Michael Carroll ’88, accounting, has been elected chair of the USI Accounting Circle, an advisory group for the Accounting & Professional Services program made up of high-level accounting professionals from public accounting firms and from for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. A long-time member of the Accounting Circle, Carroll is CFO at Heritage Federal Credit Union and frequently participates in the Accountants in the Classroom program, the Extravaganza, and other volunteer activities.
What is your connection to USI, and what makes USI special to you?
I am a proud graduate of USI, obtaining my accounting degree with a finance minor in 1988. I was a transfer from IVTC and worked 30-40 hours a week while attending USI and I don’t know where I would be without USI. Class schedules were flexible, the price was affordable, the professors were outstanding and the university worked with me to place me in an internship that helped me during my job interviews, which initially happened on campus. I have no idea where I would be if it wasn’t for the opportunities and excellence provided to me by the university.
What do you think is unique about the Romain College of Business?
Several things come to mind. First is the quality of the faculty and the leadership of the college. I have known many of these people for years and know how their dedication extends way beyond the minimum required. Whether that means extra time spent with students, leading case study opportunities for students, working with those of us in the Accounting Circle and in the community or any one of a number of other items, it is unique and impressive. In addition, what a beautiful building and campus to attend school at!
Tell us about your career path.
Well, it isn’t what I planned! It was at first, in that my first job was as a public accountant at Geo. S. Olive and Company (later merged into BKD) for 13 years. The experience I gained there and the skills I learned from the people I worked with there shaped me as a professional. During the merger, I left and went into banking for ten years, at first running Internal Audit and Loan Review, then becoming controller and then CFO. Next, I became President & CEO of a 300 person non-profit mental health organization, then went back to the CFO role at a large crane and over the road heavy hauling company, and then to where I am now and hope to retire at, Heritage Federal Credit Union, where I am the CFO and also manage our Business Banking Team and Investment Advisory team. So….yes, not exactly as I mapped it out, but it has been great and I wouldn’t change one bit of it!
During your career, what significant changes have you seen in accounting practices or how have you seen it evolve?
First, I have to say that technology has changed a lot in terms of how we go about performing our work. Gone are the days of paper (mostly). Accounting has become more complex and sophisticated as more financial instruments, such as derivatives, and complex accounting issues have come about (such as international related currency and accounting issues). Efforts continue to align US and international accounting standards. However, one thing hasn’t changed—at its core, how to account for a particular transaction or situation generally makes sense and is logical and sensible if you think it through. I always liked that aspect of it.
What are some challenges you see the field of accounting facing in the short term and in the long term?
Tough question. Every business has to have someone who budgets, plans, reports and tracks the financial results of the company. There is job security in the accounting field! Perhaps a challenge for an accounting or finance professional is keeping up with rule and technology changes, but also the changing economy and business risks--how those impact each business and how to plan for them.
What is/are a common misconception(s) about accounting as a career path?
That it is simply sitting at a desk all day and that it isn’t strategic! In public accounting, I traveled a lot and saw a lot of businesses and parts of the country I had never seen. I learned so much! Now, I do not perform accounting work, but am more of a strategist, manager and coach of my teams and leader within our business. That is fun! I do a lot of my “managing” by walking around and talking to people; definitely not always in my office!
What characteristics or soft skills help a person succeed in a career in accounting?
Being a good listener is a big one and isn’t easy for everyone to do all of the time. Learning how to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and understand their point of view is essential. It isn’t a soft skill, but have great writing skills and know how to sell your ideas when you communicate in person! If you aren’t in Toastmasters at USI, go now!
How can accounting majors make the most of their final year of classes at USI in preparation for their career after graduation?
Get great grades, even if it means you are on a 5-6 year track instead of a four year, get involved in organizations at USI, obtain an internship and excel at it, find a way to help those less fortunate in your community and enjoy yourself! College is a great time in your life, so enjoy it! Have good balance in your college life!
What’s the best advice you were ever given? Who was it from?
My dad. Work hard to achieve success and create your own path. Don’t follow and blindly do what the last person did, but lead fearlessly and lead by practicing what you preach. Create your own path.
If you had the ability to time travel, would you go to the future or the past?
Published October 15, 2020