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Making An Accounting Career Jump

Currently, I am employed as a "Director" in the Finance and Operations department of a company (<10 Full-time employees). Note, that I place "Director" in quotes as I only "direct" myself and have no formal accounting background. Also note that the company has negative cashflow with limited runway (if strong Sales goals are achieved within 12 months, the company will be stable). Recently, I've been offered a position as a Technical Accounting Manager at a larger, profitable company (for a much higher salary). I believe that this opportunity will offer strong mentorship but am nervous of being "pigeon-holed" at a larger enterprise. My questions: 1) Are there any Technical Accounting Managers on this forum? If so, what is your daily routine? Please share the +/- of the occupation. 2) Would being a Technical Accounting Manager hinder or enhance future opportunities of being a CFO - assuming I had the opportunity for more formal education (e.g MBA)? 3) While I understand the basics of accounting, cost/revenue recognition, etc - I am unfamiliar with the intricacies of GAAP (although, I would feel comfortable learning). Do you think this would cause issues in the new position?

Answers

Anonymous
(Director of Finance) |

1. It's a great opportunity to learn, hands-on, significant skills that would help you pursue your goal to become a CFO. Your concern should be if you currently know enough or can learn quickly enough to perform the functions required in this new position.
2. Strong mentorship is a tremendous plus, and one that may not be easy to find.
3. For an individual who demonstrates initiative, is agile in learning how to address the challenges that arise, and gains the skills to enable him to take on additional, bigger responsibilities, I would not worry about being "pigeon-holed."

Anonymous
(Director, Finance and Business Administration) |

Honestly, if you do not have an accounting background, Technical Accounting may be difficult. It is difficult enough for those of us with such a background. Will you be happy reading boring accounting literature often?

Clinton Jones
Title: Director of Product Management
Company: Winshuttle
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Product Management, Winshuttle) |

I am not sure I understand why you are worried about a shift to a TAM position. I get the concern about becoming pigeon-holed but at the end of the day - what are your aspirations, what is your age and what is your real longitudinal experience that positions you well for a CFO position?

You could likely make the jump to a CFO position from where you are now, but would you want to be the CFO of a ten man accounting department ? You already indicated that you are 'director' in name alone - would a title change assuage your aspirations?

It is very easy for companies hunting for a CFO to peel back the covers on candidate experience and determine what your real value to them would be and title is usually not the only selection criteria.

If the pay is better, the company larger, you continue to learn, why would you nopt make the jump.

Fortune favours the brave

Anonymous
(Corporate Controller) |

I have been a "Technical Accounting Manager" at two public companies, and it is not about "reading boring accounting literature". Or perhaps better said, if you find that analyzing complex financial transactions and helping your team and your company come to an appropriate accounting answer "boring", then it's not the position for you.

My concern would be with your self assessment: "I am unfamiliar with the intricacies of GAAP". If this is true, then taking a position that requires a deep familiarity with the intricacies of GAAP could very well be setting yourself up for failure. If you have an interest in Technical Accounting, develop that skill and then go for the type of position you've described.

Ross Anderson, CPA, MBA
Title: Controller
Company: TFS Capital
(Controller, TFS Capital) |

If I were in your shoes, I would jump. A Technical Accounting Manager role would be very interesting and would help you develop some key skills that may lead to more things. You can also always try to help out other areas and take in everything you can.

Michelle Rogers
Title: Principle
Company: MR Consulting
(Principle, MR Consulting) |

I wouldn't get hung up on title and focus more on the job. More money and stability with the opportunity to receive coaching/mentorship sounds very attractive. Don't underestimate the value of being in an environment where you can access experience. So, the real question is, are you fascinated by learning the technical aspect of accounting? If so, go for it. If that sounds unappealing, you have your answer.

Anonymous
(Finance Director) |

I've been technical accounting in different divisions in public companies and it provides great opportunities. It is a great way to learn about the business needs and issues. While the position does, at times, require the in depth GAAP knowledge I have found a working knowledge with the ability to do research effective. Being able to analyze a complex situation that finance is facing and determine the most advantageous solution within GAAP has been invaluable. My greatest benefit to organizations has been to guide processes changes so that we were able to get the accounting treatment that benefited us the most. With that I have been able to progress to Accounting Director and Finance Director (CFO’s special project Director) in fortune 500 entities.

