MAC Alumnus ’12 Carves Tech Industry Career Path with Accounting and Communication Skills
The accounting expertise he got in NC State’s Jenkins Master of Accounting program positioned Davion Cooper (MAC ’12) to take on a range of accounting roles in the technology industry.
The writing and communication skills he learned at the Poole College of Management along with those accounting skills are critical in the global leadership roles he’s held at fast-growing technology companies just in the first decade of his career.
“If I think about some of the more successful roles and successful places I’ve been, the more successful projects I’ve worked on,” Cooper says, “It’s [due to] understanding the people side of things, the communication side of things. Being able to translate things from one audience to another.”
Deep, technical accounting expertise is critical, he says, but as his career has advanced communication skills, teamwork and understanding people have been invaluable. Those are skills he learned and strengthened at Poole, in places like Professor of the Practice (and now Jenkins MAC Program Director) Scott Showalter’s audit class.
“Showalter used to have us write all these audit memos,” Cooper recalls. “There’s no shortage of memos that I’ve written in my career, and I still write those memos in the format that I learned from Showalter.”
There’s no shortage of memos that I’ve written in my career, and I still write those memos in the format that I learned from Showalter.
Fast-rising career path
In less than a decade, Cooper has put together an impressive string of career stops.
He started, as many MAC graduates do, as an auditor for EY, a Big 4 public accounting firm. He used the knowledge and professional contacts he gained there working with software companies to land a job with a fast-growing tech company that had gone public just three weeks before he joined.
The company had grown to about $100 million per year in revenue and was focused on building the formal accounting structures that public companies need.
“I came and helped to build out a lot of their technical accounting structures,” Cooper says. “How do we take a company that’s really good and really growing fast and help them to grow up really quickly.”
That company was bought and went private again three years later, and Cooper moved on to a new role, first as a manager of corporate accounting and then as a global corporate controller for ChannelAdvisor Corp., a global ecommerce company.
He helped the company develop procedures to more efficiently manage revenue and scale financial processes. “One of the things that NC State focused a lot on is the risk management process in enterprises — just call them enterprise workflows,” Cooper says. “Even in areas where it’s not a formal class, a lot of the MAC program has sprinkled in how to be more efficient, how to work on processes.”
Ultimately, Cooper became corporate controller at ChannelAdvisor, managing a team of about 16 people and 11 subsidiaries in countries around the world. “My job was to essentially keep the financial picture of the company going globally,” he says.
That prepared him well for his latest role — vice president of finance and corporate controller at Dude Solutions, another global software company. Dude Solutions provides software for companies that need to manage lots of assets — buildings, equipment, vehicles and so forth.
Cooper now has a team of 20 and oversees accounting and financial functions in several countries. The job is high pressure; he’s involved in every major decision that touches finance or accounting around the world.
His leadership roles have required technical accounting experience, as he deals with everything from mergers and acquisitions to regulatory requirements in different countries.
“There’s no substitute to being able to understand what the questions are when you’re being put on the spot by an audit partner,” he says. At the same time, he has to be able to explain decisions to non-accountants, such as executives and those on the company’s board of directors.
“They don’t want to know all the nitty-gritty, but they want to know what their exposure is, and ‘Why?’ And ‘Why’ can’t be all these heavy details,” he says. “You need to be able to understand all the details and be able to translate that business language into a maybe 10-minute conversation giving them all the relevant pieces.”
“That’s where having a MAC degree and accounting expertise comes in really handy,” he says.
Plus, the job, he says, “has truly become fun.”
“I love being part of the reason a business grows,” he says. “I love being part of the strategy. As long as I’ve got that opportunity, I’ll be super happy.”