Finding a support system and pursuing her dreams
Dual-enrolling in college courses starting at age 14, Jana Walker selected topics she believed would interest her 30+ years down the road. Now approaching her final year at Western Michigan University and juggling five job offers, Jana’s interests are solidified and her goals clear.
“I do not dream of labor. I picked accounting knowing that it was not my hobby but that it would continue to interest me throughout my career and fund the life I want,” says Jana, who will earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in accounting through the accelerated M.S.A. program. “As I near the end of my educational pursuit, I have come to love all that accounting has to offer.”
Jana reflects on all she has accomplished—scholarships, friendships, professional development. She also acknowledges all those who have supported her: her family and friends who encouraged her; her mentors and professors who helped with academic, career and life advice; and the counseling services available at Sindecuse Health Center.
“To describe some of my courses and life events as stressful would be an understatement,” explains Jana. “My family and professors supported me. And Western’s Counseling Services welcomed me with open arms to assist me in navigating any issue I threw on their plate. Their continual support helped me be successful and happy throughout my college experience.
Now deliberating multiple full-time job offers and a promising career in accounting, Jana is anticipating the excitement of her final year at WMU and the post-graduation opportunities open to her.
“Life in accounting is much more than debits and credits, but it is not all sunshine and rainbows either,” says Jana, explaining that the busy season for accountants can be intense. “What excites me most about my field is the limited sense of predictability. I have met people in unique roles who demonstrate what is possible in accounting and more generally, business as a field.”
When Jana transferred to Western in fall 2020, she quickly began learning about those possibilities and the stresses.
By joining the WMU chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants, Jana found a place to make friends, ways to adjust to campus life during a pandemic and how to be a better professional.
“I learned about a great number of firms, met a wide variety of recruiters and always enjoyed the snacks,” says Jana. “Through attending NABA meetings and eventually being elected vice president, I gained a sense of belonging and community on campus. NABA was a place where I could meet new people on campus and hear about my major. I am proud to be able to call them my friends.”
But friends aren’t the only reason joining NABA benefitted Jana. During her first semester, she met a speaker and landed a finance internship with Kellogg’s. Working virtually, Jana learned to juggle meetings in different time zones while working on tasks to make sure Cheez-Its ended up in the store. She worked on a team creating new products, presenting ideas to the company leadership team, and even attended the Kellogg’s African American Resource Group Summit to hear firsthand the culture the company was creating.
“I analyzed cereal trends and learned what it takes to go from grain to table,” says Jana.
The following year, Jana explored the tax industry. As an administrative tax assistant with Gould, Stinson, and Comer P.C. during the 2022 tax season, she worked on hundreds of returns and scoured documents looking for information on clients. But the position also showed her what it is like to work in a small business. “Family culture doesn’t even begin to describe this group of people,” says Jana. “They taught me about friendship, personal skills that are needed in the client industry, all kinds of tax work and most importantly, how to have fun while doing it.”
Her final internship at Deloitte came to her through Handshake, the University’s career, internship and employment tool. Working in audit was new to Jana, who says she was able to connect concepts from the classroom to a professional position.
“As someone who struggled in my audit course, working at Deloitte brought a lot of the topics into perspective. I was able to learn the differences within the industries by working on audits of private companies, public companies, and even component audits of companies with parent companies located outside of the country.”
And now it’s decision time. With so many opportunities (and job offers!), Jana is set to launch her career.
“I see so many paths ahead that choosing just one will be bittersweet in the end. Whether I choose accounting, finance, or any other field of business, I know that my major in accounting will have propelled my career in one way or another.”
You can follow Jana’s path by connecting with her on LinkedIn.