As an accounting student about to graduate from college, you’re told that you basically have two options: public or industry. You’ve probably heard a lot about public accounting, or at least some of the buzz words/terms. “Big 4” is one. “Billable hours” is another. “Busy season” is a big one, referring to the springtime when firms begin to audit prior year financial statements and prepare tax returns. But for those of us who went into industry, accounting is a much bigger unknown to the outside world. When I tell people I’m an accountant, their first question is usually about their taxes; I then have to tell them I’m not a tax accountant and prepare for the inevitable question, “So what is it you do?” I’m an accountant. It’s a cool thing to do. Trust me.
Once I made the decision to forgo public accounting and go into industry, the question was then, which industry? At one point in time, I thought it probably didn’t matter. Accounting is a function that isn’t industry specific. Every business needs someone to do their books, and if you have experience in one industry, for the most part, it will translate to another. At each of the positions I’ve held, way back to my college internship when I worked in local government, I’ve performed a lot of the same tasks. With the thought that “industry” was all the same, I never went looking for a specific one. In 2011, I left a job in the medical industry when I accepted an offer to work for CED.
Once I made the decision to forgo public accounting and go into industry, the question was then, which industry? At one point in time, I thought it probably didn’t matter
Recently I was privileged to be able to attend the National Association of Electrical Distributors’ (NAED’s) annual Women in Industry Forum, which was held at the Westin hotel in downtown Denver, Colorado from June 23-26, 2015. I represented CED along with our controller, Katie Stewart. This conference is specific to the industry, not specific to any function or role that I or anyone else filled in it, so as a first time attendee, I really had no idea what to expect from the forum. I was able to take away a lot from this conference, including:
- Networking opportunities with other distributors, manufacturers, NAED personnel, and some great folks from U.S. Electrical Services, Inc. (USESI) and Monarch Electric Supply
- How to tailor your customer experience for people not like you, from Kelly McDonald
- First-hand industry experiences and knowledge from newer members (the “tED 30 under 35” panel) as well as women who were further along and well-established in their careers (the “seasoned veterans” panel)
- Exposure to Denver weather and a fire hydrant that looked like it was drowning. (It survived.)
- A visit to our Denver PC, which was full of friendly people and answered my burning question as to what a warehouse full of wire reels looked like
- An overview of the Socratic method of coaching and how to set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-Oriented, Time-Based), from Jenny Douras
- Footage of a human cadaver (yes, really), which accompanied a fitness seminar from Miranda Esmonde-White
- A lot of new reading material (and, subsequently, a very heavy carry-on)
- The opportunity to spend some quality time with the person who, in my day-to-day life, is my boss’s boss
Here is what was not discussed at this forum:
Suddenly I realized I was actually part of an industry that was promoting improving its people, and not just the other way around
I was a little out of my element, because throughout my career, the focus has been either improving the accounting function or improving the company. I didn’t really know what I would be able to contribute here. Suddenly I realized I was actually part of an industry that was promoting improving its people, and not just the other way around. NAED has truly established an effective program designed to educate the employees within the electrical distribution industry—not just at this conference, but in other meetings they hold around the country and their online learning center. There were even university students at this forum that had chosen this industry as their field of study. After seeing what this particular conference had to offer, it was no wonder to me that they had set a record for number of attendees, and I hope that they are able to continue to do so.
Several years ago, I found my loyalty to CED. Now I feel that I’ve found my loyalty to the industry itself. It’s not just accounting in industry anymore; it’s accounting in THE industry. It’s a pretty cool thing to do. Trust me.