Finding flexibility and passion outside of public accounting

Posted on Friday, June 14, 2019 by Abby Draper

By Abigail Draper, OSCPA communication & engagement manager

Mellissa Reed, CPA, thought public accounting was the only place she could find the flexible hours that fits the needs of her family. Then she discovered the same flexibility in the nonprofit sector. Women smiling and holding a hedgehog.

Reed worked in public accounting for 17 years and became her firm’s nonprofit auditing expert. But after attending a leadership conference where everyone was very passionate about their work, Reed realized that she, unfortunately, wasn’t.

In the conference closing ceremonies, the speaker charged the audience with finding a way to use the wealth of information they gained there.

“She said, ‘Perhaps you start working for a nonprofit and that’s how you give back and support the community,’” Reed said. “And that really stuck with me,” Reed said.

After that, she wasn’t actively looking for a job, but remained open to an opportunity if it came across her desk. It did when her husband discovered the listing on Indeed for vice president of finance at the Akron Zoo.

“We were members of the zoo, so I already loved it,” she said. “And I thought, ‘That kind of sounds cool!’”

On her first phone interview with the zoo, Reed made sure to mention her flexibility concerns.

“I said, I have a family, I need to basically come and go as I please. I meet my deadlines, I get my work done, but I need to be able to do that…And they were fine with it. And I, for years, thought that was something that didn't exist outside of public accounting.”

Reed has worked at the zoo for more three years, and said she’s grown to love its mission, which is “to connect your life to wildlife through lifelong learning and conservation actions.”

She said being able to go outside and visit an animal when she’s stuck on something or in a slump gives her a quick reminder of why she’s doing what she’s doing.

The Akron Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which every year has a conference for zoo CFOs allowing them to share their processes and best practices. Reed said it is a great resource for her because she is the only CPA working at her local zoo.

She said that if she had known there was work flexibility outside of public accounting, she would have probably left sooner. Working at the zoo is something she is passionate about and she loves working somewhere that educates its visitors on conservation efforts and helps them build compassion for the animals.

In her free time, Reed spends time with her husband, two sons and daughter. She was a double-major in accounting and dance, so she said she loves living vicariously through her daughter as she begins her dancing journey.

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