Troops to Suits | Adam Fekula

Published by the Alabama Society of CPAs
Written by Adam Fekula
July 1, 2023

As I reflect on the past several years, I feel blessed to be where I am today. I have the privilege of learning and growing alongside a world class team of professionals as a Staff Accountant for Anglin Reichmann Armstrong, PC in Huntsville, Alabama. The passion and expertise of my colleagues has made my entry into accounting a great experience.

It has been a long journey to get to this point. Nine years ago I was working in the insurance industry, after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in finance. I had always been interested in finance and investments, but soon realized that servicing insurance policies was not the career I was looking for. I then decided it was time to follow in the footsteps of my parents and serve in the military.

Several months later, I found myself in US Army Flight School at Fort Rucker, Alabama. For the next seven years, I flew Black Hawk helicopters on a wide variety of missions. Flying for the Army was an incredible adventure, but when it came time to pick a long-term career, I wanted to be in a field that would be challenging and fulfilling, but also family-friendly.

I chose to pursue a Master of Accountancy at the University of Miami while on active duty and was able to complete all the credits necessary to become CPA exam-eligible. While I could not do an internship in the military, I was able to gain accounting experience through remote volunteer positions during the COVID-19 pandemic. After graduation, I began encountering articles on shortages of accountants and became optimistic that my transition from aviation to accounting would be smooth. Overall the outlook was promising, but I was concerned after I spoke to the University of Miami Career Center. A career center associate told me, “Your resume looks good, but they might not know you are out here.” I came to find this was true and discovered that most of the recruitment for new accountants is done through local university partnerships and events. This presented a problem for me because although Miami did have an excellent accounting career fair, I was stationed states away and could not attend. I also wanted to move our family from Louisiana back to Alabama after exiting the military, so I  started to look for veteran-specific opportunities to network with accounting firms in Alabama. The military has a transition program to assist veterans in finding jobs, and I was surprised to find out there were many different opportunities available. These options included pathways to many fields including tech, teaching, finance, transportation, law enforcement, entrepreneurship, and many others. I searched intently for accounting resources but found nothing. Even with a Master of Accountancy and years of volunteer experience, I found it hard to get in contact with industry professionals outside of the designated university pipelines. I was grateful to have a few informational interviews to help give me guidance on how to prepare myself, but it was only after an online Huntsville career fair that I was able to encounter a representative from Anglin and start the interview process. While watching my journey unfold, I started to wonder how difficult it would be for veterans to enter the field in the future.

With more and more headlines mentioning the accountant shortage and the decline in CPA exam participation rates, I see an opportunity to engage more veterans to be a part of the solution to the challenges that face the profession. Most service members depart the military with a full scholarship to seek a degree of their choice, and it appears they are not choosing Accounting. From what I have seen, the reason for this is that they do not know how great the industry is.

Accounting is a rewarding profession, and at many firms there is a strong culture that somewhat mimics the camaraderie between military personnel. Many attributes of accounting including the ability to meet tight deadlines, attention to detail, and time management are also commonly found in the military. The similarity between these skill sets would improve the chances for service members to successfully transition into the accounting industry. On average, there are 200,000 men and women who leave the military each year, not to mention countless military spouses who are also seeking career opportunities. To have any hope of attracting talent from this group of hard-working people, our industry will have to compete with many other fields who already have existing transition programs in place.

What can we do to promote accounting among transitioning military and increase interest in the profession? My goal is to volunteer my time to ensure accounting opportunities are  included in career transition classes at every one of the military bases here in Alabama.

Other ideas could include creating a specific section on your website geared towards veteran applications, or attending a career event at your local military base. If you are interested in effective ways to engage military talent for the industry as a whole, please feel free to reach out to
me on LinkedIn through email. I am excited to see all the ways in which veterans can have a positive impact on the future of accounting.

“Accounting is a rewarding profession, and at many firms there is a strong culture that somewhat mimics the camaraderie between military personnel.” – Adam Fekula, Staff Accountant, Anglin Reichmann Armstrong, P.C.

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Original Publication Source: ASCPA Connections – Jul/Aug 2023