Just last weekend, I went home to Dallas in order to judge at a local figure skating competition. When I was at the rink, I had the opportunity to talk to my old skating coaches and friends. The question that always came up was, “What are you studying at school?” When I told them I was an MPA tax track student, many of them gave me a very puzzled look and asked how I ended up choosing that as my career. I thought it was very interesting that many of my friends in the skating world didn’t see what was so attractive about accounting, just because I feel the skills I have developed as a skating judge have helped better me for my career in accounting.
Being knowledgeable about the rules and being able to apply them in snap decisions- The first thing a skating judge must do before taking the panel to judge an event is to familiarize themselves with the rules and requirements of a well-balanced program for the level of the event they are going to judge. If a skater doesn’t do enough elements a well-balanced program requires, or if skaters do elements that are not allowed in a particular level, judges must be able to immediately recognize this in order to make the best possible decision in determining the score the skater’s performance deserves. Judges have to have to determine the skater’s score almost instantly, as they only have a few moments in between each skater in order to award their marks. Like judges, accountants have to be aware of all the standards when they go to work for a client. They also need to be able to apply these rules in quick, stressful situations.
Making decisions not everybody is going to like- Another thing accountants and skating judges have in common is the fact they are not necessarily the most popular of people profession wise. Skaters and skating coaches are not always appreciative of judges due to the fact that judges make decisions that are going to make the majority of skaters upset or angry. Everyone wants to win, but there can only be one winner per event, and judges are the ones that have to make the difficult decision on which skater’s performance deserves the gold medal. They are often confronted after events by skaters, parents, and coaches asking them to explain why a skater didn’t win and judges are put in a position where they have to defend their decisions in confrontational situations. Accountants are often put in similar situations. When they make a decision, someone is always going to be angry. If an auditor discovers a public company committing accounting fraud, the auditor has to make a difficult decision that is guaranteed to anger a number of people, and will most likely have to defend their reasoning for making the decision. I don’t feel individuals can ever get enough practice in being able to make controversial decisions and being forced to defend them in difficult situations, so I am happy I have a forum where I can practice this ability.
Maintaining independence- One of the golden rules for both judging and auditing is to always maintain independence. Both auditors and skating judges have had their fair share of scandals when they do not remain independent decision making bodies. Being able to be a neutral party is difficult. As a skating judge, I have to be careful to not let personal feelings affect the marks I give skaters. I do feel that maintaining independence is harder for auditors than judges, though, due to the fact they are being paid by the company they are auditing. It is hard to anger whoever is in charge of paying your salary. In figure skating, judging is a purely volunteer position, so it’s easier for judges to remember the importance of independent, non-biased decision making.
Nobody said it was easy, but being a judge and an auditor can be really rewarding.