The Hylton Lecture Series: Accounting for Career Success
EY's Rae Krelitz delivers life lessons & career tips
Integrity, technical ability, and respect for established rules and procedures are keys to any successful career in accounting. They were also the focus of the talk given by Rae Krelitz, Americas tax quality leader at Ernst & Young (EY), to an audience of approximately 200 students, faculty, and visitors attending the 2015 Hylton Lecture on Accounting.
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Krelitz is both a CPA and an attorney. She began her career with EY in 1983 in the National Tax Department in Washington, D.C., becoming partner in 1992. Krelitz advanced through increasingly senior roles within EY. In 2010 she took on her current role, which involves helping EY maintain high quality tax services and manage risks.
Krelitz reminded students they are building their brand right now. Interaction with professors, how they handle situations and deal with challenges – all of these become part of a student’s personal brand, which evolves into their internal brand at companies as they start work as accountants.
“Quality needs to run through everything you do,” said Krelitz. “When I started, I didn’t think about having a brand plan. I wanted to do good work. I wanted to be technical, responsible, and loyal.”
Without initially realizing it, Krelitz was settings these attributes at the cornerstone of her personal brand. Also evident in her speech was the high priority Krelitz places on professionalism. She noted that even seemingly inconsequential actions like how you dress when traveling for business can make a difference.
“You never know who you’re going to meet when you travel for work. Think of yourself as a brand ambassador. I know it sounds a little corny, but it’s important.”
That resonated with Laura Shen, Master of Science in Accountancy (MSA ’15) student. “Krelitz made me realize there could be partners or managers from another office around you even while you’re traveling outside the office,” said Shen.
Young accountants also must be particularly careful about how they communicate.
“If you don’t want to see it on the front page of the Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, don’t say it or do it,” she said. “I think about what my father used to tell me: ‘Don’t do something for which you’re going to have to say you’re sorry.’”
In addition to appearance and professionalism, Krelitz emphasized the importance of technical knowledge and quality.
“When you leave school, getting smart and getting technical are the number one things you should focus on,” said Krelitz. Consulting with others and continuing to learn throughout one’s career is vital. That means doing the research, asking questions, and looking for opportunities to take on new and different projects. “Take every engagement opportunity,” Krelitz said. “Don’t say ‘No.’”
Respect for Procedure
“In your career, you will have access to a lot of personal and confidential information,” she said.
Beyond just following GAAP rules and IRS regulations, Krelitz noted it’s important to be respectful of a client’s rules when you’re at their office. Following their procedures for network logins, security badges, and other routines is a hallmark of professionalism in accounting.
While initiative and learning is vital, it’s also essential that accountants learn to follow and trust established policies and procedures — even if at first they don’t seem to make sense or be important.