Archive for the 'work stuff' Category

work, work, work…

I’m still at it. Burning midnight oil to get this rusty ‘ole brain functioning again. Two years out of the rat race will do that to you. Journal entries aren’t coming as easily to me, bigger picture ideas are fuzzy, training from years past is long gone. Things are slowly falling in to place for me, fortunately, it’s just taking a little while to get warmed up again.

The whole working for myself thing (I’m an independent contractor for the company I’m working with) is an odd concept to me. I’m pretty sure I understated my rates when I started this gig; basically using the hourly rate I made when I left the workforce, plus a percent to cover self employment tax. I didn’t add any special consideration my CPA license, the hours I’ve invested in training or the years of auditing and industry experience that I bring to the table. I also didn’t adjust for the fact that I am picking up training cost and time on my own tab, the scrutiny and push back over the hours billed, or the hours I might have to eat for my own trial and error when working on a project.

Hour tracking and goals aren’t new to me. I dealt with it in public accounting; you submitted your hours based on client and task. Overages weren’t that big of a deal for me as an associate, but when I started senioring jobs, it suddenly became my budget on the line, and those extra hours my associates were putting in mattered… a lot. I never loved that part of it, but I got the reasons for it. In order for a job to be profitable, you can’t spend too much time on one project. There’s something to be said for a salaried work arrangement, especially when hour tracking isn’t critical to your role. Someone else’s budget, getting work done on your own timeline, not worrying if it’s taking you a bit longer to finish something. I guess it’s the same deal here – you end up eating hours whether you’re salaried or hourly.

I try… I really do, but sometimes I feel like my brain just doesn’t work. I’ve always considered myself to be a kinesthetic learner, as audible and visual learning never really stuck for me. I learn best by writing things down – they just don’t get in my head unless I physically write them out. It turns out there’s a whole new category of learner since I was a kid, the reading/writing preference learner, which fits me exactly. It doesn’t work well in meetings, though, to be fervently writing while someone is talking to you – head down, pen scratching, processing thoughts and ideas through your pen instead of your head. It’s not until an idea is written and read back that it sticks in my brain and I can roll around the concept. This, most assuredly, is the reason I’m in any sort of customer relations / marketing / sales job. My brain just works best when I can put things on paper. I even run in to this when working in excel. Sometimes I just have to step back and write down, on paper, what it is I’m trying to accomplish. What are the inputs? Where am I trying to get? What am I missing from the big picture?

It’s a humbling thing to be back in the accounting world. I feel “less than” my peers quite often. Ben assures me that I’m not, but, man, sometimes I just feel dumb. I guess everyone has moments of insecurity. Mine are just magnified by the fact that I haven’t had much positive reinforcement from the professional world in a very long time. It’s also tough to work for someone who seems to be “on” at all times. Something I aspire to be. My colleague picks up information from conversations that I miss. His financial statement analysis blows me away. Only a few years my senior, and yet, my skill set pales in comparison to his. Certifications, experience and a resume that far exceed my own.

I have to remind myself that life isn’t a competition… or at least it shouldn’t be. I’ll learn what I can, and expand my own skill sets and competencies, but ultimately, there will always be things that someone else is better at than me, and things that I am better at than others. It’s just how things are.  We all have our own reasons for taking the pace we do and goals that we want to accomplish in life. For me, being home with Claire was important, even if it meant putting my career on hold.
 
Ok, that’s it for me. Happy Friday everyone!

exhausted

I’m home with C today. It’s nap time and I have a moment to myself. I’m staving off the afternoon sleepies with a half-caf coffee from Starbucks, and am committed to getting a post up today. I have work I need to get done, but I’m pushing it off to write instead.

I was fearful of going back to work and not being able to cut it (I swear I wrote about this somewhere, but I’m at a loss to find the post). Among other fears, I worried that I would feel even more exhausted than I already did every day. But here’s the thing… although work seems to use up most of my energy by 5pm, I don’t find myself tired during the day. For the most part, I’ve been on the go, fully functioning and plugging away. Which is good. Very good.

The other thing I’ve found? I’m still exhausted the days I’m home with C. By her nap time, I’m ready to nap as well. And, I am at liberty to do so (assuming I don’t have any accounting work outstanding). Is it the freedom to do so that makes me feel more tired? Or is it just because it’s a different kind of work? Spending the days constantly distracted, never able to finish anything, and everything taking twice as long as it should to get done can be quite draining. Coffee helps, but it doesn’t take away the fact that I feel completely wiped by mid day.

