An Unlikely Journey: From Soldier to Chef to CPA

By: Fernando Coreas

Military life can be summed up as camaraderie, discipline, and attention to detail. Most people wouldn’t necessarily associate these traits with the accounting profession. Having now worked in the profession for a few months, I have found these to be true in this profession as well.

I decided to attend college at 26 after spending many years in active duty military. I was married with three children, out of school for 9 years except for military training, and I thought I wanted to be a chef. This led me to Johnson and Wales University, the second best culinary school in the nation, in Charlotte, NC with no family or friends nearby.

Soon after beginning my program I realized I did not want to make a career in the restaurant industry and had to decide what to study. As I continued to take classes I was required to take accounting and was not looking forward to it. To my surprise I enjoyed studying it, and decided to switch my major to accounting. However, I missed the camaraderie and being the married “old” man in class didn’t help.

As a junior in the accounting program I was advised by a professor to apply to a program called Student Leadership Institute of North Carolina (SLINC), an event organized by the NCACPA. I was excited when I found out I was accepted and would attend in the summer of 2014. While at the event I learned more about the various areas of accounting, had the opportunity to network with great individuals, and felt a sense of camaraderie as in the military. Excited about the profession I was getting ready to enter, I made sure to stay in touch with some of the professionals that attended the event as well. One of these professionals was Jordan Miller, a manager at CliftonLarsonAllen LLP (CLA).

I kept in touch with her over the summer and after various emails I had the opportunity to speak with some of the partners at the firm and was given the opportunity to intern. During my internship I learned that discipline and attention to detail are very important in accounting, skills learned from my time in the military.

Looking back I am grateful NCACPA allowed me to attend an event that would serve as the catalyst to an exciting career. My desire is to help other students learn about this organization and the various paths in accounting. Fortunately, I was invited to join a new NCACPA committee called Student, Outreach, Advancement, and Recruitment (SOAR) focused in helping students learn more about the profession and getting them connected to the firm that best suits them. I am excited to see where my accounting career leads and am eager to help other students on their own path.

I was recently given the opportunity to attend the NCACPA Board of Directors meeting to give some fresh perspective on the profession and its recruiting efforts. I have to admit I was a bit nervous to attend, as the Board comprises leaders recognized not only within our state, but across the nation. Would I be able to hold a conversation with such highly regarded individuals?

Yet once again NCACPA welcomed me as a peer, made me feel at home, and were open to hearing new ideas. There was excitement around discussing the future of the profession and furthering efforts to be recognized as creators, leaders, and innovators in business that we strive to be. This organization has some amazing initiatives, and I am excited to see them unfold in 2016.


Fernando Coreas-cropFernando Coreas is an MBA Candidate at Wake Forest University and part-time Accountant at CliftonLarsonAllen located in uptown Charlotte. He graduated from Johnson and Wales University with a bachelor of science in management accounting. His initial involvement with NCACPA is as a student member of the Student Outreach, Advancement &  Recruitment Committee (SOAR).