University of Southern Indiana

Accounting Graduate Advises Students To Be Strategic

2016-01 Adam Knepp profile photoAdam Knepp ‘07 emphasizes the importance of the first job out of college for someone’s professional career, and he believes college students should be strategic when preparing for it. Adam attended USI on a Presidential Scholarship. He came as an undecided major while trying to choose between the medical field and majoring in business. After finding that classes like chemistry weren’t for him, he considered switching his major to marketing. However, on the advice of his brother, a CPA who had attended USI, he decided to go with accounting because of the versatility it would give him in a career. Adam found the concepts really clicked with him. “Accounting is its own language,” he said.

Adam knew he wanted to work in a bigger city after graduation. He interviewed with several larger firms and went to work at Deloitte’s Indianapolis office in external audit. Adam worked there for three years. Still wanting to pursue big city work experience, he reached out to a former colleague who was traveling extensively as part of her internal audit job with Abbott Laboratories. She helped him get an interview, and he was hired in Abbott’s Chicago office. Internal audit was a different career direction for Adam because it meant auditing a corporation’s processes rather than its financials. Soon Adam was sent all over the world, traveling to 37 countries in a span of about two years. He ran kickoff meetings at each audit, attended by the corporation’s highest ranking associates. “Sometimes I’d run meetings attended, for example, by 15 of the top financial officers in the German affiliate, explaining to them how we were going to conduct an audit of their business operations.”

2016-01 Adam Knepp collage

Knepp's position in auditing with Abbott Laboratories in Chicago took him all over the world, including countries like Thailand, Peru, Argentina, and India. 

After what Adam describes as “a whirlwind time in my life,” his career took another turn. Abbott Laboratories split, resulting in the pharmaceutical line spinning off into its own company named AbbVie. The third highest ranking financial officer with AbbVie approached Adam about joining the new financial reporting team that was being built from the ground up.  There he helped create the new company’s first releases, quarterly and annual reports, and internal monthly reporting packages.  He was also in charge of closing and maintaining the corporate ledger.  His new position gave him visibility to some of the company’s highest executives.  In his first few months, Adam had the opportunity to help pitch the new monthly reporting package software in a meeting with the CFO.  “It was a ton of work and a great experience. It was exciting to be part of the team that issued the company’s first public reports.”

Adam was becoming increasingly unhappy with the commute, which was taking about three hours a day, round trip. He decided to search for a position in downtown Chicago. He got an attractive offer with National Surgical Healthcare, where today he is director of financial reporting. After working for such large firms, he finds working for a smaller private company to be a welcome change of pace. Adam laughs, “Running something through legal now means walking down the hall to see Rob.” One of the most gratifying parts of his job is seeing the impact of his work; he is one of the decision makers sitting at the table.  Adam eventually relocated to Charlotte, NC, for his wife’s career, so he works remotely for National Surgical with occasional trips to the Chicago office.

When asked how USI impacted his career, Adam mentioned several things. He was a member of USI’s case study team that placed first in the 2006 Indiana CPA Society (INCPAS) statewide competition; it was also the year that USI made history by being the first university to win the INCPAS three years in a row. He said being part of a business team was a lot of work, but it later reaped many benefits. “Writing our paper wasn’t too bad, but actually presenting was scary because you didn’t know what the judges were going to ask you. However, that teaches you to be calm under pressure which helps you later in situations like job interviews.” He stresses how it looks on a student’s resume. “Anything above and beyond the classroom is huge because as a college student you really don’t have much work experience for your resume.”

Deloitte actively recruits on Indiana University’s campus, but Adam believes attending USI made him stand out. As part of the INCPAS team, he gained confidence in the quality of his education when he saw that a small college like USI can compete against larger universities. Today he believes his education was on par with his colleagues’ who graduated from bigger schools.

Looking back over his career, Adam sees how important each step has been in getting him where he is today. His next move is going to graduate school, and he will begin working on his MBA at Duke University in May. “Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to learn and understand how large and small companies function both operationally and financially.  My combined experience has taught me that business strategy is where my long-term interests lie.  My career steps have given me the background, and I am super excited about returning to school, especially one the caliber of Duke, and what it will mean for my future.”

Published January 6, 2016 

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