I have over 10 years experience in public accounting and over 10 years in the private accounting. In all my accounting positions I’ve had to deal with taxes. This post is to let you know about my employment and educational background.
I never planned to be an accountant. I was going through a divorce and soon to graduate as a linguistics major. I connected with a job placement company. They sent me out on an interview based on some computer experience I gained in the Work-Study program at the University of California, Irvine.
Accounting and Payroll Taxes
I think I got this job because I was naive about business. I was hired by an engineer who built “linear power amplifiers”: basically a printed circuit board with resistors, capacitors and transistors mounted onto an aluminum heat sink with I/O used to boost a radio transmissions. My job was to learn how to build and program a mini-computer and my title was “Vice President, Data Processing”. While I was studying transistor-transistor logic and programming, the business partners quarreled. One morning and half our production workers left with the two other partners. My boss gathered up his three office employees. He baited us with promises and hooked us with our own inexperience. The four of us stood in a circle. He looked at me and said “You’re in charge of accounting.” The other two were in charge of sales and production.
I am not sure I had even heard the term “accounting” before. I didn’t know you could get a degree in Accounting as the University I attended had no undergraduate business school. I had never heard of a CPA. I thought accounting was something I could learn over the weekend. I went to the local drugstore and bought a college outline series book on “Intermediate Accounting“. I did not understand it. I went back to the store and got the outline book for “Elementary Accounting“. That was better but I was still missing a lot – like what exactly was I supposed to do when I showed up for work in my “accounting” job. I returned to buy a thin book called “Bookkeeping Made Easy“. It is still a part of my professional accounting library.
I proceeded to setup the bookkeeping system for the company and handle the payroll. I became a “full-charge bookkeeper”. I handled the receivables, inventory, payables, payroll and, as best I could, the cash. There were many times I called our main customer to pay a bill so I could hand out paychecks with a whispered “Cash this at the bank immediately!”. Our boss had plenty of charisma but his idea of cash flow planning only went as far as his pocket. I also learned about “employer payroll taxes” and who could be held liable if they were not deposited with the federal and state governments on timely basis. This knowledge sent me off looking for another job.
Cost Accounting & Financial Reporting
I like to say I started at the top and worked my way down. After being Vice President of Data Processing I was now a payroll clerk. My first assignment was to bring our payroll processing in-house from the Bank of America service we were using. The company did plastic injection-molding and limited assembly work. It was there that I learned the difference between publicly-held and privately-held companies. My new employer was a public company. I developed a strong relationship with the Division Controller and we plotted my advancement together. I took night classes in accounting and business law, finished up my linguistics degree and was accepted into the MBA program at California State University Long Beach. When I left that company I was a Cost Accountant responsible for the Quarterly Financial Review Packages and interfacing with our external auditors, the CPA firm of Price Waterhouse.
Controllership and Project Management
The former Personnel Manager had moved onto another public company that was looking for a Regional Accounting Supervisor. The Western Region of the company had just acquired two aluminum forging facilities and sold an anodizing one. Our customers were the aerospace and defense primes. My work schedule went from 8am to midnight and effectively shut-down my progress in the MBA program. My superiors were the division and plant managers, the corporate controller and the manager of internal audit. I can scarcely begin to describe the diversity of the work I performed over a ten (10) year period there. I was the Regional Controller and had gone as far as I could without the initials “MBA” or “CPA” after my name. In my last two years I returned to college – this time to get a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy. Then I took a CPA review course and sat for all five parts of the CPA Exam. I decided that if I passed, I would pursue the CPA route and if I didn’t, I would go for the MBA.
Public Accounting and Self-Employment
I passed the CPA Exam so now I needed to find out if I could work for a CPA firm. I was rejected by the biggest firms – Price Waterhouse, Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young and even Arthur Andersen & Co. – but accepted by a local woman-owned firm with a couple CPAs and several staff. She weighed my extensive business accounting and tax experience with my lack of income tax return and audit experience. I managed to survive the comparative 25% cut in pay to get the required experience. Three tax seasons, several financial audits and one government audit later I obtained my Certified Public Accountant license. I became the junior partner of a 3-person CPA firm. Almost five years later the partnership split-up and I opened my own practice. I became a certified QuickBooks instructor and, in addition to the tax season grind, I contracted myself out as a part-time Controller. For three years it seemed I worked around the clock but I couldn’t keep up my health at the pace I was going. I notched it down and took the opportunity to go back into private accounting full-time when it presented itself.
Tribune Company and The Fortune 500
Through a friend made while working as an independent contractor in two companies I came into a position as the General Accounting & Tax Manager for a subsidiary of a subsidiary of the Tribune Company. The Tribune Company owned over a 100 companies – newspapers, television stations, radio stations – and the Chicago Cubs. I was an employee of one of their newspapers, The Los Angeles Times, for over five (5) years. During that time I reported to five (5) different Finance Directors / Controllers. I was very active in software system conversions and training. I was heavily involved in the new Sarbanes Oxley Act compliance work. Because of the (Chicago) Tribune’s certainty they knew best for the LA Times and the demand for newspapers and printed advertising was dropping fast, the LA Times began to have layoffs almost every six (6) months. Rather than waiting for the sword to drop I opted for an early separation package.
A few months later I started work for a professional consulting firm. The firm contracted out professionals to clients that were often Fortune 50 companies and near always at least Fortune 500. Over the 2.5 years I worked for them I assisted 4 of their clients in very challenging and varied projects. Then the plate that supported the US Economy started to tip and I fell off. Resources Global Professionals was not able to match me up with a client for 3 months so I was laid-off.
It was over 3 months ago that I received my final paycheck from Resources Global Professionals. The unemployment rate is way up. I decided to re-group and create a new strategy. Fortunately my expenses are about the lowest they have been in a decade. I have been able to take the time to seriously think about what I want to do rather than jump head first into whatever job opportunity comes along. I don’t have the ambition I did when I was in my twenties but I have over twenty years of practical experience and applied education. While I am looking for the appropriate position in a target industry I have decided to put my CPA License back on “Active” status. For the time being I am going to focus on accounting and income tax planning for writers and artists.