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Jenkins MAC Enables Alumna to Turn Passion Into a Career

Gina Miani’s friends used to ask her why she was studying accounting.

“You’re so passionate about the environment, shouldn’t you study something more closely related?,” they’d ask her.

But Miani, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting at the NC State University’s Poole College of Management, always told them that perhaps one day she would use her business mindset for good.

Three years after graduating, (Jenkins MAC 2017), Miani has found herself — through personal initiative — doing exactly that.

It began with a remark Scott Showalter, professor of the practice of accounting and director of the Jenkins MAC Program, made one day in class about the intersection of sustainability and accounting.

“I went up to him after class,” Miani recalls, “and asked if there were any classes or opportunities that would dive deeper into that intersection.”

Miani ended up taking an independent study class with Showalter on the topic. It opened her eyes to the growing field of sustainability accounting.

Investors and regulators are increasingly asking — or requiring — companies to document their efforts to be more environmentally sustainable, reduce their carbon footprint and manage their climate-change risks. Global standards are emerging for these activities, and accountants play a key role in helping companies measure and report their activities.

Of course, a single class doesn’t create a career.

Miani graduated and went into auditing work at Deloitte, a fairly typical career path for a new CPA. But she didn’t lose sight of her interest in sustainability and the environment.

She searched Deloitte’s in-house directory to look for sustainability-oriented people and teams working on sustainability and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) topics. She also joined an internal network of grassroots “green teams,” which focused on educating fellow professionals on sustainability, and engaging Deloitte to take further action.

“In the beginning, we focused on small tasks in the office, like improving recycling signage near the trash and recycling cans, or encouraging Delotite professionals to bring their own mugs and water bottles to work,” she says. “When I would work on a client site with my audit team, I would be an ambassador for sustainability, bringing attention to plastic utensils for our takeout meals, or the packaging for the snacks we would purchase.”

It wasn’t exactly world-changing work, but it was a start. And it put her in touch with a network of like-minded Deloitte professionals.

After two years, Miani was finishing up busy seasons for an audit client, when an email went out to the firm’s green team network about a one-year rotation to work on Deloitte’s own sustainability initiatives full-time.

“This opportunity seemed too good to be true,” she says. “I was at the right level to apply for the role, and given that it was a rotation, I felt comfortable knowing that the move didn’t have to be permanent. I could always go back to audit.”

She got the job. For the next year, Miani and a small team worked on developing Deloitte’s global strategy to address climate change, engage with Deloitte colleagues across the globe, and report on Deloitte’s efforts, in accordance with sustainability reporting standards.

After a year in that role, she’s back to client work. But now, instead of financial audits, Miani serves on a team that helps companies develop sustainability strategies, assess and disclose climate risks and opportunities, report in accordance with sustainability standards and frameworks, and more.

“I see myself staying in sustainability client-service work for the foreseeable future,” she says. “There are so many different avenues to explore in a sustainability-focused career.”

Her Jenkins MAC, she says has been good preparation for a career in sustainability.

“Having a foundation of accounting knowledge, and gaining skills through the MAC program has been invaluable to me,” she says. “These types of skills are universal and transferable: A strong ability to research information, being able to interpret a standard and apply that information on the job… These are extremely valuable, no matter which role or field you work in.”

For Miani, asking questions and being transparent — from that day in Showalter’s class to the hallways at Deloitte — was key. 

“I made it known I was passionate and knowledgeable about sustainability,” Miani says. “I wore my passions on my sleeve.”