Accounting for success
Partners at EKS&H audit their paths to success and the pipeline from MSU Denver to top firm.
Story by Matt Watson | Photos by Alyson McClaran
Five partners at Denver-based tax, audit and consulting firm EKS&H share more than the firm’s new Denver Tech Center high-rise, with its unobstructed view of the Front Range from the sixth floor patio and shuffleboard-adorned breakroom.
It’s obvious why employees are drawn to a firm named the top certified professional accountant in the Rocky Mountain region by Accounting Today and a top 50 medium-sized workplace in the country by Fortune magazine. But why is EKS&H so drawn to MSU Denver alumni, who account for five partners and close to 30 employees total?
Certified professional alumni
Theresa McDowell and Brad McQueen are two big reasons. Both MSU Denver alumni have been at the firm for more than a dozen years and have seen the number of Roadrunners joining the ranks increase over the years.
“The firm actually didn’t really recruit at MSU Denver at all when I started. So that was something that I kind of pushed,” said McQueen, whose expertise includes Securities and Exchange Commission reporting and compliance, financial audits and reviews, and initial and secondary public offerings. “The first year we went on (MSU Denver’s) campus, I think we hired just one person. She’s been an absolute rock star. She’s already gotten promoted twice.
“We’ve been actively recruiting there almost 10 years now, and we continue to get good people. They perform well, they get promoted and they make the school look good.”
McDowell, who leads the employee benefit plan audit practice at EKS&H and also plays an active role in recruiting, says Roadrunners often have more experience coming out of school than other graduates.
“They’ve been on their own a little bit more,” McDowell said. “They’re more independent, may have had a job or two, they have more life experiences and are mature and well-rounded.”
That was certainly McDowell’s own story coming out of college, having spent seven years in the Army while also working on her degree.
“I was military at the time and needed something that worked around my schedule,” McDowell said. “On the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery), the military test to see where your gifts are, finance and accounting were ranked highly for me. When I decided I wasn’t going to be a medic anymore, I thought ‘I’ll try accounting.’”
She maintains her military connection as treasurer of the nonprofit Veteran’s Passport to Hope, which raises awareness and funds for veterans’ issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder and a high unemployment rate.
McQueen knew he wanted to go into accounting all the way back in high school, so much so that he worked before and throughout his undergraduate career in the financial sector.
“I had a good job as a bank teller when I was going off to college, and I couldn’t imagine leaving my job. I went to school full time, but I kept working 30 hours a week,” he said. “The thing that I really like about MSU Denver students is that almost all of them are working through school, and they just have learned how to balance a lot of different things and juggle multiple things on their plates.”
Return on reinvestment
The MSU Denver to EKS&H pipeline certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed by either the University or the employer, which is why McQueen was happy to play a part in the firm’s recent donation to the school to help renovate an interview room for the College of Business in the Administration Building.
“We really appreciate the schools where we get our good talent from, so we want to partner with schools and this was something that was going to help out (the College of Business),” McQueen said. “It certainly helps us from a branding perspective that every time somebody walks around at MSU Denver they see our name.”
Students interested in EKS&H can compete for a spot in the firm’s summer leadership program through the University’s Career Services Office. McQueen advises students in any field to stay determined and recognize the myriad opportunities available to Roadrunners.
“There are so many first-generation college students there (at MSU Denver). The same attitude that made them stand up and be brave, and say ‘Yeah, I want to be the first one in my family to ever go to college’ – use that to set big goals and work relentlessly toward those goals,” McQueen says.
McDowell, who was a first-generation graduate herself, says today’s students should “go for it. Don’t have any regrets. Try different things and you’ll find the thing you have passion for, and when you do that’s where you need to go. Don’t be afraid to fail."