Based on my experiences throughout my career as an accountant and business analyst, among other roles, I can offer the following advice:
Take advantage of opportunities to work with different teams and divisions to continually broaden your skill set. Also, treat everyone with respect. People want to work with professionals who are respectful of their bosses and colleagues.
FIRST JOB AND LESSONS LEARNED
My first job was as an accountant at Texaco in one of the satellite offices that was located in the Chrysler Building in New York City. After about two years, senior management decided to close the office in the city and move everyone to the corporate headquarters in Harrison, New York. This was different for me because instead of taking the train into the city, I was now either driving into Westchester County every day or taking a commuter van. The vans picked up employees at central locations throughout the city.
One of the things I liked about Texaco was the opportunity to meet different departments after work while playing intramural sports. While in a social setting, we would chat about our jobs and learn about different work opportunities, as well as share our thoughts on Texaco’s impending merger with Chevron, which took place before I left. You can learn many things outside of the workplace, and it was through playing softball that I learned the real meaning of teamwork.
After two years, even though I enjoyed my work and my coworkers, I missed working in NYC and decided to pursue opportunities there. In order to interview for open positions while I was working in Westchester, I would take planned vacation time. I didn’t call in sick or discuss my plan with my current coworkers. I was eventually recruited by Avon, and when I handed in my resignation to my manager at Texaco, he told me that he was expecting this. I looked at him quizzically until he mentioned that the person I was interviewing with and would eventually report to was his best friend. I was shocked. I’m glad that I never spoke badly about my coworkers, Texaco, or my manager. This taught me that you never know who knows whom. Talk about six degrees of separation!
EMPLOYERS SEEK TECH-SAVVY CANDIDATES
Due to the omnipresent use of computers and increasing adoption of AI, machine learning, and robotic process automation, tasks that previously needed manual intervention can now be automated. As a result, employers no longer need number-crunchers; rather, they need employees who can explain the output, look behind and beyond the numbers, collaborate with others, and be flexible. Technology is causing some jobs to be eliminated while giving rise to new ones at a rate faster than before. Technology hasn’t only transformed accounting, but it has also changed how HR personnel recruit candidates and allowed marketers to target their products to customers in a more efficient manner. Most organizations now measure metrics or key performance indicators in order to determine if individual, team, and company-wide goals are being met.
Many job interviews take place virtually, either via a video-conferencing platform or over the phone, rather than in person. This highlights the need to be tech-savvy. It behooves job seekers and current employers to always be ready to learn new skills. The pandemic has shown that there’s more than one way to accomplish tasks and achieve objectives. Transforming data management, leveraging analytics, collaborating with others, cultivating a strategic mindset, and being creative are more important now than ever before.
LEADING THE SYNERGY TOWARD ACHIEVEMENT TEAM
Synergy toward Achievement Team (STAT) is a group of employees at IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) designed to generate, facilitate, and communicate ideas on peer-to-peer networking, education, and community service. The philosophy is that by focusing on these areas, STAT will help to enhance cross-functional communication and teamwork, while increasing awareness and execution of the organization’s growth strategy.
The original premise of the team when it was launched in 2015 was to improve communication between departments within IMA. Each department provides at least one representative, and the group would discuss projects that they were working on and report what they had learned from their colleagues in STAT to their respective departments.
In 2017, I was asked by IMA’s senior leadership team to become the first staff member to lead the group after its transformation. I took this responsibility seriously; I set up biweekly meetings and took minutes at each one. The first assignment that we were asked to undertake was to organize a staff picnic to boost morale. We planned a fun outdoor event for employees with catered food, games, and a DJ. We accomplished our goal: We put on an event that was fun and encouraged interactions among staff members who might not speak to one another on a daily basis, and it’s become an annual tradition. In my first year of leading STAT, we continued to concentrate on networking and boosting staff morale. When the second year of my term started, we reviewed the charter and realized that we weren’t providing many learning or corporate social responsibility opportunities.
During STAT’s first meeting of the second year that I served as the chair, we discussed the three primary goals for STAT: networking, community service, and education. We were meeting the goal for networking, but not as much for community service and education. I suggested that, since members of STAT had different interests, we should group ourselves according to those interests, and we made that change. Each subcommittee meets separately; then when the whole team meets, members of the Morale Boosters, Community Service, and Education (with a focus on lunch-and-learn events for staff) groups discuss their respective meetings. That has remained the structure to this day.
My idea of being a good leader is to listen to everyone’s opinions and then make a decision. I found that by making the decision-making process collaborative, people were more likely to be inspired to work on the agreed-upon projects.
While we’ve been working remotely, STAT also had to change the methods that we’ve used to engage staff. For example, it’s a challenge to get people to interrupt their day while working from home to attend a virtual event. We found that we had better attendance during the pandemic after lunch-and-learn sessions became morning events, and we shortened event times to be 30 minutes or shorter.
One of the ways to get noticed by other departments and managers, as well as senior leadership, is to volunteer to work on a team made up of people from different departments. Volunteering to work on STAT was a great experience for me. It allowed me to hone my leadership skills and work with coworkers from across the entire organization. STAT also helped IMA to meet its goal of prioritizing corporate social responsibility. We donated to families in need, helped meet the personal needs of men and women in the military, and were also able to let first responders know that we appreciated the sacrifices they made to keep us safe and healthy, among other charitable initiatives. I take pride in knowing that by leading this group, I helped us touch many lives.