"I've held four jobs," says Jason Dangler, a CPA who works with an auditing agency for the federal government, "…and in every position it always comes down to—"
Wait. Rather than give away his gem of wisdom in the first sentence, how about starting with a little background? Jason graduated from Purdue University in 2004 with his Bachelor's in Accounting and Management. In '06 he passed all four parts of the exam, and in '07 he became a CPA. He originally worked in property management accounting and then moved into corporate accounting for real estate investment, applying what he learned about equity method, fair value accounting and other specific GAAP knowledge to help numerous clients manage their finances.
And now for the federal government, he tracks down ways to save taxpayers money. When the federal government wants someone to audit defense contracts and make sure Uncle Sam (and, by extension, you) are getting what was paid for, they send in Jason. It's serious stuff – his assignments are so high-level, actually, that he wasn't allowed to disclose just what he was working on when this interview was done. But it’s okay to state his basic objective: “If you find something huge that’s unallowable in a contract and save the taxpayers millions of dollars,” he says, “That’s a win.” We can also tell you how he got the job: “I applied at usajobs.com,” he says, referring to the Federal Government’s official jobs site. “I applied in February and got the position in August.”
So in addition to the super-secret government job, Jason is heavily involved (as in Co-Chair of the New Professionals Committee) with the Washington Society of CPAs. And in all this stuff, he's "focused," "detail-oriented," and all the other nice things an agency loves to see in an accountant. He’s even helping launch a pilot program this year that will match up students with people who are already in the field – Jason and seven of his colleagues will each provide one-on-one mentorship. Pretty impressive.
But back to his quote. "It always comes down to…making things understandable for other people." That – not math skills, not a great memory, not a winning smile – is what adds up to success in the accounting profession, says Jason. "When you’re first getting into this," he explains, "You have to be able to not only get the job done, but to also be very descriptive about how you did it. So later, when somebody tries to pick up where you left off, they aren't scratching their heads."
See? Communication Skills = Efficiency = Success. Constantly be improving your writing and speaking abilities and you’ll stay on the right track. "It’s just a recurring theme," he adds. "And it's something we never talked about in college, but it’s *really* important." Another asset is the knack for picking stuff up quickly, he says. “Being able to do the research mostly on your own, is huge,” he says. “It makes everybody else’s job easier.”
Making everybody else’s job easier comes, well, easily to Jason. A passion for helping people is what compels him to work so much with his local society of CPAs, mentoring those accounting newbies. It's why he co-chairs the New Professionals Committee, in fact. And it's probably why he agreed to share what he's learned on this site – even if he can't tell us where he's working right now.
Wherever it is, though, it’s obvious they’re lucky to have him. “Probably the best thing about accounting,” he says, “is that you play such a vital role in any business you’re a part of. You can help a company save money… or, in my case, help taxpayers save money. I mean, there’s so much out there you can use your knowledge for.” And he’s about to gather up even more knowledge, all of which will be well-documented, you can bet – Jason’s starting courses to earn his MBA this fall.