Friday, May 20, 2016

Scholar Spotlight: Heather Murray

Heather Murray, a junior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, is one of four exemplary students recognized by TSCPA and awarded a King Foundation scholarship for 2015. The King Foundation scholars receive a three-year scholarship totaling $25,000. The fund was established by Calvin and Jean King to assist accounting students in achieving their college and career goals.

When Murray received the call from TSCPA, she was struggling with financial concerns. “My laptop had just died and my car had just broken down, and I still hadn’t heard from UTC about my financial aid from the school year,” she recalls.

An accounting major with a minor in criminal justice, the ambitious Murray is a Brock Scholar in UTC’s Honors College, a premier program that was mentioned in the New York Times in August 2015.

“Knowing that I’m going to graduate school,” she says, “I try to save as much as I can for upcoming exams and future schooling. The call from [TSCPA President/CEO] Brad Floyd was the last thing I expected. The King Scholarship not only means that I will be able to graduate with my MAcc. without debt, but also means that I have a support system of CPAs across Tennessee who care about accounting students and their goals to continue our wonderful profession.”

Murray was born in Florida but grew up in Dickson, Tenn., with her twin brother, Fox. “My family worked together to help support my father’s business as an auctioneer,” she says. “My mother, who does bookkeeping and claims adjusting for insurance companies, is the person who showed me the importance of being passionate about what I’m doing.”

Her ambition shows no signs of slowing down, as Murray has a finite plan for the future.

“I will graduate in May 2017,” she says, “and then I will enroll in the one-year Master’s of Accountancy program at UTC. After attaining my MAcc. and my CPA license, I will apply to serve in the Peace Corps, where I hope to spend two years serving in a developing community as an NGO advisor, helping people realize their dreams and grow their communities. Then I hope to come back to Tennessee and attend law school. Eventually, I want to start a non-profit dedicated to advocating for public education in Tennessee, particularly focusing on empowering students from low-income backgrounds to break the cycle of poverty through education.”

She sees accounting as the best avenue to accomplish these dreams “because of its versatility and the window it provides into the inner workings of all parts of businesses, governments and NGOs.”

Murray first became interested in accounting as a teenager while witnessing her family struggle through the Great Recession. She says, “The economic implications of the actions of businesses and Congress on individuals revealed to me much about how an individual develops and maintains stability. As personal finance affects an individual’s relationships, self-worth and ability to build a future for themselves and their family, accounting is necessary for every other facet of an organization to run efficiently.”

She is not all business all the time, however, saving time for her favorite hobbies: volunteering, traveling, trying new foods, reading great books, learning new instruments, and spending time outdoors hiking and fishing.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Seeking Feedback:

What Should You Start. Stop. Continue Doing?

By Brittney Dickens, CPA
Senior Tax Accountant, LBMC

Now that Busy Season is behind us, hopefully everyone is taking time off to relax and rejuvenate. However, I have learned that this is also the perfect time to actively seek feedback. Asking for feedback is one of the best ways to feel in control of your work, get an accurate idea of what is expected of you, and judge how you can improve even further. Although feedback is essential for our professional growth, asking for feedback can be a bit intimidating.

One way that I’ve found to effectively seek feedback is to set up a Start/Stop/Continue Meeting with your manager. Start/Stop/Continue meetings create an open feedback platform that encourages a quick and timely evaluation.

1. First, let the other person know you would like feedback by sending a meeting request with “Start/Stop/Continue” in the subject.

2. To help the other person prepare for the meeting, be specific about what you would like feedback on by preparing a set of questions, such as:

What should I start doing? What should I stop doing? What am I doing well that I should continue to do?
What are some things that are not being done, but should be done? What are things that impede my productivity? What are things that you want me to keep up?

3. During the meeting, be sure to document responses.

4. Then, set goals with your manager for positive change.

Once you've interpreted the feedback, move forward to make a difference! Acting on the feedback gathered by adjusting our behaviors, attitudes and approaches to improve our perceptions in the workplace is the key to success. But how will we know if those adjustments are resulting in positive growth? Ask for more feedback. I believe it should be an ongoing process that becomes part of our regular business routine. Now go take action!