You might not think a degree in journalism will lead you to a career in accounting, but that’s exactly what happened for Melinda Barnes. “I thought I wanted to be a reporter,” Melinda said, “but it just wasn’t something I was passionate about.”

As someone who has always been a “number side of the brain person,” she decided to pursue a career teaching math instead. While working in an administrative role at a community college, she found her true calling: accounting. “I had the opportunity to take free college courses while I worked there and I’ve always been interested in accounting, so I tried it out and ended up finishing an Associate’s degree there.”

Finding the Accounting Development Program

Melinda wanted to continue her education and started her master’s degree in accounting. Having always worked full time while going to school, she wanted to try something different — working part time and taking more classes. Her college job site is how she discovered the Accounting Development Program (ADP) co-op. “My mom worked at AT&T for decades and loved it,” she told us. “I thought it was a good company to work for and the co-op offered part-time, so I went for it. It was really cool to be one of the first people hired for the program.”

From the very start, the program proved to be unique. Most accounting positions recruit super early. She was job hunting in the fall, expecting to start in the following spring or summer. The co-op was offering an immediate position. Melinda decided to leave her current internship to take the opportunity. Something she’s valued since the very start was the flexibility the program offered. “I wanted to give my current employer at least 2 weeks. AT&T let me do that. They gave me a few weeks to make the transition. Everyone’s been awesome starting with that first interview.”

Learning the Ropes

In her role, she has two main tasks: journal entries and account balance reconciliations. Other situational tasks like pulling, formatting, and distributing reports come up as well. “The advice I got starting out was ‘go through the motions.’ Take good notes and follow the instructions step-by-step. After a couple months, I started to understand what I was actually doing with each task and how each task affects the other.”

Melinda wasn’t just learning the AT&T way of doing things, she was learning what life in accounting is like and how her experience with ADP differed from the norm. “Most undergrads go work for one of the big four accounting firms doing audits or taxes for them. Those roles lack work-life balance and often call for 60 or 70 hour weeks,” she said. “I’m a little older, not just out of college and I was looking for a different kind of role. I’m really grateful to start my career with an industry role instead of a firm and to have some balance between my work and my personal life.”

Life in ADP

The work-life balance she hoped for was a part of her AT&T experience since the first job interview. From the flexible start date to allowing her to choose her schedule, the program worked with her to do what was important in her life. While she was in school, she would be allowed to work remotely to have extra time to study for exams. Even now, as Melinda prepares to go into a full-time role on our accounting team, she says, “the flexibility is just unmatched.”

“My supervisors know I want to pass a CPA exam, so they’re letting me stay part-time for another couple months to do that. It’s definitely something I appreciate about AT&T.”

Another thing Melinda appreciates is the people. “My immediate team members are really helpful and awesome,” she said. “I also get to interact with higher level employees and people across organizations. Everyone’s so down to earth.”

Being the first member of a new program can be difficult, though. She admits it was a bit lonely at first, but her supervisors made a point of including her in events with the Financial Leadership Development Program so she could meet people. As a growing program, she was soon joined by new members of the ADP with more on the way.

“There’s a camaraderie there,” she told us. “Let’s help each other out and learn together. I’m excited for it to grow and be a part of it.”

She also looks forward to growing her own career and taking advantage of everything #LifeAtATT has to offer – like employee groups, volunteer events, development trainings, and networking events. “It’s a diverse, team-oriented flexible environment. The people at AT&T have really made a positive impact on my experience so far.”

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