Accountant Discovers Efforts Don’t Add Up


The days of pencil-pushing accountants are long gone. Just ask Brett Dailey, a 32-year-old certified management accountant who plies his financial trade using Excel, Lotus 1-2-3, ACCPAC accounting software and several Web-development languages.

Demand for “accounting technologists” like Dailey is growing as companies stampede to establish online presences, build e-commerce relationships and rely more heavily on databases and management software.

So why has Dailey spent months circulating his resume to no avail?

Stanford University accounting professor Mary Barth volunteered to perform an audit of the Thousand Oaks resident’s resume and job-hunting strategies.


She learned from Dailey that after he moved to the United States from Toronto in 1997, he worked as a benefits consultant at a large Ohio-based accounting firm. Last year, he left the firm to move to California, he said, but since then has done only freelance Web development.

Barth found Dailey’s resume and employment-search plans in a bit of disarray. His resume lacked mention of any formal education. Though it enumerated a wide variety of professional achievements ranging from computer programming to management accounting, it didn’t have a singular focus. Dailey admitted that this was because he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to become an information technology professional, remain in accounting or find a job that would allow him to combine the two interests.

Then there was the “CPA question.” Though Dailey had listed himself as a Canada-credentialed certified general accountant and a U.S.-credentialed certified management accountant, he hadn’t yet obtained a certified public accountant designation, the most prestigious and marketable accounting credential. Dailey said he falls short of the California Board of Accountancy’s minimum education requirements, and therefore is ineligible to sit for the exam.

Dailey explained that he has neither earned a bachelor’s degree nor completed 120 semester units of college credit--requirements for taking the California CPA exam. The education requirements can be waived for individuals who can prove they’ve lived in California for at least 48 months and have passed certain equivalency exams in the College Level Examination Program, but Dailey doesn’t meet this requirement either.


Barth suggested that Dailey seriously consider working toward attaining the CPA credential, which would enhance his credibility as an accountant and improve his marketability.

She also urged Dailey to disclose on his resume whatever formal education he has completed. Omitting such important information is often a red flag to prospective employers, Barth said.

Dailey’s most pressing problem is his lack of defined career goals, Barth said. Until he chooses a vocational path, he won’t be able to make long-term plans. Dailey said he had sent resumes to companies such as PeopleSoft Inc. in Pleasanton and Sun Microsystems Inc. in Palo Alto, hoping company representatives would match him to available positions within their firms. But the companies instead instructed Dailey to target specific jobs before reapplying.

“How can I apply for a position when I don’t know what I’m best suited for?” Dailey asked Barth.


Barth reiterated that only Dailey could make that determination. He’ll need to conduct additional research into IT, accounting and accounting technology to discover what most excites him.

After reviewing Dailey’s resume, Jay Fink, president and chief executive of the Exc.Is Group, a high-tech recruiting firm in New York City, concurred with Barth. “He has skills that could be attractive to a Big Five [accounting] firm, but they’re not coming through. Instead, what’s coming across is that he’s confused about what he wants.”

Fink suggested that Dailey consider visiting a career counselor to gain clarity about his vocational goals. Once he’s able to select a career objective, he can retool his resume, beginning with an eye-catching description of himself, such as “highly computer-literate financial executive with extensive state-of-the-art IT skills,” and then simply state the position he seeks.

Because Dailey no longer wants to work in employee benefits, he should de-emphasize this experience on his resume, instead highlighting his management accounting and technical skills, Barth and Fink said. He also should rewrite the “computer competencies” section of his resume. Currently, Dailey lists Excel, Lotus 1-2-3, Microsoft FrontPage, MSWord and WordPerfect as his software skills.


“But nowadays just about every administrative assistant in the world has those,” Fink said. The recruiter suggested that Dailey instead showcase his more valuable Web development skills: ASP (Active Server Pages), Visual Basic Script and Javascript. Should he decide to embark on an IT career, he also should consider learning the programming languages C++ and Java and updating his database skills so he can add these to his resume, Fink said.

Eventually, when Dailey has set a course, he may wish to investigate companies in the “business-to-business” e-commerce sector that are hiring accounting professionals with technical expertise, Barth said. She cited three California prospects for Dailey: Ariba Inc. in Mountain View, DiCarta Inc. in Redwood City and Bizfinity in Cupertino. Barth warned Dailey that many B2B companies are still in their start-up phases, so they may not be able to match Dailey’s previous $50,000-a-year salary at first.

Last week, Dailey abandoned his job hunt in the U.S., accepting an offer from Sprint Canada to become manager of corporate profitability at its Toronto office. On Monday, Dailey, his wife and their 4-month-old child took a 2,500-mile-trip back to Canada.

Dailey expressed some disappointment about how things turned out. “This job isn’t as computer-oriented as I originally hoped, but they said they want me to do some corporate Internet development and assist them with some [computer-related] compatibility problems,” he said.


“I didn’t have much luck in California, but the response to my resume was great in Canada.”