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View more photos from the KEY trip.

Accounting students get inside look at profession

November 21, 2018

KOKOMO, Ind. –  More than a dozen Indiana University Kokomo accounting students gained an inside look at their chosen career — and made connections to help them get started.

Students met professional accountants at OneAmerica, the Indiana CPA Society, and Katz, Sapper & Miller LLP in Indianapolis, with the chance to ask questions and see what skills they need to succeed in the field.

Olga Korne, lecturer in accounting, said students often have ideas of what is involved in a career, but visiting in person allows them a chance to see it for themselves.

“It’s an opportunity to see the corporations and firms, talk to the professionals, learn how they operate, and what they are looking for in hiring,” said Korne, who added that a similar program was an important part of her own student experience. Faculty members Joungyeon Kim, associate professor of accounting and management information systems, and Xiaoqiong Crystal Wang, assistant professor of finance, also led the trip.

“There are so many possibilities available for careers in accounting,” she said. “Wherever you go in any business there will be an accountant. You can work for a large corporation, such as OneAmerica, or for a CPA firm like Katz, Sapper & Miller. This trip gave them a chance to see the diversity in accounting, and the opportunities you can do in that field.”

The trip was part of IU Kokomo’s “KEY” program – the Kokomo Experience and You, which launched in 2016 with the goal of providing students chances to connect with people and participate in real-world experiences. The goal is for each student to have a travel experience within his or her major.

At OneAmerica, students met with associates in financial reporting, finance, actuary, accounting, fraud, investment, and enterprise risk, who talked about what they do, and how they started their careers.

“The students were interested to see how all of the knowledge they have learned from accounting and finance classes can be applied in the real world,” said Kim. “They were impressed that so many upper level managers took time to talk to them about the profession.”

They learned about networking and continuing professional development at the Indiana CPA Society, from Jennifer Briggs, president and CEO, and Allison Paul, director of diversity and outreach. Students also learned that they can join for free, giving them access to newsletters, networking opportunities, and job posting sites.

“It’s a great resource for them as they prepare to start careers,” Kim said.

At Katz, Sapper & Miller, a panel of five younger CPAs, most of whom started their careers in the last five years, spoke to the students about what it is like to be a novice in the field, and how to look for a first job.

They talked about the long hours during tax season, but also the flexibility offered during the off season, and what the corporate culture is like, and also the kinds of non-academic skills they need to have to succeed in the accounting field.

Korne noted that a hiring manager told the students that work ethic is more important than experience in hiring.

“He was looking for people who have a good attitude, who want to be engaged, and want to learn,” she said. “He’s willing to teach them anything as long as they have the right attitude and want to learn and work hard.”

Ability to get along and build trust is also important, she added.

“Accounting today is a relationship business,” she said. “You build relationships and trust with a client. If there is no trust, a client will walk away from you.”

Kim Cravens, Kokomo, called it a well-rounded experience.

“It was nice to see two levels of what accounting can be, from a large firm to one that’s more centered around insurance,” she said.

Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) student Olena Shumeiko appreciated the opportunity to participate in the trip.

“It was a great opportunity for us to learn more about CPA employers, experience their corporate culture, and build a professional network,” the Westfield resident said.

Richard Nelson, Winamac, felt less nervous about meeting people in the profession.

“You always think of accountants as these intimidating people,” he said. “It’s nice to see they are normal people. They’re smart, but they are ordinary people. It was nice to get to know people in each of the areas.”

For Elizabeth Curtis, Kokomo, the experience solidified that she is more interested in a consulting job than specializing in tax and auditing, because of the demanding schedule during the busy season.

“It was very informative about what it takes to become a CPA, and how to maintain that certification throughout your career,” she said.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 11/21/2018