For someone who enjoys working with Microsoft Excel and leading teams, Wallace Pressley ’15, found the perfect combination of academics and student leadership at TLU. The Master of Accountancy and Math double major also served as Student Government Association (SGA) president during his senior year. That role is the one thing he says has had the biggest impact on his career, especially in his current position as a senior accounting manager at Childcare Network—the leading early education and pre-school provider in the southern United States.
“I have worked in a supervisory, team setting role for several years and SGA gave me great experience related to working as a group,” he said. “As an auditor, I had to work with multiple team members while also communicating with clients. SGA prepared me to be more efficient in this type of environment and gave me the foundation for how business meetings work.”
Pressley has always enjoyed numbers and was actually a math major when the master’s program in Accountancy launched in 2013. Realizing switching programs would be more difficult, he decided to complete his math degree and apply for the MAcy program. He was instantly drawn to accounting. Aside from the academic preparation and one-on-one guidance from professors, Pressley says where TLU students really come out ahead are the core skills they learn.
“Communication is so important in my field since I often have to take something very technical and make it where others can understand,” he said. “Being involved with SGA also helped me develop soft skills and learn how to interact with people. Another part of my job is to teach others and grow with the team around me. Those experiences I had at TLU, both inside and outside of the classroom, still have a positive impact on where I am today.”
Core skills like problem solving, organization, taking feedback, critical thinking, patience, and emotional intelligence are sometimes the deciding factor for employers when it comes to hiring people. According to research conducted of Fortune 500 CEOs by the Stanford Research Institute International and the Carnegie Melon Foundation, 75% of long-term job success depends on people skills, while only 25% on technical knowledge.
Pressley says his liberal arts education also made him a more well-rounded person and colleague.
“I think my liberal arts education at TLU sparked a lot of interest in other subjects outside of math and accounting,” he said. “I like to read high-level physics books for fun and learn about the brain and how the body functions or why we make decisions. Being able to talk about a variety of subjects at work, or in an interview, shows you have depth and interests outside of work. That kind of engagement can open the door for you professionally. It’s especially important in public accounting. You can teach 80-90% of the technical work, but what you can’t teach are communication skills. When we’re hiring people, I think: Which person can you see yourself sitting with every day? Nine times out of 10, assuming the technical skills are there, it always boils down to the candidate who has better core skills and communication.”
Aside from a general appreciation for numbers and accounting, Pressley is proud that the company he works for supports an important social cause: access to affordable childcare and Pre-K or Head Start programs.
“Access to education is also very important to me and it can change people’s lives,” he said. “It changed my life. I didn’t know I wanted an education until I got one and I was the first person in my family to get a college degree. My TLU education flipped my life for the better and I honestly didn’t know what my life could be like before I got one. I see education as an investment and making an investment in your future will show returns.”