March 27, 2015
by Ellen

The Link Between Writing and Career Advancement

Many business students avoid writing courses, thinking that writing is only important for English or history majors. They are annoyed when professors assign work that requires more than a paragraph or so — how well you know the subject matter is more important that how you write about it, right? Nope.

The greatest concern expressed by business executives today is that the latest wave of graduates and entry-level associates are strikingly inept at writing correctly and effectively.  Why does it matter so much? As the team at Grammarly explains in their article “Think Grammar Doesn’t Matter? It Could be Holding You Back from a Promotion”, “Few areas of the workplace are untouched by grammar in some way; even if your job doesn’t directly involve writing, chances are you’ll still need to communicate in writing with your coworkers, management and clients or customers at some point. It all comes down to the impression you make.”

You do your best to look professional when you’re in the office, to sound professional when you speak with your boss and clients. Writing is equally important. How you “sound” in an email, how well you convey your point in a memo, how clearly you communicate your ideas in writing — all of these things create an impression. Writing poorly detracts from your true competence. Your boss and clients will think twice about the quality of your work, and you may find that you are given fewer opportunities than your peers who write well.

It’s not hopeless, however. Even if you’ve run out of time to take some writing courses before you graduate, there are still things you can do to improve. Check out the Grammarly article for several practical suggestions, and don’t forget that I am always here to help. I’m happy to sit down with you and look over anything and everything you have written, whether it’s an assignment, something for your internship, or anything else you have questions about. Come on in and see me!


March 20, 2015
by Ellen

Sit at the Table…and Don’t Leave.

March is Women’s History Month. It’s the time when we look back at the ever changing roles women have played in society, and we consider where we are now — what is the status of women? While women make up a little more than half of the world’s population, they continue to trail behind men in leadership positions. Why? What can we do to change this?

In her Ted talk, “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders”, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg shares her experience as one of the few women at the top in the business world. She suggests that women need to “sit at the table, make their partners real partners, and not leave before they leave.”

Her insights are important not only for those of you who are women about to begin your careers, but also for the men who will be their collegues, friends, and partners. I hope you’ll take the time to listen to her talk and become a little more aware of the challenges women continue to face in the workplace.

March 13, 2015
by Ellen

Be Color Brave

Even if you don’t pay much attention to the news, you have no doubt heard of the many protests stemming from police killings of young, unarmed, black men across the country — Florida, New York, Missouri, Wisconsin, Georgia — it seems to be everywhere. And you have probably heard of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, most notably embraced by many actors and musicians at the Academy Awards last month. The issue of racism and racial bias is receiving more attention now than it has since the civil rights movement.

But while institutionalized racism on the part of law enforcement is garnering most of the media’s attention, equally important is the racial bias reflected in corporate America. There remains a startling disparity in the numbers of minorities being hired and advancing to executive levels. In the age of corporate “diversity” efforts, how is this possible?

As finance executive Mellody Hobson explains in her Ted talk, “Color Blind or Color Brave” our cultural adoption of “color-blindness” is the culprit. When we are color blind, we “ignore” race. But, Hobson explains, race is not something we can ignore because racial bias is a subconscious, internal bias (to see your own bias check out Harvard’s Project Implicit survey). By “ignoring” race, we are simply hiding from the problems racism creates in our society, hoping it will just go away on its own.

So what’s the solution? Hobson calls us to be “not color blind, but color brave.” We need to “get comfortable having the uncomfortable conversation about race.” This means we should reject the notion that it isn’t “PC” to talk about race. We have to openly talk about it — with everyone, especially people who are different from us. And don’t stop there — we should deliberately seek-out and cultivate relationships with people who are different from us. The best way to dispell bias is to reform our thinking about others.

March 6, 2015
by Ellen

How to Rob a Bank

Having seen a lot of student essays recently discussing ethics, fraud, and forensic accounting in the financial sector, I was particularly intrigued by this recent Ted talk by former bank regulator William Black, entitled “How to Rob a Bank (from the Inside)”. Black explains how “Control Fraud” caused the banks to fail, bringing the economy to its knees, and how the use of the “accounting control fraud mechanism” in an “autopsy process” reveals the “recipe” for disater.

This recipe, he explains, is a “sure thing” for catastrophic failure:

1. Grow like crazy

2. By making (buying) crappy loans at a premium yield

3. While employing extreme leverage

4. Providing only trivial loss reserves

Black walks us through the lead up to the crisis, pointing out all of the places along the way that should have (and maybe did) raise red flags with regulators. He also suggests some actions that can be taken now to avert another disaster in our future.

I hope you take the time to watch Black’s talk — it raises some interesting issues that could spark conversations with your collegues, professors, and fellow cocktail party attendees…

February 27, 2015
by Ellen

A Belated Valentine…

You’re in grad school. You’re thinking about the next phase of your life. At every wedding, relatives keep asking you, “when are you going to find someone and settle down?” You never really have an answer (at least I never did). But now you do: “Grandma, I’m just waiting until the math is right.” That’s right. The math. Boom.

As accountants, you know that numbers never lie. I bet you’ve thought many times, “I wish all of life could be that certain.” Well, according to mathematician Hannah Fry, math can make one of the most uncertain aspects of life — finding a partner — a little less so. In a great Ted talk entitled “The Mathematics of Love”, Dr. Fry offers her “top three mathematically verifiable tips for love.”

Be prepared, however, her tips contradict “common sense.” For example,  part of her advice for “how to win at online dating” is to choose a less attractive profile pic that reveals your “flaws” — if you’re losing your hair, show it; if you think your nose is too big, don’t hide it; think your arms are fat, wear a tanktop, etc. Wierd, right?

Here’s another odd suggestion: “reject every potential suitor that shows up in the first 37%” of your dating career and then choose the next mostly tolerable one. And, want to know whether your relationship will end in divorce? There’s an equation for that: Wt+1=w+rwWt+Ihw(Ht). Apparently, this little formula is 90% accurate in predicting divorce!

It may seem hopeless, but before you give up and start surrounding yourself with sympathetic cats, check out Dr. Fry’s talk. Your love of math may actually save your love life…