Donna Ingram, CPA, CFE
May & Company
Change is a Good Thing for This CPA
Donna Ingram is one CPA who never gets tired of change. In fact, she thrives on seeing her world constantly evolve, grow and thrive. Still, she is a contradiction of sorts; Ingram has spent 90 percent of her working life with only one firm—May & Company in Vicksburg, Mississippi—but that’s about the only factor that has remained constant.
In a time when consolidation runs rampant and CPAs are bailing out right and left for more lucrative positions or start-ups, Ingram is very happy just where she is—but never wants to be satisfied with just the status quo: “I am intrigued with change – I get bored too quickly!”
No obstacles in her way
Ingram hails from the suburbs of Detroit, and received her undergraduate degree in accounting in 1981 from Michigan State University. Although high school bookkeeping classes motivated her to pursue a numbers-oriented path in college, she didn’t really make the final decision to complete her accounting degree until she was well into her college studies.
“I realized that if I were going to go to college, I may as well make the most of it and go all the way instead of settling for something less than my potential,” she says. “My mentor was an auditing professor that made accounting very practical and really fun. The best memory I have is when we had to inventory a coal pile. I thought that measuring its shape would be a snap using geometry, but when I actually saw the pile, there really wasn’t any geometric shape existing that could describe it. We had to really think.”
Ingram says she never has been affected by what many think of as the “glass ceiling”. Having spent only two years directly after college as a staff accountant with BDO Seidman in Michigan, she moved to Vicksburg and immediately began working for May & Company as a staff accountant. Five years later, she made partner.
“We never had a glass ceiling to break because everyone at the firm is treated equally,” says Ingram. “I’m considered ‘one of the guys,’ and haven’t faced obstacles many women in the profession have experienced. I think that many times, women bring their fate upon themselves because they lack encouragement. I’m convinced that if you work hard, the rewards will be there as long as you don’t have an attitude about it.”
And work hard she does, continuing to accomplish personal and professional goals each year. Ingram received her CFE from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners in 1992, and spends about 20 percent of her time specializing in forensic accounting. She also works in audit and other consulting services, and recently obtained her securities license—an area she hopes to focus on more and more as she becomes more comfortable with helping clients achieve their own long-term goals.
“I just returned from broker-dealer training in Atlanta, and Tom Peters was one of the speakers. He emphasized that this is the decade of the woman. Women who serve the investment arena as asset managers need to focus on women of all ages to promote money management throughout a lifetime. Who better to market to this group than other women?”
Community Involvement Brings Results
Ingram also is very involved in community activities, and currently serves as president and past treasurer of the Central Chapter of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, as well as chair of the Vicksburg-Warren County Economic Development Foundation. In the Foundation, particularly, she combines her leadership qualities with a love of numbers to help the organization deal with budgets and day-to-day operations, especially when businesses come into town that want to expand.
Ingram would advise anyone who wants to pursue accounting to definitely continue, despite being derailed into what many perceive as somewhat more exciting professions. She also urges students to look at the practical side—something she remembers only too well from college.
“There is a big bridge from what we learn in a textbook and real life situations. You have to be ready to anticipate and be ready to change. It’s critical for us not to get set in our ways, and to go and seek out the challenges in life. In the long run, we are much better off.”
Contact Donna Ingram at [email protected]