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    Adrian Simmons
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    Bryan Coleman
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    Greg Kyte
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    Ian Crook
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    Jason Blumer
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    Jennifer Blumer
  • Scott Kregel
    Scott Kregel

You aren’t a dumbass like your cousin. Who the hell majors in Romance Literature?

There’s no excuse for it. Did your cousin really think it was a good life choice to become an expert in the heroic narrative prose and verse popular in high medieval and early modern Europe? Or did he chose his major because he confused romance literature with romance novels, and didn’t change his major even after reading the complete works of Chretien de Troyes and not a single masterpiece by Danielle Steel?

But we’re accountants. We did it right. We chose a major that’s also a department in every major corporation. No one at GE ever said, “Give these reports to Bob in philosophy.” No one has ever called her parents because she got a job at a Big 4 anthropology firm. There is no licensure for a certified public musician. Apparently a B.A. in communications prepares you to be a shift manager at Target.

We got a degree that led to a job because we understood the rules. We’re very good at rules. We’re professional rule followers/enforcers. We accountants are not so much captains of industry. More like hall monitors of industry. We find comfort in rules. It’s a strength, but it also gives us a huge blind spot. Our comfort/fascination/aptitude for rules has gotten our profession in a rut. I’d rather be a captain.

The most useless college majors according to thedailybeast.com include the following:
• Fine Arts
• Drama
• Photography
• Graphic Design
• Architecture
• Philosophy
• English
• Anthropology
• Archeology
• Music
• History

(How is Women’s Studies not on that list? That’s not sexist. Men’s Studies isn’t on the list either. Men’s Studies isn’t even a major.)

But here’s the twist: these fields may not be so useless after all.

Einstein said, “Creativity is the residue of time wasted.” Robert Heinlein said, “Progress isn’t made by early risers; it’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.” Four years of studying philosophy is the definition of wasted time, and there are few people considered lazier than guitar majors, yet these are keys to creativity and progress.

In his recent HBR article, Walter Isaacson quoted Steve Jobs as saying, “I always thought of myself as a humanities person as a kid, but I liked electronics. Then I read something that one of my heroes, Edwin Land of Polaroid, said about the importance of people who stand at the intersection of humanities and sciences, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.” Steve Jobs didn’t just stand at that intersection; he directed traffic at that intersection, and he made sure that art and computers had a head-on collision.

If it was surprising for computer nerds to embrace and inject their craft with the humanities, how much more for accounting nerds? The accounting profession is the only profession where the adjective “creative” has a pejorative connotation. As in, “Hey, Kevin, you’re a very creative accountant.” “Screw you, Bob! I’m not creative, I’m very conservative! Although I do respect your professional skepticism regarding my deliverables.”

How can you bring more artistry to your work? Here are some ideas:
• Write your audit opinion in verse or iambic pentameter
• Along with depreciation schedules, give your customers surrealist paintings of their PP&E to make the concept of depreciation more visceral
• Create a play or film to depict how your customers will be treated by the IRS if they are audited (probably won’t be appropriate for children)

Feel free to plagiarize these well-thought-through examples. But in reality, you have to find your own way here. Waste some time. Find an easier way to do something so you can waste more time. As you waste time, find ways to connect the disparate concepts of accounting and the humanities. When you stumble upon the brilliance and genius of making accounting accessible in new ways to new people, you win.

Regardless, your cousin’s still a dumbass.

 

Greg was born in Akron, Ohio, in the shadow of the Firestone tire factory. He began to swim competitively when he was eight, swimming for the Mountlake Terrace Lemmings. He graduated in 1995 from the University of Washington with a math degree. He chose math for the ladies.  After serving ten-years as an 8th grade math teacher, he decided it was time for a career change, mainly because he “couldn’t stand those little bastards.” He began his accounting career with a local CPA firm in Orem, Utah, where he consistently failed the QuickBooks ProAdvisor advanced certification exam.  Greg currently works as the Controller for the Utah Valley Physicians Plaza. He lives in Provo, Utah, with his wife and two kids. He enjoys eating maple bars, drinking Diet Pepsi, and swearing.

