Although she might not have anticipated that Florida would be her landing spot, Audrey Barnes, CPA, knew she wanted to get out and see the world beyond her native country of South Africa.
Audit Operations Manager
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Although she might not have anticipated that Florida would be her landing spot, Audrey Barnes, CPA, knew she wanted to get out and see the world beyond her native country of South Africa. That goal became a reality when she chose a career in accounting and ultimately, those three very important letters – CPA.
As the first member of her family to earn a bachelor’s degree and honors (South Africa’s equivalent to a master’s) in accounting and to become a Chartered Accountant (CA), Audrey modeled her career after her unofficial mentor, her brother-in-law. He worked at Grant Thornton while Audrey was in college and eventually relocated to the United States. Inspired by his trajectory, Audrey followed in his footsteps and took a job in the Ft. Lauderdale office and began studying for the CPA Exam.
A successful exam passer and now a licensed CPA, Audrey is now the Audit Operations Manager at Grant Thornton’s Ft. Lauderdale office. Having spent her entire career with the mid-sized firm, Audrey hopes her passion for helping clients make smart business decisions will one day lead her to her dream job as a CFO of a company. “My favorite part of my job is that I get to use my financial background to help make business decisions,” she says. “I’m also involved in making hiring decisions, performing strategic analyses for my clients, maintaining healthy budgets, and helping my coworkers manage their workloads by figuring out how to spread the work around and doing head count analyses.”
Audrey finds balance in her own life by spending quality time with her family (she’s a mom of two) and loves running – she happens to be a finisher in two half marathons and one full.
But it’s not all rainbows and unicorns according to this go-getting CPA. Audrey’s responsibilities also involve conflict resolution – a skill she has developed throughout her career. “I try to grow a little each year, and the people skills I’ve gained are priceless,” she says. “I’ve learned to be very neutral and to advise people without getting personal with them.”
And Audrey left us with a few more nuggets of wisdom for future CPAs (both state-side and international). “Never take your eyes off of your goals. Stay motivated, try to achieve the most that you can, and focus on accounting being a career and not just a 9-to-5 job.” And if you’re coming to the United States from another country, firms with offices around the globe can be a great opportunity.
But before you jump into planning how to spend the big wads of cash you’ll most certainly be earning as a successful CPA like Audrey, take these last few tips into account. “Make sure you do well in school, but more importantly, look for leadership positions and ways to expand yourself outside of class. Recruiters are looking for a well-rounded candidate that has good social skills. Especially in an audit environment, a lot of your work is collaborative, working as a team. Develop patience and flexibility in working with different personalities and other cultures. In the end, that is more important than a 4.0 GPA.”
Do you want to cross boarders or ocean to become a licensed CPA in the United States? Find out what you need to know as an international student.