I've been looking for an entry-level accounting job for a while now,
and I received a call the other day from a guy (from a staffing firm)
who said a construction firm needed an entry-level accountant. I would
be working under the assistant controller he said. Here's what
(initially) seemed strange: the guy on the phone said he (really the
firm's or assistant controller's preference obviously) preferred a
male. He said that the assistant controller (who, the staffing agent
says, is a former KPMG employee) is female and that there were already
some females working for her.
Now, I realize most people aren't going to be getting a dream job (if
that's even possible in accounting) from a staffing firm, but, given
what I know about the "culture" (not saying it's bad necessarily) of
construction men, I'm probably right that the reason they want a male
is because they want him to "deal" with the construction men, right?
I guess my question is this: in your experience of working in the
construction business as an accountant, have you found the rumors to be
true that it's very difficult to get these people to adher to the
accounting system the accountant sets up? When you need to ask people
who are out in the field questions, did you find it was like trying to
I'm definitely not the type of guy the normal construction type dude
would normally feel comfortable "drinking a beer" with or whatever, so
it might be even more difficult for me. In general, I doubt they're
too fond of accountants, but, hey, I guess somebody will have to pull
I am working as the controller (read: whole accounting dept) for a
construction company in Toronto, Canada.
For the most part, the workers don't come into the office, so dealing with
them is a moot point. You DO have to deal with the project managers, and
getting info from them IS like pulling teeth.
Payroll can be a joy because we allocate payroll costs to jobs and the
workers put down different names for the same job on their time sheets. That
can get confusing. The site supervisors (foremen) are not always any better,
but eventually you can decipher anything.
Frankly it is not a matter of adhering to the accounting system as it is
getting people to give you the right information.
As for having a male to deal with them, that seems a bit strange. For the
most part you are not dealing with the "guys" other than the project
managers, and maybe the foremen.
Feel free to email me offline with any other questions.
stephanie <dot> serba <at> rogers <dot> com
First, Stephanie, I agee with everything you have said. Given that,
let's talk about how offices can be. I have supervisd women for 28
years. Today I supervise women in an accounting departmen (no men)t.
ALL of them are single mothers. Do I have to make accomodations?
Yes, I do; it is simply a fact of life. They also interact
differently with each other and the public than men do; though there
are exceptions to this. I have supervised men as well, but never had
the kind of infighting and petty jealousie I see with women. Mostly,
I ignore it and let them work it out themselves, which is usually
better, since it does not garner them attention.
Does this sound sexist? No, it is just the nature of the beast. Now,
this woman running a small accounting department, may also have
something else going on. This is possible: I used to run a
department, had twop women working for me. They would answer a
customer question at the counter. I would be in my office and hear my
worker give the person the party line answer. They would ask to see
the supervidor. I would go out and tell them and they would believe
ME, but not my female worker, who had been there a lot longer than I
Maybe this is some of what she is experiencing. There could be a
number of reasons, all of them legitimate, but really not a legally
defensible, as far as I know.
Lance Mertz, CPA
Personally, just watch what you say, AND how you say it. Unfortunately,
anything you say these days could be considered harassment.... :(
Then again, I work for a great older (read: my mother's generation)
Italian-Canadian, and I've always been a bit twisted so if it gets a bit
raucous I can give as good as I get. I just don't let anything overtly or
deliberately sexist to go unnoticed.
Sometimes it is simply a matter of getting the same answer, but from either
a different person or someone with the perception of greater authority (even
if it REALLY is company policy). Not sexist, but just people never taking
anything at face value or trying to get something for nothing or at least
Stephanie Serba, AICIA
Partner, Durham Business Outsource
On 17 Jun 2005 20:26:46 -0700, email@example.com wrote:
While you're looking for your entry-level job, keep these thoughts in
First, don't discount the opportunities you might find through a
staffing firm. You have an equal possibility of finding a great job
through them as you would through any other avenue. There are lots of
great jobs, but there are no dream jobs in accounting or any other
profession. Every job has its pros and cons.
Second, it has been my experience that a lot of business people, men
and women both, don't see the importance of the accounting function.
In any industry you might work in, most people in operations have the
idea that accounting is "just paperwork." Their priority is their job
and they will catch up on the "paperwork" later. Since they drive the
revenue in a company, to some degree they are right. If it wasn't for
those guys, the accountants wouldn't have their jobs (and if the
accountants don't do their job, no one will have a job!) The worst
offenders are the sales reps. It may be because of their nature or
personality makeup, but good sales reps tend to see only the big
picture of their goal... make the sale. Accountants see the details.
Thus, accountants will bump heads with the sales department because
the sales reps won't follow the rules... like filling out the expense
reports properly. It isn't just the rank-and-file either; sometimes
middle management and (heaven forbid) upper management will not see
the importance of the accounting function until a problem comes up.
But that is part of being a good accountant, to have the foresight to
identify potential problems before they happen, and set up systems to
prevent them from happening. This is where your interpersonal and
communication skills will need to be developed. You'll need to be
able to talk with people at all levels in a company. Not just talk at
them, but actually communicate with them so they understand your
message. You'll talk with everyone from the guys on the shop floor to
the president and VP's. If you can get your message across and get
your audience to see how it will benefit them to follow your lead,
then you've accomplished your purpose (and made your job easier.)
Just my humble opinion, but I hope this helps.
Russell Tuncap, CMA, CPA
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