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Technology doesn't stand still

By: Robert Half

A friend of mine, who is with a successful, mid-sized accounting firm, recently enrolled in an intensive computer course at his local community college. I asked him, "Why?" After all, my friend is a partner in the firm, and he spends almost no time doing actual accounting spreadsheet work any longer.

"I want to keep up," he replied. "Our clients and many of my colleagues are heavy into computers these days, and I want to speak their language, know what they're talking about. Besides, I'm having fun. E-mail is a terrific timesaver."

I was impressed with his thinking, even more with his zest for learning. It would be easy for him to sit back, help manage the firm, and let his more junior colleagues deal with the bits and bytes of accounting. But that would represent a failure to move forward.

As a new accountant just entering the field, you are at an advantage in that unlike your predecessors, you've grown up with computers. They're almost second nature. The key is to make sure that you keep pace with emerging technologies in order to better serve your firm and your clients. Technology doesn't stand still; however, those accountants who fail to keep abreast of the latest accounting and finance tools might well find their careers at a standstill.

A word of caution, should you become the computer "whiz" in your company or department. During your careers, you'll find yourself interacting with people, including clients, who are not part of the PC revolution and don't wish to be. In these instances, it will be to your benefit to translate complex computer terms and applications in simple, understandable language, even when the questions you're asked might seem silly to you.

One of our company's business divisions went out and asked information technology professionals to name the "strangest requests they'd ever heard of or received from clients or end users." Here are just a few of the responses:

"My computer's cup holder is broken." (referring to the CD-Rom drive)

"These figures need to add up to something different than what they add up to. Please make them do so."

"Can I get just the U.S. portion of the World Wide Web?"

"Can a diskette get a virus if you drop it on the floor?"

"Enclosed, per your request, is a copy of my disk so that you can determine the problem." (The user sent a photocopy of the disk to the IT specialist.)

"Can you help me set up my car so I can use my laptop while I drive?"

"Can I use my computer to order pizza?"

"How come when I pressed the 'help' button (the F1 key) earlier, you didn't stop by?"

Learn as much as possible about how computers can enhance your accounting work and careers. At the same time, be understanding of those who don't share your knowledge and skills.

As my friend so admirably exemplifies, learning should be lifetime endeavor. Those who stand the best chance of climbing the proverbial ladder of success will be on a never-ending quest for new knowledge and skills. These are the accountants who, besides keeping abreast of developments in their profession, will hone their speaking and writing skills in order to more effectively present their good ideas to people who can act upon them. They'll expand their understanding of the larger world to better put their professional responsibilities in perspective. Because they are fortunate enough to be working in the computer age, they'll put in the time and effort to learn how to use this immensely powerful accounting tool to enhance their careers.

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