I enjoy the time I spend with C, and it’s definitely high on my priority list, but I don’t feel like I’m at my best when I’m with her. I tend to feel scattered, halfway put together and frustrated. Simple tasks like going to the store are complicated acts and require careful planning. Everything becomes a negotiation. I just don’t feel like it’s my best “me”, but I’m not sure how to behave any other way when I’m wearing my mommy hat. It’s like my brain just doesn’t work as well as it should.

There are pros and cons to going back to work. Working outside the home gives me back the freedom to go to the store unencumbered (pro). However, sometimes trips to the store are a great learning opportunity for C and she misses out (con). I love being able to put my degree and CPA license to good use (pro), and even missed doing training for work (pro), but I worry that C ‘s education might be stifled by the “teaching to the lowest common denominator” approach that you find in many education settings (con). The money from working is a definite bonus (pro), and more than covers our preschool costs for the week, but it’s a balancing act, as I find that the more I work, the fussier and clingier C gets (con). One big con is the shorter nap times on days she’s at school. At home, she takes 2-3 hour naps, but at school, they only allocate 1.5 hours for nap time, so she’s getting short changed a bit on sleep, which is probably contributing to her being fussy and clingy.

I can tell that C’s adjusting to the change and trying to figure things out, and although outwardly she seems ok with it all (she talks about how much fun she has at school), little shifts in her behavior lead me to believe it’s harder on her than she lets on. It’s all about easing in to things right now and getting her used to being away from me for longer stretches of time. Really, there are work arounds for all the cons above, and ways to give C the best home and school experiences possible in a complimentary fashion – it’s just a matter of figuring out what works best for us.

We have C signed up for preschool 5 full days a week now, mostly because that was the best deal and gave me flexibility to schedule work as needed. The difference between 3 full days a week and 4 was $12. The jump between 4 and 5 days a week was $4 more – we’d be crazy not to sign up for full time! So, for $16 more per week, I can keep C home when I have time off, and take her in to school when I need to work. I make that back in less than an hour of work, so it’s not a bad deal. However, she was at school 4 very long days last week, and that was just too much for her. Taking her in late and picking her up early seems to work best – it gives me a good chunk of time to get work done and she seems happy.

I’ve picked up more work these past few weeks than I originally intended. The first two weeks of April, I clocked 65 billable hours – plus I had nonbillable hours for training and business related tasks. That’s with working 3 days per week. Phew, I’ve been busy.

So quickly I forgot how all consuming work can be. Very recently, I was giving a friend a hard time about not blogging. And, yet, I find myself 3 weeks out from my last post, struggling to find time to fit in the briefest of posts. It’s not just the time commitment – it’s getting my head out of accounting mode and in to writing mode. Even my last few posts were canned entries that wrote weeks before and had in the queue for times when the writing tank was low. Guess we’ve hit that space.

I’ll try to keep up with posting more frequently. I’ve gotten through a big chunk of work and have a bit of a lull (although I’m meeting with a CPA firm regarding some potential consulting work this week). It really is good to be back at work, and I’m glad I’m doing this. C will adjust, regardless, and so will I.

Until next time!

the gray

I love black and white. It’s the gray I’m not such a big fan of.

In the accounting world, many mistakes are black and white. An incorrect equation, excel formula gone awry or just a simple math error. The shades of gray come in the form of interpretation of rules and pronouncements, which can vary greatly, often making two different answers “correct”. One may be “more correct” than another, but argue each effectively, and there you have it – two correct, through vastly different, answers.

I appreciate the black and white. It comes with a straight forward, finite solution. The analysis is objective, so when a mistake is found, it’s a bit easier to swallow that, yeah, I messed up. The gray keeps things interesting, but admitting you were wrong comes with far more frustration. The very fact that the gray areas require subjective analysis means that someone else is deeming whether your work is worthy.

In the bigger picture of life, mistakes shape who we are. We are constantly surrounded by shades of gray. Whether society views your actions as mistakes or you do, the stigma remains. The next time, perhaps you approach things more carefully, or try to avoid risky situations altogether. Live and learn, right? Car accidents lead to a driver slowing down a bit, checking blind spots more carefully, giving more notice to approaching traffic that, ‘Yes, I am breaking now. Please prepare to stop.’

