Gaining experience in and out of the classroom

Posted on Thursday, September 27, 2018 by Jessica Salerno

Lyndsay McMullen (2)By Lyndsay McMullen

When I talk to my peers about being an accounting major I get the typical responses that I must be good with “crunching numbers” and enjoy just “sitting behind a desk” and staying to myself.  This is no surprise as accountants are depicted in movies and TV as the shy person sitting in a cubicle, punching numbers into a calculator and working on spreadsheets and scattered receipts. The reality is that half of the skills necessary for the profession are soft skills and business acumen, which are often learned outside of a classroom. My personal experience with accounting has been heavily shaped by these hands-on, personal development opportunities throughout college.

At Ohio Wesleyan University I hold the position of sorority president for the Delta Gamma chapter on campus. With that position, I have many responsibilities such as serving on all chapter management teams, running all chapter meetings, and being a liaison for our collegiate chapter to advisors and executive offices. What I didn’t realize when I took this leadership role was how impactful the skills I would learn would be on my ability towards becoming a more well-rounded accountant.  Working on and managing a team of people with differing personalities and goals can be extremely challenging, but is common in the business world. The role of president has forced me to be in the middle of difficult situations and learn how to work through them to achieve the best outcome for the group.

Another skill I have developed is the ability to communicate effectively; whether to a small team or speaking in front of a large group of people. Client communication and relationships are so important in accounting and can make work more relaxed and enjoyable.

The Accounting Fellows program at OWU is another organization that has shaped my personal development skills. The program includes junior and senior accounting majors and minors, and provides students with an inside view into the accounting industry through guest speakers and trips. Having direct access to firms and businesses in the comfort of my school allowed me to build confidence in practicing my networking skills and to learn more about the differences between public and industry accounting from employees themselves. Last year I traveled to Washington D.C. with the Accounting Fellows to visit alumni and network with accounting professionals in a wide variety of industries. This year I get the opportunity to travel to Nashville to do it again.

These trips are another chance to develop my networking skills and make personal connections with professionals while gaining valuable insights. These insights have ranged from learning about changes in accounting regulation, understanding new technologies, honing my listening ability, dressing appropriately, practicing dining etiquette and improving networking skills. All of these experiences have been, and will continue to be, useful as they will allow me to better provide value to future clients and employers.

The skills that I gathered outside of the classroom from my leadership role in Delta Gamma and my time in the Accounting Fellows program contributed to my successful internship at PricewaterhouseCoopers. At PwC, I worked as a busy season tax intern in the Columbus office. Throughout my internship I focused on a data analytics project to develop tax software for clients. The teamwork skills I learned from being President of Delta Gamma prepared me for working with different personality types and using each person’s strengths to work well together. My communication skills were tested daily by working with team members in multiple offices. I also had the opportunity to present to the office about my internship project on my last day and was comfortable because of my previous experiences.

Given my experiences in and out of the classroom, it is a great feeling to be close to graduation knowing I have developed accounting skills but also soft skills, which will lead me to be more comfortable in front of clients and my colleagues.

I truly cherish my experiences, and I look forward to giving back to OWU by visiting with students, sharing my opportunities and providing insights into the industry after I leave campus. These experiences have been enhanced by CPAs and professionals who love their job and love to help in developing future accountants. I challenge professionals reading this article to reach out to your alma mater or local college and find ways to share insights with students - even if it is as simple as grabbing a cup of coffee or having lunch. I also challenge students reading this article to lean into the various opportunities provided by your college or OSCPA when it comes to expanding your academic and professional experiences. 

Lyndsay McMullen is a senior Accounting major from Ohio Wesleyan University and will be graduating May 2019. Lyndsay is a member of the Economics Management Fellows, Accounting Fellows, and Delta Gamma sorority. Upon graduation Lyndsay will be starting as a tax associate with PwC in the Columbus, OH office. Lyndsay will also be “taking over” OSCPA’s Instagram account in October when the Accounting Fellows travel to Nashville, TN. Make sure to follow the OSCPA on Instagram (@ohiocpas) to get a peek into the trip.