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Jenkins MAC Alum Paul Weeks is a Data Analytics Champion at CliftonLarsonAllen Charlotte

NC State MAC alumnus Paul Weeks at CliftonLarsonAllen Charlotte
NC State MAC alumnus Paul Weeks at CliftonLarsonAllen Charlotte

“Data analytics play a crucial role in public accounting today,” said Jordan Miller, manager at the CliftonLarsonAllen Charlotte office. “With the amount of data that we have available to us, our brains can’t process it in a meaningful way. Data analytics help us slice and dice information in a way that’s easier to digest and impactful to the audit and to our clients,” she said.

Miller is the career coach of Jenkins MAC alum, Paul Weeks (Jenkins MAC 2015, ERM concentration), currently a senior audit associate with the firm.

Weeks, who specializes in assurance services for nonprofit, for profit, and governmental healthcare clients, places an emphasis on utilizing data analytics and IDEA (auditing software) to obtain greater audit efficiencies and insights.

This includes assisting nonprofit clients with form 990, which provides the public with financial information about a nonprofit organization and is often the only source of such information. This form is also used by government agencies to prevent organizations from abusing their tax-exempt status.

Weeks also has served a diversity of CLA’s health care clients, from continuing care retirement communities and large hospital systems with foundations to physician practices and surgery centers. His experience with assurance services includes all phases of audits, from engagement planning to report drafting and engagement wrap-up. 

Data is at the core of all these services, and “Paul has been a champion for increasing the use of data analytics in our office,” Miller said. “Paul is the first person our office goes to whenever we have a question about data analytics.  He is currently doing a rotation over the next three months with our national data analytics group. Not only will he strengthen his knowledge and skills, but he’ll be able to create new ideas to make our audits more efficient and insightful. I’m excited to see all the additional things he will learn,” Miller said.

She adds a word of advice to recent MAC graduates: “The biggest skill is an openness to learning something unfamiliar and willing to spend time getting to know the software to maximize what you can do with data analytics.”

Weeks shared some insight into his academic preparation and the start of his career.

What in the MAC Program prepared you for this role and in working with data analytics?

On a high level, the Jenkins MAC Program consistently emphasized problem solving and accurately presented real-world problems. In my current position, there are many situations where five or six ‘right’ answers may present themselves. The challenge is being able to weigh each and choose the correct path. The MAC Program does a terrific job in helping you to think through difficult problems where the correct answer is not readily determinable.

I did take a MBA elective that sparked my interest in data analytics. The class did not delve too deeply into the technical side but it did go over methodologies and how professionals were currently tackling Big Data problems.

What is the role of data analytics in accounting and how did you start specializing in this area?

That’s a tough question to answer as DA’s role is or should be integrated into every part of the accounting process. Whether you’re an auditor analyzing a revenue file or an analyst developing a model, DA is going to vastly improve your efficiency as well as your insight into the data.

I started to specialize in this area by utilizing IDEA on financial statement audits. I learned the basics and then became progressively more advanced as I developed scripts that reduced the amount of manual manipulation of data. Eventually, I raised my hand and expressed an interesting in pursuing DA further. CLA always emphasizes career building and we – my manager and I – developed a plan to transition over to the DA team.

What do you enjoy about your role, your work with data analytics?

Another tough question, but I’d say that I enjoy the creativity. There are many different approaches to DA questions/problems and you have to become creative to get the perspective that you’re looking for.

What would you say to current students exploring options in data analytics? Beyond your current role in accounting, what are other positions students may find themselves in involving data analytics?

If you’re interested in DA, I would definitely encourage you to purse that passion and to pursue opportunities. Your title does not have to be Data Analyst; all fields utilize DA and there are always opportunities for those who want to pursue this area, as it adds value. Areas include:

  • Forensics/Litigation support
  • Revenue Cycle Consulting
  • Financial Analysts
  • Auditing
  • Business Valuation
  • Any role

Final comments?

Embrace opportunities as they come your way – I think you should always leave yourself open to new experiences and ways of thinking.

Oh, yes: A final comment from his supervisor: “Paul is awesome!”