In the professional world, performance reviews are an objective way to evaluate mistakes and learn from them. And, interestingly, it seems you learn the most from the bad reviews. The ones where you’ve messed up. The good reviews don’t give you much insight in to your areas of improvement. The negative aspect of reviews (or “constructive criticism” as the more politically correct would refer to it) is what sticks in your head. Whether you agree or not, someone judged you and found you lacking. It doesn’t matter if ninety percent of your review was phenomenal, you focus on that ten percent where you could have done better. The sad thing is, the reviewer most likely focuses on the bad as well. Think of an employee from the past; one you’ve given both good and “constructive” reviews to, and tell me, what do you remember of them? Their stellar work? Or the fact that they took advantage of office leniency by coming in late, taking long lunches and spending too much time on personal phone calls? As much as they may have offset the “bad” behavior, that’s what sticks with you. That’s what gave you headache. That’s what gave you stress.

Maybe we’re designed to retain the bad feelings as a sort of safety mechanism for ourselves. Or maybe we’re just better at holding grudges than subscribing to a “forgive and forget” mentality. Either way, it’s probably not going to change any time soon.

Isn’t it crazy how I can find an accounting or work analogy to relate to any part of life? I definitely need to get back to work. :)

should i care?

In terms of the internet, I’m out there. My persona, my name, my likeness… all of it. I’m “google-able”, if you will. I do try to sensor my posts, at the very least omitting my last name from my blog. I’d rather remain somewhat anonymous in terms of the world wide web. However, for someone skilled in this area, it’s not that difficult of a task to figure out who I am.

So, as I prepare to re-enter the working world, I’m asking myself this question… should I care?

My blog, be it fairly open and somewhat random, really doesn’t contain too much unsavory information. I’m usually fairly tame in what I post here. Even if a potential employer searched me out, and discovered this blog, would it be an issue? I’d like to think that my blog reflects a well rounded picture of me – I feel like written communication is one of my strengths, and hope it comes across here as such. The only place I see it might be an issue is if an employer is anti-family, but (aside from the illegality of this) that’s probably not a job I want anyway. Please, go ahead and screen me out of that one. You’ll be doing us both a favor.

I have the option of using my formal name for anything job related. It creates one additional layer to peel back before stumbling upon the rest of my public information, but maybe that’s all I need. A cursory google search reveals nothing other than my Linked In page, which is perfectly fine by me, as that only contains professional information. Entering my common name, the one everyone knows, pretty much points you straight here. Just check out the third entry in google.

So now I ask you… should I care? Should I be doing more to obscure my blog from probing eyes?

The Scholarship Essay

Mila, Suzy & Missy - June 1998I found this essay today while doing a little file maintenance. I wrote it back in 2001 when I  was applying for scholarships for my senior year of college. Although I’ve written about Missy on here in the past, I thought this really captured how I was feeling and wanted to share…

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Most people think it’s odd that I’ve known what I wanted to do since I was thirteen. However, it was merely the art of imitation that led me in this direction. As a little girl, there was one person who I especially looked up to and admired. I wanted to be just like my cousin Missy. Even though she was ten years older than I, she never treated me like a little kid. When I was young, Missy seemed perfect to me. She took me to movies, amusement parks, and was just always there for me. As I got older, she was more of a sister than a cousin. She became a roll model and a mentor for me.

Missy attended Sacramento State, and about the same time that I was deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up, she was finishing college. She graduated with a degree in Accounting, and she opened my eyes to this field of study. I began to take classes in accounting, and I really enjoyed it. I realized this was the direction I wanted to take with my education and my life.

I began my college career at a Community College in my hometown. During my time at this college, my short-term goal was to transfer to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. Once I accomplished this goal, I began setting new goals for myself. These smaller goals are the stepping-stones that will lead me to my main goal of becoming a CPA at one of the “Big Five” accounting firms. One of these “stepping-stone” goals was to be involved at school. Becoming a member of Alpha Kappa Psi became a priority for me. Pledging was not an easy task, but it was an excellent learning experience that helped me discover who I am. It taught me leadership, teamwork, and most importantly, it showed me how to handle stressful situations. These are skills that I value and that will help me in life.

Though I have dealt with difficult and stressful situations before, it was just recently that I faced the biggest challenge of my life. A few weeks ago, my cousin, Missy, passed away suddenly. Seemingly healthy, and only thirty years old, she suffered from a condition known as “Long QT Syndrome”. This disease frequently has no symptoms, and can lay dormant for years. Upon learning the news that she was in the hospital, I got in my car and drove to Stockton at 2:30am to be with her. She was in a coma for four days before it was assessed that she had no chance of recovery. The doctors felt it would be best to take her off the life support machines. I’d been filled with hope that she would recover, and even though I stood next to her bed as she drew her last breath, I still somehow believed that she would wake up.

