How a Florida art teacher became a creative Ohio CPA

Written on Jul 11, 2019

By Abigail Draper, OSCPA communication & engagement manager

Julie TobiasJulie Tobias, CPA, wasn’t sure what she wanted to do when she went to college and decided to become an art teacher; after taking a financial literacy course years later, she realized numbers were her true passion.

Tobias said others might have noticed this interest before she did.

“In college, I was a member of the Delta Zeta sorority and I was made the treasurer, which I thought was weird because my major was art education. But for some reason, everybody else wanted me to be the treasurer. Looking back, it’s probably because I've always been drawn to numbers and other people could tell, even if I couldn’t.”

When Tobias and her family moved from Florida to Tennessee, she transitioned from teaching art into the business world. She said a friend got her a job at a finance company and she worked there for several years until she received an opportunity to work from home and raise her two boys.

Once her sons were school-aged, she wanted to find a way to get back out in the field. She spoke with the head of the master’s in accounting program at the University of Tennessee and he was “really taken by the fact that (she) had originally been an art teacher and was shifting gears.” He told her it was valuable to have people with such experience come into the accounting profession to provide a wide range of experiences to draw upon.

From that conversation, Tobias said she decided to move back to Mansfield, Ohio, where she grew up to go back to school with the help of her relatives. She worked hard for almost five years at Franklin University to obtain her Master of Science in Accounting degree and then study for and pass the CPA exam.

“The biggest challenge was the effect on my family,” Tobias said. “For the last five years, my family has supported me and made sure the kids and everything else was taken care of.”

She said if you want to become a CPA and you’re a stay-at-home parent or working in a different field, “the main thing would be to not get discouraged. Just stick with it. For me, it worked to put up a post-it note that said what I was working for. But also, just make sure you get everyone around you on board with what you’re doing. If my husband didn’t support me, I’m not sure I would have been able to completely go through with it.”

Tobias said she does miss being able to foster creativity in her students as an art teacher.

“Honestly, they inspired me,” she said. “Based on what I saw somebody do or the way they saw something, I’d go home and create art myself.”

She still tries to take her kids to art museums, and she still creates art when she’s inspired.

“I have actually started doing a little more now that I finally passed the (CPA) exam and have a little bit more free time. I like painting and I like doing art projects with my kids.”

She said she is also able to bring her creativity into her accounting career.

“It takes creativity for most accounting that I do,” she said. “I mean you really have to think about all the different avenues coming in at you.”

Tobias has also created work organizational charts and presentations for her coworkers who found out she has an art degree.

She originally thought her accounting career would be simple and black and white. After so many life changes, she thought she wanted a job where she could “just sit and work on some numbers.”

“But honestly, it's been the exact opposite. There's so much subjectivity and having to put your own spin on things.”

Tobias said this is what she now enjoys most about her career and finds being a CPA both creative and fulfilling.

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