Gary Robb: Shifting Gears Mid-Career



When Gary Robb graduated with a master’s degree in human resources in 2008, he knew he was in trouble. The housing bubble had just burst, Wall Street was crashing, and U.S. companies were shedding workers at a historic rate—sending the value of his HR degree plummeting. He needed a new plan, and fast. As families and businesses panicked over their finances, Gary saw an opportunity to take an accounting path that would let him be of service while earning a reliable living. After all, CPAs were well-respected specialists and remained marketable in any economy. By the time he earned his master’s in accounting and passed the CPA exam in 2011, Gary was excited about his new career path. “I was surprised by the number of specialties and niches to explore within public accounting,” says Gary. “Your career can be whatever you choose to make it.” Little did he know that another global crisis would eventually draw him back to his roots.

For the next 10 years, Gary worked with higher-ed institutions, government agencies, and non-profits, gaining valuable experience performing single audits and much more. He enjoyed the consultative nature of his work and took pride in being a trusted advisor to his clients. Still, Gary found himself constantly drawn to the human side of the business. He volunteered as a regular presenter for the MICPA, served as a key member of his firm’s on-campus recruiting team, was actively involved in onboarding and mentoring new staff, and participated in a “buddy” program at his firm. Outside of work, Gary found that his CPA standing opened doors in the community. Being a member of a highly respected profession helped him secure a volunteer position on the board of Common Ground—the largest provider of mental health crisis services in Oakland County. As his career at AHP continued to thrive, his time at Common Ground began lending additional richness to his life.

By the time the COVID crisis hit in 2020, Gary was juggling his role as senior manager at AHP with serving as treasurer and chair-elect of Common Ground. “I was super busy, but I knew the work mattered,” says Gary. “I was proud to be part of a profession that was adding real value during the pandemic and helping clients navigate all the uncertainty around COVID relief programs.” At the same time, the need for public mental health services was skyrocketing. When the controller position at Common Ground opened up, Gary found himself weighing a job offer that would take him off the track he had successfully laid at the CPA firm. “It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was simple,” says Gary, who has nothing but praise for his colleagues and experiences at AHP. “I had been pursuing my accounting career and my nonprofit passion in parallel, and suddenly there was this opportunity to bring them together.”

Gary is brand new to the controller role—he just started at Common Ground in October—and knows his career shift comes with a steep learning curve. It’s a challenge he’s embracing whole-heartedly. “I encourage CPAs to put in the time to figure out what they truly want from their careers, what makes them the happiest,” he says, “and then put themselves out there and keep their eyes open for opportunities. You never know what’s around the corner.” In Gary’s case, turning the latest corner feels a lot like coming home.

We’re recognizing stories like Gary’s leading up to our very first Michigan CPA Appreciation Day on October 25th. Stay tuned for more examples of how your MICPA colleagues are making a difference and share your story on social media tagging the MICPA and using the hashtag #CPAAppreciationDay.

Source: MICPA

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