Anonymous
(Finance Director) |

I've been technical accounting in different divisions in public companies and it provides great opportunities. It is a great way to learn about the business needs and issues. While the position does, at times, require the in depth GAAP knowledge I have found a working knowledge with the ability to do research effective. Being able to analyze a complex situation that finance is facing and determine the most advantageous solution within GAAP has been invaluable. My greatest benefit to organizations has been to guide processes changes to get the accounting treatment that benefited us the most. With that I have been able to progress to Accounting Director and Finance Director (CFO’s special project Director) in Fortune 500 companies.

Janet Monaghen, CPA, MBA
Title: Founder | Controller Accounting | Financ..
Company: Leaders in Executive Accounting | Financ..
(Founder | Controller Accounting | Finance Director, Leaders in Executive Accounting | Finance) |

How on earth can you conscientiously be accepting "Technical Accounting Manager" position when you don't have any accounting background? I would suggest that you take accounting and finance courses to make sure you have solid knowledge and understanding or you shall fail miserably because you might not be able to competently perform the job.

Anonymous
(Director of Finance and Operations) |

Janet,
The job description wasn't representative of the true nature of the work; the position focused more on a Finance Ops position

George Holowko
Title: Operations & Finance Consultant
Company: George Holowko, CPA, CCP
(Operations & Finance Consultant, George Holowko, CPA, CCP) |

I am a former Executive Consultant, now contractor, focused on analysis & financial decision support in support of optimization & business transformation. Though not a Technical Accounting Manager, I have had to quickly understand the many nuances of the many clients’ accounting and how they viewed and applied GAAP within their corporate accounting.

Hmm… No formal accounting background? I suppose if the company with whom you are being offered a position knows you do not have the formal accounting background, it would be a great opportunity for you to learn and grow deeper. I am just a bit perplexed as to how you might be able to begin to secure a position like that, in a larger company. As a CPA of 30 years who is actively seeking a new, permanent position… Maybe I’m jealous??? :)

Anyhow, I do appreciate your confidence, and, on a more serious note, risk of not being able to address the technical accounting questions that arise might be an issue. Your concerns with being unfamiliar with the intricacies of GAAP could be justified. But, being nervous of getting pigeon holed? Well, not so much.

On the bright side, if you were able to pick up accounting knowledge through informal learning, sufficient enough to get the nod to be the technical accounting manager, chances are, you would be quick enough to research and learn what would be required, and the GAAP issues go away. Also, imagine where your skills to absorb knowledge can take you at this larger company. You might not need to worry about being limited from becoming CFO, as there may be many other opportunities for someone like yourself in other executive roles.

Remember… Progress, NOT perfection! Best wishes for your continued success!

Lynn Fountain
Title: MBA CGMA CRMA, Past Chief Audit Executiv..
Company: Business Consultant
LinkedIn Profile
(MBA CGMA CRMA, Past Chief Audit Executive, Business Consultant) |

In addition to others comments here are a few. It is surprising the title is technical accounting manager when you indicate the job description actually has more to do with operations. The first thing you need to decide is if you truly qualify for the responsibilities as listed and can execute them proficiently. The title is only that - a title. If you are concerned about what it may appear like on a resume, you can easily clarify that through your accomplishments in the position and overall position summary. If the company truly is looking for a technical accounting manager, as a CPA I would also be surprised they would consider someone who doesn't have formal accounting training. Maybe the company just didn't know how to title the position. So I guess I'm saying - make sure you know what the job entails and are confident you can perform.....quit thinking to far down the road anout being pigeonholed, you may love the job and decide to pursue that avenue, most important....decide what is right for you based on your skill sets

Anonymous
(Finance Director / Controller) |

When a job title and its responsibilities don't align, I would ask why. If this is for an open position and not for an incumbent or evolving role why should they not align? Is it possible you are hearing one thing (perhaps what you want to hear) when evaluating the role while the employer is expecting another? There is no reason to call a finance ops role "Technical Accounting Manager" or vice-versa. In my experience, this is more true at larger organizations, not less.

If the reason you are interested in leaving is that your current employer is less secure (the heavy cash burn you mention) and believe working at a larger organization will offer more opportunities, these are valid points.

Others have already cautioned that if the job in fact requires in depth GAAP knowledge, you might want to keep your options open for a role that is more in line with your strengths. That would be unless strengthening your technical accounting is your specific objective, but that is not what it sounds like from reading your post.

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