A Logical Accounting Approach

Community Impact Scholarship winner Jen St. Hilaire builds on experience to inform future work

For some, being a Trekkie and celebrating all that the series has to offer is just one aspect of their life.

But for Jen St. Hilaire, the essence of Spock and Data also informs her career outlook.

Logic. Balance.

So it should come as no surprise that accounting—with its definitive answers and practice entrenched in logic and balance—is where Jen combines Trekkie with Career.

“I love that the books always have to balance,” Jen explains. “As with mathematical equations, there is only one correct answer. When the books don’t balance, it’s like a little puzzle that you have to solve, and solving that puzzle to get the books back into balance is so satisfying.

“Reconciliations are one of my favorite things to work on. And spreadsheets! I love creating a good spreadsheet.”



I knew the school’s good reputation and trusted that the program would help me further my career goals.



More Than Bean Counting

Jen got her first real taste of the accounting field more than 20 years ago while working at Espresso Vivace in Seattle. In addition to taking on wholesale manager duties, she also led accounts receivable.

Then in 1999, she moved to the Bay Area to manage a research facility at UC Berkeley while also helping a former Vivace customer run his own roasting company.

But Jen couldn’t stay away from the draw of accounting—or the sweet aroma of coffee roasting. With an entrepreneurial spirit, she opened up Scarlet City Roasting in Oakland—and a second shop in Emeryville—managing the books and taxes.

In fact, Jen has been an entrepreneur from an early age:

“All my life, I wanted to run my own business. I started early, running a Kool-Aid stand with my best friend on my front lawn, where I was in charge of the money and the toy cash register. Even at six years old, I was fascinated by the possibility of making my own products and selling them for profit.”

Sadly, both of her Bay Area coffee-roasting companies have closed, but ever the warrior, Jen took the opportunity to focus all of her attention on pursuing a full-time career on accounting.

To do so, Jen knew she needed to fine-tune her practical know-how and perhaps pick up some side gigs along the way.

“I researched various online accounting programs, and the UC Berkeley Extension Accounting certificate stood out from the rest,” Jen recalls. “Having already worked for UC Berkeley, I knew the school’s good reputation and trusted that the program would help me further my career goals.”

And so Jen enrolled in her first courses, Financial Accounting and Managerial Accounting—taking both online.

And then COVID-19 hit.



The online experience is great for anyone who works part time or takes other classes.



Hello, Zoom!

In May of this year, Jen packed up and moved to Pittsburgh, but wasn’t about to stop her accounting education.

She has since taken Intermediate Accounting I and II—also online—and has only high praise to give to the digital-learning environment.

“I’m a multitasker at heart, so I like to jump in and out of studying and then into work or other projects I’m doing,” she says. “And of course, it’s the only way to study right now, during the pandemic. I had a group project in one of my classes that I really enjoyed. Because we’re online, there aren’t many opportunities to interact with fellow students, so it was fun to collaborate with others.

“The instructors are excellent, too. Dr. Dmitriy Kalyagin gets special mention—he's been so helpful and encouraging, and have made the hard work easier and more fun.

“The online experience is great for anyone who works part time or takes other classes. You can study when you want and go at your own pace, even working ahead, if you’re able to.”

New City, New Adventures

While Jen is traversing and discovering a completely new city, she continues to take classes and holds down some temp work at a small accounting firm.

Not one to let anything stop her momentum in achieving the certificate, Jen applied for one of our Community Impact Scholarships and was awarded!

“I am so grateful to have been awarded the scholarship,” she enthuses. “It’s really helped me out, especially in this time of COVID, while I’m unemployed and finding my way around a new city.

“Taking these classes has kept me focused and moving forward toward my career goal of making accounting my profession.”

With only a  handful of courses left to go before completing the certificate’s curriculum requirements, Jen is already thinking about future goals—using logic and reasoning to keep her on track.

“Once I have my certificate,” she says, “I envision first working for an accounting firm to get more real-world skills and experience. Eventually, I would like to open up my own accounting business, doing the books for small companies similar to my former roasting business.”

And taking the CPA Exam is also on the horizon.

“I think the future of accounting fits in well with the philosophies of Vulcans like Spock and androids like Data. They seek to make sense of the world through logic and mathematics.”