Career Transitions: From Accounting to Marketing
Diane Paoletta is the Director of Marketing for Friedman, a boutique accounting firm. She spoke to Vault's CSR Editor Aman Singh about her career path, and how she made the transition from being an accountant to specializing in marketing within the accounting industry.
A degree in Accounting
"I went to college for accounting and have a CPA License. I knew I wanted to get into business but I wasn't sure what sector. If you choose public accounting early on, there's a very structured and defined career path you have to follow. "
"To me that sounded perfect: You work, you move up, and you get to partner eventually—hopefully. "
"But once I graduated and got certified, I realized that I didn't really want to narrow my career path right away; I wanted to explore other aspects of business. But having an accounting background was a big plus. "
Public vs. Private Accounting
So I moved to private accounting, and began working for Chase Manhattan bank.
"I started in the controllers department but eventually moved to a product management role. That was really where I began understanding marketing and I simply loved it. I loved the diversity of the role, the fact that I was looking at the entire business lifecycle of the products, and the independence that comes with that."
From Product Management to Marketing
"But I didn't have any formal training in marketing. I realized an MBA with a concentration in marketing would be the best bet. After working at Chase for a while, I went to grad school full time on an assistance-ship, where I was teaching, getting free tuition and a stipend in return for getting my MBA. "
"The full time experience was very unique at that point in my life."
Summer Internship…and Marketing Communications
"My summer internship was with AT&T—and I ended up getting a full time offer from them when I graduated. At AT&T, I was doing traditional marketing a communications, again different from my experience at Chase, but I enjoyed that just as much. "
"After AT&T, a geographical move compelled me to work for a few smaller firms in New York City and later, at MetLife. "
…and Back to Accounting
"Eventually, I ended up working for an accounting firm but it wasn't something I had planned."
"After moving to California, when the opportunity to work for a small, specialized accounting firm came up, I decided to go for it, and again, loved it. I reported to the managing partner and basically created the marketing department. Not only was I suddenly leading all the training, but I also coached the partners. It was like a whole new role with new skill sets."
"In hindsight, I'm surprised I didn’t think of connecting my background in accounting with my interest in marketing much earlier. "
Alternative Careers: Accounting Marketing
"But once I got into it, I started to look at associations that supported this kind of marketing; I started networking and realized that there is a whole culture of 'accounting marketing' out in California."
"After a few years, I decided to come back home: New York. That's when I interviewed with Freidman. "
"I started out as a marketing manager doing program development but for the past year, I have led the department. I built a whole new team and we're currently in the middle of some new marketing exercises, including a new focus on advertising and public relations that we hadn't done in the past."
"Working for a small firm like Friedman's is great in many ways, I feel empowered, more so than I would in a bigger corporation, because it is my department and I report into the executive team. "
"When I was in the controller's department at Chase, I was doing cost accounting for new products. When the opportunity came up in one of their product management groups, they were specifically looking for someone who understood P&L statements and who could create one from scratch."
"The problem, however, was that it was purely a service offering with no real business discipline wrapped around it. And nobody was pushing for it by setting forecasts and showing how the possibility end of it worked. So armed with my CPA, I raised my hand and said, 'I can do P&L statements and I would like to learn this part of the business.' And that’s how I got the job."
"They were very open to it. What I found early on was that a lot of marketing people really weren't into the numbers. They were more into communications: the advertising, the creative side. And here I was with a heavy numbers background coming to the table."
What I Would Love to Change About My Career
"I don't know if it's change so much as move in another direction. Right now I handle all marketing operations and any strategic marketing that's happening at the firm. What I would like to do is get more involved in being an influence to the overall business of the firm."
"Branching out from marketing and understanding more of the operations side—taxing, accounting areas, auditing, etc.—that is, essentially gaining an understanding of how we can grow as a firm in a positive way while meeting our goals. Or as we call it, getting involved at the "practice management" level would be my next focus."