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Mitchell Jackson


Accounting Research Assignment

Upon receiving the stipulations of the assignment I immediately
questioned what separated private accounting from public accounting and how I
would find an experienced one that would be willing to be interviewed. After
extensive networking I thought I would have to resort to a much less personal
strategy such as cold calling or emailing random private accountants. However,
luckily one of my failed networks referenced me to a prime interviewee for the
project. I decided to interview Kris Cooper for this research assignment. She is
the general accounting manager at Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) and has
been for the past five years. She graduated from Portland State University with a
bachelor degree in Finance and then went on to graduate school for her MBA at
the University of Kansas. After her completion of graduate school she went on to
work for several companies at various accounting positions, most notably, she
worked as an accounting manager and a senior accountant. But what qualified
her for this research project is her completion of the Foster School of Business
505 accounting program. What this program does is certify students in
accounting that have worked in the field but do not hold a bachelors in
accounting and allows them to finish their accounting graduate classes and sit for
the CPA exam. After completion of the program she went on to be the CFO of an
All City Credit Union and then got recruited for her current position as general
accounting manager at REI.
REI is a privately held retail corporation organized as a consumer
cooperative that sells outdoor recreation gear on a very large scale ($2.0 Billion
in revenue last year). The position Kris holds at the company is very much
entrenched in managerial accounting. She is the general accounting manager
meaning that there are a variety of accountants underneath her that specialize in
a certain fields that REI specifically deals with. Some notables she mentioned
were tax accounting, freight accounting, and cost accounting. I also had a
conversation with Kris about the internal auditing and the different regulations
that REI and their accountants have to abide to. I found out that the SEC doesnt
monitor private companies, something I knew but didnt really fathom until that
point in time, and that they have to have internal control but not 100% specific to
what SOX demands, only enough to pass their internal/external audit.
Interestingly enough, I found out that there was also an external audit REI must
pass as required by their bylaws and that since this was their first year working
with KPMG their audit was taking a particularly long time and was in its 7 th week.
Kris stated that her position deals extensively with quarterly internal and yearly
external auditing and as a management position it requires a lot of organization
and a broad understanding of all the individual accounting fields in the company,
something Kris said she needed in each of her private accounting jobs.
Regarding the educational requirements of the position, Kris specifically cited
that her education at the University of Washington in the 505 program and her
MBA at Kansas. REI recruited her after completion of the 505 Program and the

Mitchell Jackson
CPA exam, based off her lengthy resume in accounting management positions (4
previous jobs) and her prowess in understanding multiple fields of business. She
stated that private companies seeking managerial accounting specifically look for
firm experience, CPA scores, references, and education so those also double as
the jobs requirements since REI hires the most competitive candidate with an
accounting degree. Pertaining to that, I asked a lot of questions about how her
career got from starting point A to where she is now, and she recommended
taking your time and doing well in school and keeping your options open by
focusing getting your degree and networking. Hearing this was pleasant
because too many times I have found myself stressed with focusing too far in the
future and in order to have a successful career I have to put myself in the
position to achieve that.
One perceived thought I have always had about careers after school is
that your education was never as important down the road once you got a high
paying, exclusive job. What I mean by that is that in a lot of career paths you
learn on the job, its not so education orientated, with a large correlation between
management/leadership skills and excellence but accounting requires a bit more
than that. Kris talked about how she still goes back to using T-accounts to
visualize transactions and how it is nearly impossible as a manager to know
everything about each specialized accounting sector and how she uses company
database often to make sure she is abiding with regulation. Even in the interview
I caught on to so many terms that I have learned in the past two years from just
three accounting classes and it was really cool to know exactly what she was
talking about when she mentioned that she had to discuss how REI deals with
freight accounting with KPMG in order to further the audit. I find the accounting
profession to be more and more structured each year I am at UW and am
learning how each accountant is expected to know the concepts and be able to
apply those to specific company transactions. The interview also showed me an
end goal for myself for my career because the environment Kris worked in was
very relaxed and the work seemed much more personalized and local, even
though REI is dealing with billion dollar revenue. Kris stated that she doesnt
have to dress as formally as her former positions, people actually know each
other more and talked on a more personalized basis, and how it was more family
orientated. These are all things that I think would be awesome in the workplace
if you can work your butt off at a firm and perform well at your job. She also
stated how private company CEOs dont have to stress about profit in terms of
financial statement because they dont have to report to the SEC / slave to SOX.
This allows her to advise the company on what is best for them in the long run
and truly keep the companys best interests in mind even if it has effects seen as
negative on public financial statements.
This interview taught me a lot of things that I couldnt of learned in the
classroom and allowed me to get out in the real world to talk to an accountant in
a management position. This is something I know I would of not done for years
until after graduating if it werent for this assignment. However, the biggest thing
I take away from the interview is excitement for my career because its not

Mitchell Jackson
something that is just decided in school, it is truly in an adventure and path you
can forge as you go because of how versatile a accounting degree is.