It's my pleasure today to host Claire Gillian, a fellow accountant who has also written a humorous financial-centered crime novel. Who knew there was two of us? Claire found me through the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop newsletter and we've had lots of fun discussing our experiences in public accounting and our books. If you enjoy my Death and Taxes books, you're sure to like Claire's, too. With no further adieu, here's Claire!
When I was a senior in college, the “Big Eight” public accounting firms wined and dined the top graduates, trying to woo them into their mechanical pencil-wielding armies. The reality was most of us had no inkling what it meant to be a certified public accountant or CPA. We just knew that was the highest-paying and most prestigious job an accounting graduate could land. My sum total exposure to the profession, beyond the requisite nuts and bolts accounting courses, was one paltry class on auditing and one bamboo-shoots-under-the-fingernails class on taxation. The only decision I was sure of was that I wanted nothing to do with preparing tax returns (sorry, Diane Kelly).
So I became an auditor. On paper, if you squinted really hard and had a vivid imagination, it seemed kind of like a white collar Dirty Harry job…only without the gun, without the fast car, without much danger beyond paper cuts and pinched fingers in binder clips, but with the added intrigue of pantyhose, pumps and penguin suits. We also had our own cutesy jargon. “Go ahead. Make my day,” found its equivalent voice in such clever auditing witticisms as “book it, Dann-o” and “tick, tie and verify”. Woo-hoo, party on, Mortimer!
I know, I know. Who wouldn’t want to work in public accounting as an auditor? Well…there were always a handful of people everyone wished had not made that choice. They were the PURE’s, the previously undetected recruiting errors, the people who looked great on paper and interviewed well but couldn’t deliver the goods once hired. I had a PURE work for me once. My first clue was when he spelled the word “water” wrong--but not always--throughout his work on the Water & Sewer Fund of a Dallas area municipality. And that was merely the tip of the wattery (sic) iceberg.
“Who hired that guy?” we whispered.
“He’s such a PURE!”
“Bet they fire him right after busy season’s over.” (Because even a PURE had enough body warmth to add value during the months between January and April.)
In the wake of the scandals of the early 2000s (Enron? Arthur Andersen?) and the resulting overhaul of the accounting industry, the recruiting error could also be made by the employee. Suddenly, the employer was the PURE. Such was never the case when I worked in public accounting. Back then, The Big Eight could do no wrong…until the public they were paid to protect discovered that, yes, actually, they could and did. And that’s one reason why there are half as many large public accounting firms today, called--drumroll, please--The Big Four. We are nothing if not original and succinct.
Was I a PURE? Nah, but then again, one of the hallmarks of being a PURE is having absolutely no clue that you are one. Like my new t-shirt? My staff gave it to me…to help celebrate my debut novel releasing on tax day. They think I’m totally awesome!