Understanding public accounting: the trajectory from entry-level staff to supervisor

LAUREN TUNG-COOK, AUDIT SUPERVISOR

When did you join Hood & Strong?

I joined in 2012 as an entry-level staff in the audit department.

What type of clients do you work with?

I feel fortunate to work with a variety of clients, both commercial and not-for-profit clients. My focus is financial statement audits as well as single audit compliance. When I first started with the firm, I did have the opportunity to also work on ERISA engagements and financial aid.

Why did you choose public accounting over industry?

I went to college with the intention of graduating with an accounting degree and going into public accounting. Unfortunately, with the timing of when I graduated, that didn’t quite work out for me. So I was lucky enough to find myself at a small venture capitalist firm that provided me the opportunity to work within the capacity of acting like their internal accounting department and in working directly with their CFO, who really fostered my learning and allowed me that one-on-one time and interaction with audit teams.

That job gave me experience from the client side, working on the financial statement audits for the two years that I was there. I always knew that I would like to get into public accounting and auditing – it was a matter of how I got there. I was lucky enough to find the opportunity to join Hood & Strong and felt like I could bring a lot to the table coming from industry first. I’ve been the client, so having that perspective was really helpful for me, especially as I interact with clients now.

How is your current team structured; who reports to you and to whom do you report?

This really varies from engagement to engagement, just the nature of our job and our roles. But as a supervisor now, I oversee multiple engagements at a time, each comprised of 3-5 team members, and report to a manager and/or a partner.

What other responsibilities or committees have you taken on, on top of your current day-to-day role at the firm?

I co-chair the firm’s volunteer committee, but with COVID-19, in-person volunteer activities have been paused for the time being. Prior to COVID-19, the goal of the volunteer committee was to plan volunteer activities for the firm to participate in on a quarterly basis. As a committee, we would meet up to identify opportunities, whether it be creating cards for the elderly, volunteering at the food bank, or hosting a clothing drive. We’ve been lucky to do different volunteer activities over time.

I was also a member of our audit efficiency committee.

What opportunities does Hood & Strong offer team members to explore and further grow their careers?

I feel like team members are given the opportunity to pick their areas of focus as they grow in their career. As you move up, if you want to focus more on commercial clients, or if you really want to be part of the ERISA team, then that’s something that you are given the option and the opportunity to do. And in connection with that, there are various training opportunities, whether it be conferences or other structured continued learning opportunities to really hone in on your expertise and grow that knowledge.

What does success look like for you?

How I define success is definitely something that I feel has changed over time, as I continue to learn and grow. I am always striving to do the best that I can in my role. It’s important to me to continue to grow within the audit field and to support my staff. I always want to be able to feel like I’m mentoring those around me, while still absorbing a lot of information and learning from others.

Tell us about the mentorship program at Hood & Strong.

When you first start as a new hire at Hood & Strong, you are paired up with a mentor, usually someone who has been with the firm for a while and no more than a few levels above you, and still feels more like a peer, someone that you would feel comfortable approaching with basic questions about the firm, or if you want to bounce ideas off someone. It’s nice to have someone checking in on you to see how things are going and if you need any help. As time goes on, you are then paired with a partner or a manager who sort of facilitates the same type of environment with you, but with more of an emphasis on career growth and development.

What advice would you give to someone who’s looking to advance their career at Hood & Strong?

There are a lot of opportunities at Hood & Strong, and it’s really a matter of what you put into it is what you get out of it. It’s up to you to seek out opportunities and find your passion, and to figure out where you would like to navigate your focus and your time.

What do you like best about Hood & Strong?

One of the things I like best about Hood & Strong are the clients. We have a wide variety of clients and I’ve had the great opportunity to work with many folks. I enjoy that due to the size of our firm and being a regional-based firm, we get the opportunity to really get to know our clients, and our colleagues. In non-COVID times, we’re meeting with clients face-to-face and spending time on-site. We are fostering those relationships both internally and externally. Working at a smaller firm, compared to a Big Four firm, you get a few more opportunities for those kind of interactions – it’s more personal and less transactional.

How has the firm adapted to COVID-19?

We’re using more technology. Even though video conferencing and conference calls existed before, we’re definitely utilizing those a lot more than we have in the past. We are being diligent about staying in touch with clients, checking in regularly and being inventive with the ways that we are collaborating with our clients. For example, if we have to troubleshoot something, we’re doing a lot more screen shares than we might’ve done before to try to emulate being in front of them face-to-face and looking at a schedule together in meetings.