: Tips to Successfully Engage with Your Community

By Michael Murphy, CPA

If your city is doing great things for its people, do you ever wish you could be more actively involved? If the answer is yes, then you are in luck. I can guarantee that if great things are being done in your community, there are abundant opportunities for you to get involved. If the answer is no or you are unsure, consider this: Helping your community grow and thrive provides a strong sense of belonging and pride in the best possible way. In addition, being involved in the community can build great relationships, both business and personal, and help develop soft skills such as communication, professionalism, leadership, negotiation and more.

Getting Started
You don’t have to look far to find evidence that volunteering is personally and professionally beneficial. So, put aside whatever may be keeping you from volunteering in your community and just go for it! Here are a few steps to help you get started.

1. Google it.
One great way to find volunteer opportunities in any community is to utilize an online search tool such as Google. And it already knows where you live, so you don't even have to specify the community in which you are seeking opportunities. Later on, it may even provide advertisements related to volunteering when you are browsing the internet.
Besides Google, there are countless resources online to enable you to find out what opportunities are available in your community and how to get involved.

2. Ask friends or co-workers.
Ask people in the community that are already giving time to or leading community events for volunteer opportunities or suggestions. Nonprofit employees or volunteers are very eager and willing to explain what they do and how you can help. They are usually passionate about the causes they serve and ready to recruit more helpers. These inquiries don't have to be face-to-face either. A beneficial conversation can occur through email or social media.

Finding a Role
Finding opportunities to volunteer in your community may be easy enough. It may be more difficult to find your ideal role in volunteering and which organizations you should get involved in. I have listed several things to consider while searching for the right volunteer opportunity.

1. Know what you have to offer.
It is easy to think that you are not qualified to serve on certain boards or have a leadership role in volunteer groups. However, most nonprofit boards are eager to recruit anyone willing to put forth time and effort for a cause. Quite often, there is a lack of young talent in many positions within nonprofit organizations, and there is a high demand for the talents of this demographic. The greatest asset you bring to the table is not years of experience; rather, your value can be your passion, intention and a genuine desire to serve. If you use the resources around you, ask for help and harness your passion about an organization, you can be of more benefit than you probably think possible.

2. Choose a mission you’re passionate about.
This may be the most important suggestion of all. If you are not fully committed to an organization’s value, volunteering will most likely become a chore and your service will become ineffectual. Being passionate about your cause changes your perspective on service.

3. Remember that you will get out what you put in.
If you choose to become engaged in a community service organization, invest as much as you can. It's easy to sign up to serve on a board and show up for meetings once every other month. It's not so easy to put forth effort and time outside of the minimum required meetings. This is where you can truly make a larger impact.

4. Do not take on too much.
Now that you’ve decided to get involved, and you’ve found your special call to service, take care not to overdo it. There is an abundance of worthy community programs and organizations in which to invest. Spreading yourself too thin does a disservice to you and your organization(s) of choice. You can't be a benefit to anyone if you don’t have spare time to volunteer or help out in a special situation. It is best to fully commit to one or maybe two community outreaches that you truly care about rather than overcommit yourself.  

If you are interested in getting involved in your community but have been putting it off until now, just open a new tab on your browser and start a new search. Opportunities are everywhere once you decide you’re ready to commit.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Five Things Accounting Students Should Consider When Entering Public Accounting

By Brad Culbreth, CPA

Public accounting is an extremely rewarding career path but can be competitive and intimidating to enter. However, there are actions students can take while in school to set themselves apart from the crowd. Here are five pieces of advice to help get the job and ultimately, succeed in your career.

1.  Lay the Foundation
When entering the public accounting profession, there will be plenty of new information to absorb. There will be new software, firm procedures and policies, tax laws and auditing standards. This is exciting but can be overwhelming. Don’t compound this by having to relearn basic accounting principles. Put in the time to study and solidify your basic knowledge of the debits and credits while in school. Focus on strengthening your ability to think through accounting problems and find a solution. Laying the proper foundation now will set you up for building a successful career.

2.  Spread Your Wings
Networking is a crucial aspect for success in public accounting. Having a core group of peers in various professions is a vital part of public accounting. This network will become your source of referrals, advice in areas outside of your expertise and assistance with client needs outside of typical accounting services, just to name a few areas in which they can assist you. In short, they will help you retain current clients and refer new clients. For many people, this skill requires getting out of your comfort zone to meet new people and try new things. Attend social events, join service groups on or off campus and make an effort to meet people in your classes each day. There are plenty of opportunities available to students who seek them out.

3. Take Opportunities
You don’t have to be a senior close to graduating to begin making contact with professionals in public accounting. Schools typically hold several events each year that allow students the opportunity to meet current professionals from area firms. Don’t miss out on that opportunity. Obtain business cards and follow up with those you meet. You may be surprised how open many professionals will be to getting lunch or coffee to answer questions you may have. By creating these contacts early, you set yourself apart from your peers. This demonstrates initiative and makes you more memorable when the time comes for interviews.

4. Get Involved or Get a Job
Many firms in public accounting like to see that a student participates in activities outside of classes. Get involved in clubs, student organizations, community organizations or get a part-time job. Being able to maintain your GPA while also being active elsewhere demonstrates strong time management skills and work ethic (as well as helps with point #2 above). These types of extracurricular activities look great on resumes and could be the difference between you and your peers. In addition to building a strong resume, there are a broad range of soft skills that can be developed.

5. Be Adaptable
As evidenced by the overhaul to the tax laws last year, rules and regulations are always changing. Professionals in public accounting must be able to take in change and adapt to new sets of rules almost constantly. Being able to digest these changes quickly and develop appropriate strategies creates the value our profession demands. Always be learning and growing so that when change comes, you’ll be equipped to handle it.

Public accounting is definitely a fast-paced work environment but can be an extremely rewarding career.