Going Against the Grain: From Accounting to Information Technology
By Jessica Santana
In high school, I participated in a program called Career Opportunities in the Accounting Profession (COAP). COAP is a 5-day summer program sponsored by the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants. Its purpose is to inspire historically underrepresented students to matriculate into university accounting programs, resulting in an increase of diversity in the profession in years to come. I am grateful I had the opportunity to participate in the program, as many of the professionals overseeing it have become my long-term mentors and role models. Having such a wonderful experience, I pursued undergraduate accounting studies at Syracuse University, where I grew to love the faculty and staff that make the department and its students competitive in the professional recruiting process for top firms like Deloitte, Ernst and Young, PwC, and KPMG.
With all of my intentions of becoming a CPA, three courses and professors in information technology (IST 195 with Jeff Rubin, IST 444 with Theresa Gilliard-Cook, and IST 400 with Eric Hansen) as an undergraduate left a remarkable impression on my imagination as a student, which is why I decided to continue my graduate studies in information management. Before these courses, the relationship between accounting and information systems was a topic I was unfamiliar with. I thought my role as an accountant was to merely crunch numbers and identify discrepancies on balance sheet items. I never considered myself a producer of financial information or a change agent in maintaining the integrity of our country’s financial systems.
As my interests in information systems flourished, my passion for accounting dimmed, and my long-term career objectives changed. Information systems seemed to integrate three things I was passionate about: technology, policy, and business. Accounting also provided me with the opportunity to integrate these interests. However, I grew dispassionate about wanting to pursue a career in audit, as I felt my critical thinking was limited by rules that govern accounting theory and practice.
Though I am not interested in pursuing careers in audit or sitting for the CPA, I have found a way to integrate both my interests in Accounting and IT by researching opportunities in technology risk management. Technology risk management is the process of overseeing and providing information and tools that properly govern the security risks associated with information technology assets. Technology risk management will allow me to use the skills I gained in my accounting courses (quantitative, detail, compliance) with those I gained in information management (project management, technical, critical thinking). I will be sitting for the Certified Information Systems Auditor license December 2012. Additionally, I have lined up an internship in technology risk advisory with a top company this coming summer.
Many of my mentors discouraged this, but I am positive I am making the right career decisions. It would have been easy for me to continue on my path to be an auditor, sitting for the CPA, and working for a top four accounting firm. However, I challenged myself to think about my skills and do research on opportunities that were more in line with my professional interests. You should never place limits on what you can achieve. Do not let the fear of “not knowing” keep you from pursuing the things that make you happy. I encourage all of you to demand more of yourselves and never become complacent about your professional life because as one of my favorite accounting professors (Ginger Wagner) said, “When you do what you love, you don’t work a day in your life”.
As students, thinking about long-term career goals and objectives can be frightening. What are your “career fears” and how are you handling them? What is some advice you can share with younger students? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section!
Jessica Santana is a second-year graduate student student studying Information Management at the School of Information Studies. She received her B.S. in Accounting from the Martin J. Whitman School of Management in 2011. Aside from being a Graduate Assistant for the Global Enterprise Technology Program, she is the Co-Editor of the GET Blog. Her research interests include the intersections between information policy, good governance, and corporate influence. You can find her on Twitter - @JessSantanaNY.
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