Interview with Margie Cartwright, Career Consultant Master of Accounting

Tell me a little about your background. Where did you go to college? What have you been up to since then?

I am not from New Orleans and I am not an accountant. I am from Maryland and grew up in the D.C. area. I went to the University of Maryland, College Park and studied philosophy because I was very intent on going to law school. I went straight to law school at Tulane and that is how I established a connection to New Orleans. After I left Tulane Law, I began my law practice in California where some of my family was originally from. I started my career at a national law firm called Cooley Godward, today known as Cooley. They placed me in their securities litigation defense group. While I was never an accountant, I was constantly working with accountants because the securities litigation defense group was looking at whether or not the practices companies were using internally and their financial controls were compliant with GAAP and other standards. After I left Cooley, I started my own firm and then shortly after that I started doing law school career service advising at the University of San Diego.  In 2010, when I decided that it was time to return to New Orleans, I looked for a position here at Tulane. The business school happened to have a student career advising position open and since they were looking for someone to help accounting students and I had some familiarity with the accounting practice and Big 4 recruiting, I started working as an accounting career advisor.

Do you see yourself practicing law again?

I do not see myself going back to being a lawyer. I do have a status with the State Bar of California, which is where I was licensed, called “inactive” status. So, I am a member of the bar in the state of California and I can become active again without having to sit for the exam if I needed or wanted to.

What do you think makes a career in accounting so appealing to business students?

From a student perspective, what they tell me the most is that the stability of the profession is very appealing to them. Especially here at Tulane, where we have very solid connections with the Big 4 employers and some major regional firms, it is very straightforward and fairly simple – as far as job searches go – to get a job with those employers if you meet their criteria.  For students who are considering both what they enjoy doing and stability and long term employment, I think they are right to think that accounting gets them off to a good start and that they will be employable into the future. I think students are also interested in the flexibility that accounting offers for future lateral movement either within firms or to industry or government.

How does the Career Management Center help students?

Tulane’s Freeman School of Business has its own dedicated career management center. So while there is a general career management center for the entire school, business students will probably get the most benefit from working with the Freeman Career Management Center and that is where employers who want to connect with Tulane business students know to go to. Broadly speaking, we do a couple of things in the CMC. We run a very comprehensive fall and spring on-campus recruiting program that all of the Big 4 participate in. Usually during the course of the year, other large accounting employers will come to campus for interviews as well.  Through an online application program, the CMC connects employers with students who are interested in interviewing with them. We also facilitate the actual first round of interviews on campus. The firms will interview the students on a national basis so even though a local associate is going to come and interview with students on campus, they can get referred out to cities across the country where the firms have offices. Another major thing that the Career Management Center provides is individual advising so any business student at any time can come to our front desk and set an appointment up to sit down one-on-one with me or our other accounting advisor and talk about whatever issue they have on their mind that is related to their career. It can be as basic as reviewing a resume to as expansive as discussing how they are going to position themselves to make a career change in ten years. The third thing we do in the career center is group programming. We offer group instructional events and workshops that are timed to coincide with the major events in the students’ recruiting timeline.

What is your favorite thing about New Orleans?

My favorite thing about New Orleans, and the thing that brought me back, is the fierce pride that New Orleans has for itself and its rigid, unapologetic defense of its culture.

What is the best and worst advice you have ever been given?

The best advice I have received was about balance. A lot of students talk about balance and a lot of young professionals are worried about finding a balance between work and their personal lives. The advice I received, is that if you try to think about having balance in your life not as a day-to-day issue but a week-to-week, month-to-month, or year-to-year issue, and that if you accept that sometimes in your life you are going to be more busy then other times, you are going to have a better time finding balance.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Definitely in New Orleans. As long as it doesn’t float away, I will be here.