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Career Story: Chief Accountant For A Weather-Forecasting Company

Chief Accountant For A Weather-Forecasting Company

Job Title: Controller

Type of Company: My company predicts and models atmospheric hazards and vulnerability, providing information to clients who need to anticipate the outcome of weather events.

Education: BS, Business Administration •• MA, Regional Planning

Previous Experience: I started as a staff accountant for a CPA firm. After that I have worked for several non-profits as controller or director of finance. I also taught accounting and economics as a Peace Corps volunteer. As a graduate student, I lived and worked in Bulgaria trying to teach the basic concepts of accounting to newly emerging private sector businesses. I now work in the private sector for a company that does weather forecasting and mitigation.

Job Tasks: I am responsible for the accounting, finances and financial reporting for my company. I oversee the accounts payable, accounts receivable and general ledger functions. We use Epicor accounting software as our general software. The financial reporting is done through FRx and our budget planning is done through Active Planner. I do monthly, quarterly, and year-end closes of the books. I prepare financial reports. I do technical accounting work around the interpretation and application of financial accounting standards including the research and documentation by writing accounting memos. I prepare budgets. I work with the auditors. I document and maintain the internal controls using a fairly sophisticated software called Paisley.

I sit on the management team and serve as the voice for how decisions might impact the finances on a short- or long-term horizon.

Because the company is small (though an affiliate of publicly traded company) I am fortunate to be involved in other aspects of the organization, including HR-type stuff like compensation & bonus and hiring decisions, and even project management.

I do some operational work as well: negotiating the lease of the building, for example.

I supervise three people who assist me in accounts payable, accounts receivable, general accounting work as well as the general administration of the office.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: This is a career that can carry you all over the world especially if you have a CPA license. I love that. I also enjoy the accounting work itself. I love working for a small company because of the wide range of opportunities available.

The worst parts of the job are all the meetings and sometimes superfluous stuff that lands on my plate. This is the downside of working for a small company. For example, I'm not crazy about the human resources duties that have been thrust on me.

Job Tips:
1.) If you're interested in the non-profit sector, get some private sector experience under your belt. It's easy to move from the private sector into the non-profit sector.

2.) Get that CPA license.

3.) Learn some of the softer skills. CPAs are notoriously quiet, known to be quite boring, etc. If you can learn presentation skills, develop your people skills, etc., you will set yourself apart.

Additional Thoughts: What surprises others and what surprised me early in my career.....this work is much more exciting than people realize. Reading financial statements is like reading a novel....it tells the story. If you follow the money, you'll find your story.

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