What a CPA calls “the best job in the world”

To comment on this episode or suggest an idea for another episode, contact Neil Amato at Neil.Amato@aicpa-cima.com.


Neil Amato: Welcome back, dear listeners. Here is Neil Amato with the accounting journal. Coming up in this episode of the podcast, we feature a college professor who is the subject of The Last Word article in the January issue of the Jofa. Plus, we’ll share more about the information you’ll find in the current issue, from a quick guide to annual tax filing season to practice management tips to tips for streamlining expense reporting. First, here’s my chat with Nancy Bagranoff about how she got interested in accounting, how she connects with her students, and this time she took her grandkids hiking in the mountains .

Joining me for this episode is Nancy Bagranoff. Nancy is a CPA and a professor at the University of Richmond. Nancy, thank you for being on the podcast. First tell me, how did you get interested in accounting?

Nancy Bagranoff: It’s interesting. My undergraduate major was marketing, and I majored in marketing, I thought I might work in retail, I graduated, I decided, well, maybe I don’t want a career in retail.

In this case, General Electric was recruiting through its management program, and I was hired as part of that. It was a financial accounting type program, so I started working in accounting, and found that I was well suited for it.

Amato: You are The Last Word feature in the accounting journal. In this feature, you are prompted to name a favorite book. Now, you said you read quite often, two books a week. It’s pretty hard to probably name a favorite because you have such a big list. But on the favorite app question, you mentioned AllTrails. Now, I guess you don’t hike two new trails a week, so I’m going to ask you if you have one or two favorite hiking trails or memorable experiences?

Bagranoff: I’ll give you two, Neil, that are favorites for different reasons or favorite memories. First, last summer I was very fortunate to go with my family to Wyoming, to Jackson Hole.

We had a wonderful, wonderful tour of Jenny Lake in the Tetons, and it was just fabulous. I have to walk there, I had a wonderful time. I’m going to tell you a little anecdote. The person in front of me accidentally dropped their bear spray, and I got in there and… couldn’t breathe. It’s memorable for that reason, but it’s mostly memorable for the beauty of the surroundings.

The other experience is memorable in a funny way. I went to visit my daughter in North Carolina and was tired after a long drive. I suggested my grandchildren take a walk with me. They were four grandchildren, all between the ages of 8 and 14. I found a site on AllTrails and picked them up, and we started the hike. I realized I didn’t bring pepper spray, I didn’t bring water. I hadn’t paid attention to the map.

I took the four poor children up the side of the mountain, I didn’t know how to get down. We finally got off and found ourselves five miles from the parked car. It was very memorable, but not the best hiking experience. Fun for me, and a few of them really enjoyed it, but some of them will never hike with me again.

Amato: I can understand that. A question, because I live in North Carolina. Where in North Carolina did this memorable hike take place?

Bagranoff: It was just outside of Asheville, in Cullowhee, if you know where that is.

Amato: Yes, Western Carolina University.

Bagranoff: It’s three miles away.

Amato: What are the keys for you to create links with your students?

Bagranoff: I like talking to students. I really do, and I find you can connect with them. You can always find a place to connect. You just told me that you live in North Carolina so you are interested in the location of the hiking trail.

Geographically, I can connect. I can connect from sports, although I’m not as good as a lot of people. You can connect by talking about their pets. You can connect by talking about their families. You can log on the summer job they had.

I try to find something that we have in common. It could even be a favorite movie or a recent movie we watched. It’s nice to find something where they personally connect with you, and then you can use that as a bridge to work with them on what matters, which of course is learning accounting.

Amato: You said that one way to make accounting courses relevant is to involve practitioners. What are the benefits of these practitioners’ words?

Bagranoff: I think students sometimes think their professors live in ivory towers and maybe don’t have enough relevant experience. I try to stay very connected, so I think I’m aware of what’s going on, but I get a little more credibility if it’s picked up by a practitioner, or the practitioner will bring something that I’m learning with students.

One of the courses I teach is on cybersecurity. Today, no one can know everything about cybersecurity. A guest speaker who talks about their own organization’s experience or the cybersecurity consulting work they do enlightens us all. It’s just a great opportunity for students. I also find that often students listen to a practitioner, and they may want to connect with them outside of class and talk to them about their work and career.

Amato: It’s interesting that you say you can also learn. Are public accounting professionals primarily, or where do you recruit them from?

Bagranoff: I draw them everywhere. I have had accountants several times, but I will also go to the business world, particularly in terms of cybersecurity or consulting firms.

Amato: It was nice getting to know you a little better today, Nancy. People can find out more about you in The Last Word, as I mentioned in this article, but is there anything you would like to add in closing?

Bagranoff: I would just add that I believe teaching students is the best job in the world. I particularly like to teach them accounting. I often teach the first accounting course. A few students this semester told me at the end that they felt like they learned more in the course than in any course they had taken. It is not a function of me as a teacher. It depends on how much knowledge we have and how practical it is. So it’s a joy to be able to do this work.

Amato: Thanks again to Nancy Bagranoff. You can read the article mentioned in the January issue of the Jofa, which we will link to in the show notes for this episode. I will also highlight three other articles in this issue. The first is the quick guide to filing season for the 2021 tax year. There’s all kinds of information on dollar thresholds, tax tables, standard amounts, credits, and deductions. You can download and print this guide.

The second article of note covers what is sure to be a popular topic in practice management: when and how to raise fees in your practice. Many factors can influence this decision, and these increases are often necessary to run a profitable and healthy business. Freelance writer Anita Dennis shares advice from several CPAs on this topic.

Finally, read CPA Byron Patrick’s ideas for making expense reporting easier. There are options — from corporate credit cards to software — to make the expense reporting process smoother. That’s it for this episode. Thanks for listening to the accounting journal Podcast.

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