Category:
Business, Other Thoughts
Comments:
11
  • On 06-04-2012 at 2:07 pm, Dallon Christensen said:

    We have to remember that, as accountants, we are charged with using our best judgment. That will always require some level of creativity to get our work done. I don’t see “creative” as a bad word in our profession. Things move so quickly, and we are supposed to be doing more than just crunching numbers and completing spreadsheets.

    When I look back on my education, I wish I had taken a few more liberal arts-style classes. I was very heavy on business and technical classes, but some extra design or history classes would have done me some good!

    Reply
  • On 06-04-2012 at 2:54 pm, Kevin McCoy said:

    Thanks for the compliment Captain Kyte.

    Reply
  • On 06-04-2012 at 5:21 pm, Jody Padar said:

    I went to a small Liberal Art’s College and I earned my BBA in Accounting. I love that foundation, in fact I even spent a year living in Rome, Italy studying the fine arts. I was one of one business majors there because of the requirements if you wanted to graduate on time, it was quite difficult. It was too bad, that more accountants didn’t chose that opportunity. Accenture has always hired liberal arts degrees and trained for business skills. As the world is changing and we as accountants are using more consulting skills, it seems like the correct path. What I find funny (and I may be wrong on this) was that I thought that was the purpose of 150 hour rule. To broaden the accounting mindset. But, In fact all it did was create bigger nerdier accountants…Does anyone really need a masters in Accounting if you already have an undergrad in it? Wouldn’t many of today’s accounting students be better off with a year of liberal arts to increase their knowledge? I think so…But instead we just have nerdier accountants. Oh well…it was a nice try but too bad the CPA Exam didn’t mandate the Fine Arts!

    Reply
  • Jason Blumer

    On 06-04-2012 at 6:31 pm, Jason M Blumer, CPA said:

    Interesting Jody. Do graduates in Accounting actually need a Masters Degree? Not sure. But the money sure is nice for the universities!

    We need a section (small, no less) on the CPA exam for sculpture.

    Reply
  • On 06-04-2012 at 10:56 pm, Greg Kyte said:

    Education is what you make of it, and people often become experts in subjects they never formally study. It’s not the degree or the program (Jobs dropped out of college), it’s the discipline to look at our craft with a bigger lens than just accountant. How can you bring more to the table? How can you turn thinky-stuff into feely-stuff? We as accountants need to do couple of things. We need to fully embrace our nerdy, anal-retentive nature AND we need to develop ourselves as robust individuals who are more than just accountants.

    Reply
  • On 06-05-2012 at 12:45 pm, Magen Smith said:

    I am going to start giving all of my customers a puppet play of their financial statement information since I can’t give them an actual financial statement.

    Reply
  • On 06-05-2012 at 7:06 pm, Tim Sernett said:

    How can you turn thinky-stuff into feely-stuff? For accountants that is an incredibly tough question to answer, but for those accountants serving entreprenuers coming up with real answers can reap huge pay offs. The Thriveal community has helped me really think differently about how we interact with and consult with our small business customers. The feely-stuff will differentiate you from the crowd. Well done Greg

    Reply
  • Jason Blumer

    On 06-05-2012 at 7:18 pm, Jason M Blumer, CPA said:

    I’m finding it hard to embrace my inner nerd.

    Reply
  • On 06-05-2012 at 8:46 pm, Joey Brannon said:

    I only had to wait 17 years for someone in the accounting profession to validate my undergrad in philosophy. Lord knows I never expected it to be Greg Kyte.

    Reply
  • On 06-06-2012 at 9:30 am, Kevin McCoy said:

    Jody & Greg both have great points. I think where the breakdown occurs (at least in my experience) is that no one told me in college accounting would require great communication skills – listening, speaking, writing – along with good technical ability.

    Is college even the right atmosphere to learn this stuff? I think you have to have a natural curiosity if you really want to learn something deeply.

    Reply
  • On 06-08-2012 at 8:48 pm, Patti Scharf said:

    Jason & Jody – I think maybe the Masters in Accounting is for people like me who do a 180 after getting their Bachelors (Chinese & Spanish in my case). I really don’t know many people who have both a BA in Accounting and a Masters in Accounting (Master in Tax, yes, but that’s a different animal).

    I won’t argue on the extra nerdy part, though.

    Reply

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