Executive Finance: “We call ourselves academic practitioners because we practice what we teach.”
by Alison Research | Jul 24, 2020 | Publisher | 0 comments
Blair Cook and Jennifer Nicholson are both experienced accounting professionals. As Executive Finance, they have created a series of useful and insightful courses around executive roles, with a particular focus on the financial sector. They spoke to Alison about what it means to be academic practitioners and inspiring learners to take control of their own careers.
I’ve been involved in education for most of my career since I got my professional accounting designation back in the 90s. I started out teaching new professionals how to become CPAs (certified public accountants) and then taught at various universities, teaching accounting courses. Jen has got an equal amount of experience. She’s taught at various universities and in professional programmes. We’ve been doing e-learning for about 12 years now, developing content, trying to find best practices, sharing ideas and reaching out to people around the world. Jen and I joined up forces in 2016. We’ve been doing this for about 4 years together. We try to do stuff differently, and we work well as a team. – Blair
One of our biggest courses is the Ethics Course. What we’ve found is our style of teaching in our courses is very different from accounting courses out there. Frankly they tend to tend to be much more interesting, engaging and thought-provoking. They’re very popular, people find us much more interesting than they think. I think they’re usually pleasantly surprised. Four hours of ethics could be seen as mind-numbingly boring but it’s never found that way, we have really good reviews. We aren’t the 12 point font, all text slides types. We use a lot of case studies, real life situations, ones that we are familiar with. We encourage a lot of discussion. – Jen
We have a lot of experience. We’ve both been CPAs for 25 years. We’ve both worked in multiple industries in all kinds of different jobs at the tops of organisations and it helps because you have a really good perspective on how things actually work. People appreciate that. It gives us a lot of credibility. We call ourselves academic practitioners because we practice what we teach and that’s what distinguishes us from an academic. We have a lot of actual experience but we’ve also been teaching for our entire careers. – Jen
Getting a global brand out there is important for us and Alison provides international exposure. It’s great when you can find people who aggregate and curate the content as Alison does. Alison has a huge audience and an interesting business model, the only business model of its kind that we’ve come across. Jen and I just really like helping people in this field. That’s what our mission is. – Blair
One of our latest courses was TGIF – not Thank God It’s Friday but Transform, Grow, Innovate and Finance. It’s a road map for finance teams to transform themselves and to add more value to organisations. It’s really a cumulative course to almost all our other courses. It’s kind of a capstone. It’s something I practice with the companies I’m involved with and it works. – Blair
I think the world is a better place when people have access to education. A lot of our ideas that we share comes from research we do using free resources that are out there. We both benefit from it and we capitalise on it, as part of our own growth and development. It really has changed the world. I’m not as fussed about people going to university anymore because everything you need to know is somewhere on the web. – Blair
People really need to take control of their own careers. You can’t wait for someone else to notice or promote you. You really have to look for it, go out there and get it. And the more education you have, the more you develop your own self-awareness – that’s how you’re going to be successful. – Jen
The course I would say I’m most proud of is the Executive Presence Course. Our tagline for our business is helping people move from the cubicle to the corner office. We focus on CPAs being seen as value added persons and not back office costs, which is often the case with accountants. You get that bad reputation that you’re really not adding a lot of value, you’re just a cost. but we don’t believe that’s the case at all. Our Executive Presence Course is focused on the softer skills that are going to distinguish you and help you get ahead in your career. Confidence, communication skills, relationship building, personal branding, leadership and resilience, which we’re certainly focused on these days in this environment we’re in now. Resilience is extremely important. – Jen
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