Supporting young people early in their careers has always been a matter close to Xero’s heart. Earlier this year, we started thinking about new ways to help young adults succeed in the accounting sphere. So we decided to offer a $5,000 finance, economics or accounting scholarship to a student majoring in one or more of these subjects.
We received so many fantastic entries that it was difficult to pick just one winner. However in the end we had to choose the incredibly deserving Alisha McGoldrick of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
Not only did Alisha submit a glowing recommendation and an impressive GPA, she also wrote a fantastic essay. It describes the obstacles she overcame in order to study accounting, along with a clear passion to make a difference in the industry.
Alisha has kindly agreed to let us share her story with you, in the hope it inspires others with mental disorders to follow their dreams and achieve their goals.
The troubled mind of a tax accountant
By Alisha McGoldrick
The word “crazy” can be hurtful and offensive to some, yet remains powerfully accurate in describing one’s emotions. I was convinced that I was crazy when I had to drive six times around the same block to make sure there was not a dead body in the road. Even then, I went home and hyperventilated until I cried myself to sleep. Welcome to my world; a world dominated by an obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Throughout high school and college, my mental health took a backseat to everything else in my life. Eventually it became unbearable to complete everyday tasks. I would spend hours checking to make sure the door was locked and the stove was off. I feared hurting something or someone, and I believed that these rituals would prevent harm. It took a great deal of therapy and medication, but I am now in a better place than I was two years ago. I am now able to work two jobs and go to school full-time, which I never dreamed possible a short while ago. One of these jobs has been a saving grace in my struggle with anxiety, and happens to be quite the ironic workplace.
I landed a job as an Office Administrator working for a single psychologist who specializes in treating anxiety. I vowed to keep my professional and personal life separate and did not vocalize my own anxiety, lest it get in the way of serving the patients of this organization. I was given the opportunity to learn QuickBooks and put my accounting acumen to good use. I was determined to use my illness in a positive manner, and applied my OCD to double and triple checking insurance amounts and client balances to ensure perfection when engaging in billing services. I am responsible for all financial matters of this small business, which comes with a great deal of stress. This job is where I realized that I actually enjoy researching the tax implications of classifying different purchases, and I decided that I would pursue a career in public accounting.
My ultimate goal is to utilize my expertise to make life easier for those who struggle with OCD and other mental disorders. I know what they are going through. I know what it feels like to want to die some days. I am lucky enough to have survived the struggles of a mental disability, and I would like to help others through the tribulations I have conquered. Taxes are extremely stressful, and financial planning can take a mental toll. I would like to achieve my CPA licensure and use my expertise to specialize in individual tax planning and compliance in hopes of alleviating financial stress for individuals.
I hope to accomplish this goal alongside a career in a public accounting firm, since I am currently participating in a summer internship in the tax service line at a “big four” accounting firm and am thoroughly enjoying both the office culture and client work. The world of accounting remains cloaked in corporate bureaucracy, and although there is a push to focus on diversity and other pressing issues, there is still room for growth when it comes to transparency in the work-life balance of accountants. Accounting students are told horror stories of 70 hour work weeks during busy season, and although that is meant to be a hyperbole, it is not too far off from the truth. Accountants are definitely overworked during certain seasons, and that takes a tremendous toll on any given employee. An employee with a mental health difficulties may not be able to handle the pressure, and may end up sacrificing their own health for the sake of their career.
I will make a difference in this field by breaking down barriers and stigmas regarding mental disorders and initiating a discussion involving mental health. It is my mission to serve others with similar issues and spark the conversation amongst the accounting profession regarding understanding of individuals with mental health concerns. I may be “crazy”, but I believe that I have the power to change the lives of troubled accountants and individuals everywhere.
To Alisha – a huge thank you for sharing your story with us. We wish you all the best for your studies and an exciting, successful career!