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  • Writer's pictureJina Etienne

Plinko

My path was more accidental than intentional.

Remember that game Plinko on the Price is Right? You drop that chip from the top, and it bounces around randomly, finding its way to a slot at the bottom. Each slot holds a different prize, and you never know which one you'll land in or what path you'll take to get there. It's a game of chance.


Looking back, that feels more like an apt description of my journey – a Plinko game in motion. Amazingly, I won the big prize! I am married to the love of my life, have two amazing kids, and our family is close. My in-laws are amazing. We have a big happy family and all of us enjoy spending time together. And then there is my career. I’m one of the lucky ones who love their work and have achieved success on many different levels.


Let's rewind a bit.


The Accidental Accountant


In 6th grade, I had my heart set on becoming an attorney. That dream grew stronger in high school, thanks to my boyfriend's mother – a force to be reckoned with, an attorney, and a total badass. She unknowingly became a role model for me. But here's the kicker: my university didn't offer a pre-law major for undergraduates. So, I had to find another path that could lead me to international law. That's when I set my sights on international business, thinking it would lay a solid foundation for my future career.


Little did I know that destiny had a different plan in store for me. I delayed taking the required accounting class until my sophomore year because, let's be honest, it didn't sound particularly thrilling. I expected boredom and monotony. But life had a delightful surprise waiting for me. The class turned out to be far more fascinating than I had imagined, and I even managed to score an A. Curiosity piqued, I sought out my professor's wisdom.


Our conversation was an eye-opener. When I asked if accounting classes were always this “easy,” he laughed out loud. Then he quickly said no, but it was one of those subjects where “either you get it or you don’t.” Apparently, I got it. When I told him I wanted to go to law school, he cheered the idea because the JD/CPA combination was great. I trusted his advice, even though I had no clue what a CPA even was. I changed my major to accounting, embracing the unknown with a sense of excitement and anticipation.


At the start of my senior year, I found a passion for tax. It felt like the perfect link between the practice of law and the structure of the numbers. The more I learned, the more hooked I became. Kinda funny to say it, but looking back, I knew I’d found my calling.


Self-Employment


I landed a job at Touche Ross, then one of the so-called “Big 8” accounting firms. The experience was transformative, exposing me to new challenges and honing my skills. The people were great and the work was rewarding, but I couldn't shake the feeling of not quite fitting in. It wasn't that I had to hide who I was, but there was an unspoken pressure to conform. I did a lot of what I’ve since come to understand is called code-switching. That is when you modify your speech, appearance and/or behavior to “fit in” and adapt to different social settings and norms. It wasn’t that it felt wrong, I just never felt completely genuine at work.


I realized that by being true to myself, even within the confines of a professional environment, I could thrive and find fulfillment. It wasn't about sacrificing my identity; it was about bringing my whole self to the table.


And so, my journey continued, leading me to self-employment. I started my own accounting firm. Managing my own business became a true test of adaptability and leveraging my natural skills. The path was unpredictable, but I embraced the unknown with open arms. Through every twist and turn, I discovered the importance of remaining flexible and grounded in who I truly am.


I am grateful for those twists and turns. My game of Plinko led me on unexpected adventures and lessons learned. My career didn’t end there, but I’ll save those adventures for other posts.


What I learned back then was the importance of authenticity. It became a guiding principle. It took a while to find my voice. But once I did, I never looked back.



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