Contemporary Accounting Forum 2021: Technology in Accounting

Accounting professionals talk to UWT about technology in accounting and how students can best utilize technology and networking skills.

Coauthored by: Garrett Yaen

Last week, the Ledger took a look at the 2021 Contemporary Accounting Forum — a forum dedicated to covering issues in today’s business environment pertaining to accounting — and discussed it with Accounting Students Association Advisor, Gary Viers.

“The 2021 Contemporary Accounting Forum was attended by over 140 people,” Viers said. “This was a tri-campus event that consisted of students and faculty from UW Tacoma, Seattle, and Bothell. There were also alumni and business professionals in attendance.”

Last week, these guests along with the Accounting Students Association and Milgard School of Business members discussed the use of technology in today’s business environment, what employers are looking for and how students can capitalize on their technological knowledge.

“This is a huge milestone that allows the Milgard School of Business further community engagement,” Viers said. 

He then noted the annual event was the first to be done through zoom. He explained that the program started to promote community engagement between UWT students and accounting professionals. 

“Students provide positive feedback from these events every year. We have already received feedback from faculty, students, and professionals about the high value of this year’s event,” Viers said.

Viers also noted the event was started to help students get situated in real world job experiences. 

“Students join these events to gain knowledge from professionals that will be useful as they begin and/or continue their careers in accounting,” Viers said. “This “real-world” perspective is a valuable resource to all who attend.”

The guest speakers noted how crucial the knowledge of technology has become as the financial and technology industries intertwine further together.

“Technology has become an even more important part of what we do in accounting and reporting,” True Blue Corporate Controller, Jason Embick, said. 

Embick went on to note that technology has made most of his company’s initiatives related to technology. And when he first started working in the industry, most pieces of technology were fairly limited, thus requiring accountants to utilize much more manual labor.

“We had very limited capabilities, we had floppy drives to store stuff on [and] I asked my kids if they knew what floppy drives were and they had no idea,” Embick said.

It wasn’t just floppy drives, Embick noted that computer programs such as Microsoft Excel were limited to only about a hundred thousand rows of data.

“When you’re dealing with these huge companies with millions of transactions you just didn’t have a lot of tools at your fingertips to sit through all that data,” he said. 

Embick explained further, noting that most of the manual transactions done by hand are being automated by computers and that more firms are now able to get more data out to more clients who need it.

“Back in the day we had an army of people doing cash applications or AP payments or account reconciliations and a lot of that work is being automated by tools that don’t need humans to touch it,” Embick said.

Tax Senior Manager Chis Ebert, noted that technology has allowed them to automate a lot of the paperwork process with software such as Oracle automating entire processes from depreciation reports to tax forms. 

Executive in Residence of Milgard School of Business Sandeep Verma noted that technological inclination is just as valuable as technical familiarity. 

“I don’t think it’s possible to learn every tool which is out there, somebody may learn ACP and go to another organization, and they’d ask ‘do you use oracle?’ he said. “Well, I can’t use my skill-set when I worked on ACP, but I think it’s key that you have that tech-savvy in you. That you use that mindset to learn and to use that to further their careers.” 

Embick said that it’s for this reason that many are recommending new accounting hires not only be competent within the field of accounting but with technology as well.

“Yes we need somebody who knows the technical side of accounting, but we are also looking for people that are tech-savvy,” Embick said.

It isn’t just technical skills that serve well on a resume. The speakers also noted that knowing key skills such as communication are just as important as technology.

“My favorite thing to see on a resume for someone I’m looking to hire is customer service skills,” Embric said. “Have you been a server in a restaurant or worked retail? Technology is paramount but I am willing and used to teaching you to use technology.” 

Viers noted that the event receives positive feedback from attendees every year. 

Students who missed out on an annual opportunity need not be distraught. Viers said there are other ways students can get in touch with accounting professionals.

“While the Contemporary Accounting Forum is only held once a year, the ASA provides Zoom and Learn events for students nearly every week during the academic year,” Viers said. 

He said these events cover a wide variety of topics in accounting which are presented by local professionals in public and private accounting. 

An upcoming Zoom and Learn event scheduled for Mar. 10 will focus on the new Master of Science in Accounting. 

Viers said the MSAcc program, formerly known as the Master’s in Accounting program, will begin in Fall 2021. He said the program will include curriculum focused on Accounting Analytics.