DHG Alumni: Courtney Arrington – Mentor, Encourager and Accounting Blogger
DHG alumna Courtney Arrington just loves being an accountant. She will also be the first to tell you that accounting did not come easily for her, nor did her CPA designation, but she was determined to succeed. And now she’s taking to social media to help other aspiring accountants realize their dreams.
You’ve created a blog entitled “The Accounting Struggle.” What does that mean and who is it for?
My passion and purpose are to motivate people to uncover just how capable they are – even when things are difficult. Today, accounting is easy for me. But it wasn’t always that way. There was so much I didn’t know beyond the debits and credits I learned in college. In fact, I failed a couple of sections of the CPA exam the first time I took them. It was devastating. Fortunately, I had the people and resources at DHG to help me through.
I realized, however, that if I was struggling others must be as well — and they might not have the support that I had. I wanted to share my experiences, lessons learned, and hopefully encourage and serve as a mentor for these kindred souls. So, in June of 2017, I started my blog.
Why name it “The Accounting Struggle”? Can’t that be perceived negatively by some?
I was quite intentional to use that word. I just think it’s being honest. In no way am I bashing our industry. But let’s face it, accounting is tough work, especially when you’re first starting out — putting in the hours, meeting deadlines, all while trying to pass the CPA exam.
I think a lot of people say to themselves, “I’m tired, this is really hard, maybe I can’t do this.” These feelings are very real, believe me. But I’m living proof that they should not keep you from pursuing the goal. Victory lies on the other side of a struggle if you’re willing to put in the work. If you find accounting difficult, this is the blog for you.
What kind of following do you have?
It’s amazing. I have hundreds of readers all over the world. I’ve heard from people from the Middle East, Africa and Europe and the reaction is overwhelmingly positive. They thank me for being frank about how painful the journey was for me at times — how I sometimes failed, and how I overcame those failures — as well as for my advice and encouragement.
And you’ve since branched out into other social media?
Yes, I’ve recently started a YouTube channel. It’s still in its infancy, but I already have more than 200 subscribers, and its steadily growing. In fact, one video blog entitled, “I Finally Passed the CPA Exam” has garnered over 2,000 views to date.
Where did the idea to share your accounting journey via social media come from?
It came from DHG, actually. I was attending a NABA (National Association of Black Accountants) conference on behalf of the firm. Coincidentally, one of the speakers was Alice Grey Harrison, DHG’s Director of Communications. She did a session on building your personal brand, about how important it is to control the narrative on social media, and she suggested the power of blogging. Instantly, I saw this as a way for me to share my personal accounting journey and become a mentor and encourager to others. She really inspired me.
Why were you so determined to go into accounting when you found it so difficult?
Well, it sure wasn’t a straight path. In 2006, right out of high school, I went to work for a credit union in Richmond, Virginia. I started as a teller and worked my way up to service rep. When the 2008 financial crisis hit, I decided I needed a back-up plan and enrolled in Westwood College, an online school, majoring in fashion management. Two years in, the school lost its accreditation, and I lost all 89 credit hours. I had to start from scratch. I then enrolled in Virginia Commonwealth University on a business track. I took my first accounting course and absolutely loved it. I knew then that I wanted to become an accountant.
How did you find out about DHG?
During my freshman year at VCU I talked to some DHG folks at a “Meet the Firms” event during a leadership conference. I was excited about what I heard. I knew I wanted to work somewhere larger than a mom-and-pop firm, but not so large as a Big 4, and DHG perfectly fit that bill. It was very positive. I did an internship in the spring of 2016 and joined the firm that fall.
And in 2018 you joined Genworth Financial?
Yes. I knew when I joined DHG that I wanted to start in tax, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay in tax. And while DHG gave me so much experience, doing a broad scope of tax projects for clients all over the country, I decided I wanted to do something more specific. So, in June 2018 I joined Genworth. The company specializes in long-term care insurance, but also has an investment side, where I’m an accountant within the portfolio management group. It’s very different from what I was doing at DHG, but that’s the great thing about accounting, there is so much to explore.
Who are some of the DHG people who had the most impact on you?
In addition to Alice Gray, Cindy McMaster (Tax Managing Partner in Richmond and Greenville, S.C.) was just amazing. She’s incredibly smart and always believed in me, encouraged me and gave me jobs more challenging than I ever thought I could handle. I was nervous telling her I was leaving, but she was very supportive and told me I was always welcome to return.
What does it mean to you to be a DHG alum?
It means I’ve worked with some of the smartest and best in industry. I put that on my resume. The knowledge and skill set that I gained at DHG — problem solving, resources utilization, time management, collaboration — I’ve been able to take with me and serves as the foundation for my career. Plus, I can now do my own taxes!