The Path to Here

I sat down on Easter Sunday with every intention of cranking out a practical and educational post about the next exciting topic in tech startup finance. But alas- that just didn’t happen. I know.. I know…  I can practically feel the disappointment from anyone who reads this: “How am I going to get my accounting and finance fix this month?!?!” Well no frets – I’ve set a personal goal to write at least one blog a month, so you can tune in next month!

Last week marked my first week working full-time for Terminus. It’s an opportunity that I am so excited about, it’s hard to put into words.  I believe in the company’s idea, the leadership, and the team to grow Terminus into an amazing organization. But that is the future. I often get asked about the past… “How did you end up here?” So, today’s post is a brief snapshot of my professional career thus far.

My career is just seven and a half years old (if you include a “big boy” internship), so while I know I still have a lifetime ahead and a ton to learn, I think it’s safe to say I’ve graduated from “spring chicken” status. Here’s a quick recap of my two previous roles and a few things I learned from each:

Habif, Arogeti & Wynne – I began my career in the pits of the economy crash in January of 2009. Needless to say, I was a bit insecure. I assumed being low man on the totem pole in a demanding role meant I could be an easy cut. But I noticed something pretty early on: you don’t have to be faster than the bear — just faster than your slowest coworker. Not everyone performs equally and people would do just enough to get by without getting let go…

Well, I was REALLY scared of the bear. If I’m faster than the bear, there is zero chance it catches me. I had no clue what I was doing during my first year (sorry to anyone reading this who knows I worked on your tax return…), but I instantly decided that I was going to show my team that I could run through a brick wall to get something done. My worth ethic prevailed and it served me well.  I built a strong degree of trust and accountability from my managers, which created a very solid foundation for the next three years.

I learned very early that I couldn’t control the complexity of certain projects or my lack of experience, but I could control the effort I put into figuring that shit out! This concept was my favorite takeaway from my first job, and I feel strongly that it helped lead me to….

Atlanta Ventures – Landing this job was the ultimate combination of timing + “not what you know, but who you know.” One of my best friends (who previously worked for a David Cummings company) just happened to be taking a tour of the newly purchased Atlanta Tech Village and learned that the founders just happened to be looking for an accountant. (Talk about luck, huh?) I had an interview one week later and a job offer that night. Oh- and I didn’t have to finish another grueling tax season (sorry again to any former client reading this)!  🙂

I began working for Atlanta Ventures in the spring of 2013. I stayed with Atlanta Ventures for three years, however it felt like my own “mini career” because I learned SO MUCH during those short three years.  It was a complete contrast to my HA&W job: deadlines weren’t driven by government due dates and there were no layers of hierarchy training me and checking my work. I was either on an island or a very small team, and I had to figure out how to prioritize dozens of various sized projects with “asap” due dates.

It was overwhelming at times but I developed a belief that it was never a “stressful job.” Instead, I viewed it as an opportunity. It was an opportunity to make a meaningful impact on a startup’s business and an opportunity to put myself in the best position possible to take the next career step. Once I embraced this, the tactical side of the equation was easy. I changed my personal and professional habits in a healthy way (i.e. shifting my day forward 1-2 hours, networking more, etc). Yes, the alarm clock isn’t fun, but getting ahead (or in some cases, catching up) first thing in the morning always feels good.

I think reflecting on your past is really important – it helps you identify strengths, weaknesses, patterns, etc. And in this fast paced world, it’s hard to devote the time to self reflection. So in my wise old age of 30, here are the two biggest professional takeaways thus far:

 

  • A great work ethic can help level the playing field when faced with limited experience or lack of knowledge.

 

  • Identify your professional goals (whether internal or external) and use your current role to achieve them at any cost.

And with that, we’ll be back to regular scheduled accounting and finance fun next month!

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