Magazine article The CPA Journal

Guest Editorial: If I Could Do It over Again

Magazine article The CPA Journal

Guest Editorial: If I Could Do It over Again

Article excerpt

A message from the Editor-in-Chief

Editor's Note: The responses to the question 1 first raised in May-"If you could do it over again, would you still be an accountant?"-have been thought-provoking and, in many cases, an opportunity to reconnect with old acquaintances. I first met the author of this month's guest editorial in January, when we profiled the Independence Standards Board (ISB) for an article that appeared in our April issue. I'm grateful to her for sharing her professional perspective, which is both varied and broad

I keep hearing that college students and young graduates don't believe that a career in auditing is challenging enough. They see the auditor's work, especially in the early years, as endless, mind-numbing drudgery-maybe suitable for people with the patience and discipline that enables them to master the nuances of arcane rules and the willingness to squander their youth in a dark basement poring over dusty corporate records and files-- but not for anyone with a little spunk and imagination. I don't know how this misconception got started, and I couldn't disagree more.

I always felt challenged during the 12 or so years I spent as an auditor in the field at a Big Five firm, and I like to think that I am not particularly dull-- witted. In Robert Colson's May column, he talks about the "elegance of a theory so well modeled that it can distill the essence of millions of transactions into three pages that summarize the history of a business and provide insight into its future." That image, of three tightly distilled pages of financial statements, reminded me of what I liked about auditing.

What could be more challenging than being handed three pages of numbers and figuring out whether those numbers are materially accurate-- numbers that supposedly reflect the results and assets and obligations of a company that may have operations all over the country or even all over the world? As Colson describes them, three pages of numbers crystallizing millions of transactions compiled under an elegant theory or model, yet subject to a voluminous and often complicated set of detailed rules. As an auditor, how would you go about it? Where on earth would you start? At the top of the page or at the bottom? Looking up from the detailed transaction level at a third-tier subsidiary, or looking down from corporate headquarters? What would you look for? Where would the mistakes likely be? You are free to look anywhere-all of the company's records and personnel are available to youand you can ask any and as many questions as you want. …

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