When someone dies, the timing is never good. In my case, it couldn’t have been worse. I had interviews for summer internships set up with “Big Five” companies that week, and I knew that this was a big opportunity. Although it was hard, I knew that I couldn’t miss my chance to move one step closer to my long-term goal. It was the longest week I’ve ever been through, but I made it, and did it successfully as well. I was offered a position at one of the firms, and I am going back for second interviews with two other firms.

Through hardship, a person builds character and strength. This was a difficult experience for me, and it will take time to heal, but it also taught me an important lesson. I realized that to reach your goals, sometimes you have to overcome your personal hardships and do what’s necessary to continue on. Missy and I had talked about my interviews in the weeks before she died, and she had given me encouragement and support. She was glad that I had such a wonderful opportunity, and I know that she would not have wanted me to miss it. In my life, I often set high standards for myself, but I have the determination and drive to push me toward those goals. As time passes, I believe this experience will help to strengthen me and make me a better person. I’ve felt Missy’s influence on me all my life, and even though she’s gone, that influence will still be there.

Are you ready??

I passed the last part of the exam! Got the results today – now its a few short steps to formalizing it and being a full fledged cpa!!!

awaiting results

Well, I completed the final portion of the CPA exam last Friday and I’m feeling pretty good about it. I finished early and took time to review each question before moving on to the next section. I’m hoping it’s the end of this journey, but the results will tell me for sure. It should be a few weeks before I get results back – the exam board is aiming to have results back within 2 weeks, but given the holiday this week, I’m guessing it will be more like 3.

It’s starting to sink in that I don’t have to study… don’t have to feel guilty about not studying… don’t even have to think about accounting in my off hours. I still have momentary panics where I feel like I shouldn’t be lazing about – but I quickly snap back to reality and realize that i’m in a good place, and most likely passed the final part of the test.

Ben & I are planning our first Thanksgiving at home this year. This will be the first holiday we’ve hosted at our house, and we’re really excited to cook a turkey, use our china and put our electric carver to good use. My parents, grandma, brother & his girlfriend will be joining us for the day. It should be a fun and relaxing day. Everyone is contributing by bringing a dish, so we should have some good food to enjoy.

Right now, I’m sipping on egg nog, watching some television and enjoying the calm before the holiday begins. Happy turkey day to all!

study, study, study…

Seems like my life revolves around studying lately. My life AND my blog. I’ve scheduled events around my study schedule, turned down dinner invitations and pretty much put my life on hold until this last test is over.

I spent the past 3 days in vegas for a work conference. I actually did pretty well and got a solid 2 hours of studying in while I was there. One helpful thing was the fact that the conferences I attended were very much applicable to the material I’m studying. Of course, it’s at a deeper level than the info I need to know for the test, but I figure I’ll have a better chance of answering questions correctly if I fully understand the material, so it can’t hurt.

Now I’m back at it… sitting at my desk, reviewing my lecture book from cover to cover. Suprisingly, I’ve retained quite a bit of the information I started studying 2 months ago – now it’s those little nuances and details I need to nail down. The “fun” stuff.

The test is Friday… fingers crossed I’ll do well :)

almost over….

I’m dreading the fact that I have 2 weeks left before the next test… in part because I’m not ready to take the test yet and the next few weeks are going to be a major cram session. I’m not looking forward to the next few weeks of cramming. My brain and body has been so drained lately… I wake up tired – feel like I could sleep all day. I have horrible dreams at night – filled with incredibly stressful, teeth grinding situations.

I’m almost at the end of the journey. I’ll be glad to have the test over with – but am a little fearful that I won’t pass this section and will have to retake it in February. It’s a scary thought to be at the end of this process… moving into the finite roll of being a “CPA” and all that it entails.

I look forward to having weekends off again. It will be so nice to run away for a weekend, spend some time at the coast or in the mountains. It’s something I’ve always taken for granted in the past – you never realize the value of having weekends free to do as you please until they are taken away from you.

The next few weeks will be a stress-filled rollercoaster for me. I’m lacking the motivation I need to get this material into my head, but I know that I need to do it. In the end, I’ll get it done. I know this only because I’ve done it before. Pushing myself to the far edge to get the work done and accomplish my goal. It’s not fun, nor is it pretty, but it works.

i’m in shock

it seems that the cpa board has pulled it’s act together and is releasing exam scores much MUCH earlier than ever before… this time I received my score a short 3 weeks after taking the test, and am very pleased and very shocked with the results. An 87!!!!!! far better than I could have ever hoped for.

I’m seriously in shock right now.

cpa scores



Mom to "C", wife to Ben. I'm a part-time blogger, cook, organizer, seamstress, house cleaner, taxi, nurse (the mom kind), accountant... I could go on, but really... it's all in the blog. Read away!

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