Up next: the Andersen years in PDX.
AA &Co. doors (1982)
In May, 1982 I started in the tax division of the Portland, Orygun office of Arthur Anderson & Co. It was the biggest of the then “Big 8.” AA&Co. was born in 1913 and expired on August 31, 2002 after being convicted of obstruction of justice for shredding documents related to its audit of Enron.
I was 33 years old in May of ’82 with a “post-bacc” in accounting from Oregon State University.
The “typical” AA&Co. hire was fresh out of college, 22 years old and starting in the audit division, or just out of law school or a Masters of Tax program and assigned to the tax division.
I was older. My course of study was non-traditional.
And my overall GPA, including my 3 years at a junior college where I amassed a 2.3, was not up to snuff by AA&Co. standards. Not to mention that before campus interviews in the fall of 1981 I didn’t own a suit or tie, had shoulder length hair, a scraggly beard, wore mostly denim and tie died tees. And even though I had “slowed down” I still drank lots of homemade wine, and smoked lots of dope.
I wasn’t an officer in Beta Alpha Psi or Alpha Kappa Psi. I wasn’t even a member.
People at the school of business and in the career center were shocked when they saw my name on the sign up sheet for interviews with the public accounting firms.
The shock increased when the word got out that I was one of few to get an house interview with Andersen.
You coulda knocked a lot of people over with a feather when they heard that I had an offer to go straight into tax at AA&Co.
I was one of those shocked and surprised people.
On my TriMet bus rides that May of ’82, after my first few days in the office and after meeting most of the other 50+ people in the tax division and comparing “pedigrees,” the voice in my head was very active:
“What the fuck have you done this time? What the fuck were you thinking?!?”
“Good fucking luck lasting the 2 years you need to be certified!!”
“What exactly does “Marine corps of the Big 8” fucking mean?”
One of the selling points of AA&Co. was the training facility in St. Charles, Illinois. First year tax staff spent a week there attending “Basic Tax.”
“Code and Regs” for each of the 20 of us sitting around a horseshoe formation. Before my first day in the Portland office I had never touched either of them.
It was intense in St. Charles. A room full of lawyers and M.T.’s trying to impress each other….and me wishing I was invisible.
The voice in my head was very active with lots of F-bombs that first week in St. Charles.
A pair of mahogany doors that represented “confidentiality, privacy, security and orderliness” were the entry to every floor of every AA&Co. office worldwide.
I expected that I might be hawking doors sometime soon, after a quick washout, so I bought this tee.
My career at AA&Co. was non-traditional too. I had an affinity for spreadsheets and microcomputers at just the right time.
Somehow I lasted over 14 years at Andersen….seven years in Portland and seven in Sarasota.
Oregon Symphony (1987)
I was promoted to manager on June 1, 2016.
A manager’s primary responsibility: Bill & Collect.
A manager was also responsible for quality control, client relationships, staff development, tax technical expertise…and NETWORKING (ugh?!?).
Networking meant civic involvement in some shape or form.
In many cases that involvement meant JOINING.
I have never been a joiner. Not then…now now…never. And networking ain’t ever been my thing either.
However none of the above responsibilities were optional.
The office had a list of “opportunities” for new managers.
Often these were targeted, e.g. “we’d like to develop a relationship with the leadership at Wilson Widget, and they are active in ‘fill-in-the-blank’ ”
Or they might be volunteer opportunities for worthy causes.
I picked two worthy causes that sounded good to me, didn’t involve “joining”…and that met my responsibility requirement for the rest of time in PDX: Junior Achievement and the Oregon Symphony.
1. JA got me out of the office for 4 hours a week during office hours. There were 20+ other corporate volunteers. We were assigned to a school, where we would work with a teacher and their class to develop a business plan for a product chosen by the students. It included selling the product and producing financial statements.
There was a competition between the 20+ volunteers, based on net profit generated.
My JA experience is mostly a blur.
2. I was a “fund raiser” for the Oregon Symphony.
Each year I was given a list of previous donors and targets. My task was to call everyone on the list and ask for money.
I was also expected to come up with some $$ from people who weren’t on the list.
I exceeded my goal both years.
I got tickets to the symphony.
I saw Yo-yo Ma and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.
And I got this nifty tee.
Next time: Andersen days in Sarasota. And kids.