The sound of Todd Lawrence and his wife’s eight-month-old son crying as they dropped him off at daycare so they could go to work catapulted him toward a complete overhaul of his career. Instead of continuing his longtime career in information technology (IT), Todd chose to focus on his family.
“It broke my heart to leave my son crying there as we walked out the door,” Todd remembers. “That feeling never left me.”
At that point, Todd had amassed several years serving in various IT roles, such as:
- COBOL programmer for Safeway’s merchandising systems
- Various roles at Visa, including programming performance-reporting applications, then on to IT project manager overseeing the development of a merchant-identification data warehouse
- Founder of Talence, his own small software-development company
- Director of IT at UCSF School of Medicine, supporting everything from desktop support, email and database hosting, website development, HIPAA data security and learning-management systems’ software development for medical students
- Back to Visa as Director of Global Commercial Card Systems
It was during his final tenure at Visa that the decision to focus on family struck home.
“By 2014, my wife and I were both holding down very demanding global jobs at Visa, and we were at a crossroads in terms of care for our kids,” Todd recalls. “My wife was on a rapid upward trajectory at Visa. I still greatly enjoyed IT, but I had worked for 25 years in IT and was ready for a change: I needed to be more involved with our kids.
Despite certain challenges and concerns, including the slow and sometimes scary distancing from a professional career, I have never looked back on the decision.
“Being a stay-at-home dad means that I really get to know my kids and be involved in their lives and decision-making,” Todd continues. “When you have the time to give your kids your undivided attention, they open up and are willing to share their thoughts with you. Staying at home has afforded me the opportunity to participate in their school by being a PTA board member for many years, coaching and refereeing their sports teams, and by simply being at home and available. There is some social awkwardness because not many men stay at home. There is also the unfortunate stigma in our society that stay-at-home dads or moms don’t really ‘work’. I can attest that it is a full-time job, but certainly agree it’s different from a corporate job. Despite certain challenges and concerns, including the slow and sometimes scary distancing from a professional career, I have never looked back on the decision.”
But as his kids are growing up and becoming less dependent, Todd is feeling the tug back to corporate life. “I need to work and be challenged,” Todd says of his decision to re-enter the workforce. “There is also the small fear in the back of my mind of not having applicable or professional skills.”
You’d think with his vast experience in IT that Todd would return to that field, but he chose a different path.
Why did you choose accounting as your second career?
IT management is an all-consuming profession. It does not lend itself to part-time work. People expect technology to run 24 hours a day. Also, because software can always be enhanced, there is really no satiating a client’s demand for more and more enhancements. I wanted to find a professional niche where I could manage my time commitment to the job.
With my background in mathematics (he has an undergraduate degree in Applied Mathematics and Statistics) and an interest in accounting that has developed over the years with my experience as PTA treasurer and small-business owner, I looked to the accounting profession.
While I have no doubt that many professional accountants deal with many of the same demands and stresses of an IT director, I want to believe that there are positions in accounting that lend themselves to delivering more manageable and discrete deliverables.
In addition to the Accounting certificate, I just started the Master of Science in Taxation at Golden Gate University. Additionally, I am studying for the CPA Exam because I have now met all of the educational requirements to take the exam. With a master’s degree and the CPA Exam under my belt, I will have an edge during the job search and more of an opportunity to find a position that fits my interests.
The Accounting certificate offered me a tangible measurement of completion of a field of study, similar to a degree—as opposed to taking a random set of accounting classes.
Why did you choose our Accounting certificate?
The curriculum almost perfectly matched the outstanding courses I needed to take to qualify for the CPA Exam.
Even better, the Accounting certificate offered me a tangible measurement of completion of a field of study, similar to a degree—as opposed to taking a random set of accounting classes.
Also, my schedule at home is often unpredictable and doesn’t allow for a fixed schedule of classroom study. So the online certificate program was a perfect fit for the subject matter and the demands on my time.
Online courseware has really progressed over the past few years to make student-teacher interactions more seamless, educational content and resources more accessible, and preparation for and taking tests easier and more reliable.
How were your interactions with fellow classmates and instructors?
I found it very rewarding and interesting to learn about and communicate with other students from different ages and locations around the world—can’t do that in a classroom!
I particularly enjoyed the instructors who asked open-ended questions: For example, “Should corporations be taxed?” That’s a great question that has a plethora of pundits debating online. It was great to be able to assess my answer against others’ and discuss different points of view.
By completing the certificate, I feel like I’ve set myself up to advance more quickly as a professional accountant.
You received the certificate with Distinction in 2017. What does this mean to you personally and professionally?
I completed the certificate part-time over the course of two years, so it feels like a major long-term accomplishment, similar to a degree. I feel proud about completing a program under the UC Berkeley name, which has terrific respect and recognition in the Bay Area and across the country.
Professionally, it is a huge milestone along the path to becoming a CPA and an accountant. By completing the certificate, I feel like I’ve set myself up to advance more quickly as a professional accountant. Without the course curriculum, I wouldn’t have qualified for the CPA Exam.
What are your next steps?
I am not under pressure to find accounting work immediately, so I’m focusing on additional education like a master’s in taxation or in accountancy and sitting for the CPA exam.
Where can we find you in five to 10 years from now?
I hope to continue my education in accounting and taxation and earn the designation of CPA while working for a local tax preparation and planning accounting firm. In 10 years, I’d like to be running my own small tax firm with an emphasis on balancing work and life.