Alumnus Sutton ’94 Speaks to Student Accounting Association

Posted on 10/18/2019 8:53:09 AM

Fifty-nine accounting majors attended the Student Accounting Association’s third meeting of the semester on October 15, 2019, featuring guest speaker Joanna Fetzer Sutton, who graduated from IUP in 1994 with a major in accounting.

With 25 years of accounting experience, Sutton is currently an entrepreneur-in-residence at the University of Pittsburgh, where she focuses on mentorship and development of innovation and entrepreneurship with graduate students who are attempting to start their own businesses. She is also an adjunct professor teaching strategic cost management in the University of Pittsburgh’s Executive MBA program, and she works as a business consultant for Bright Lights Innovations where she assists senior leadership with developing and implementing key strategic business initiatives.

Sutton entered IUP as a finance major, but switched to accounting after her Accounting Principles instructor, Kim Anderson, urged her to consider accounting.

“Joanna was an outstanding student. She finished the course with one of the highest class averages of any intro-level student I’ve ever had—over 99 percent,” said Anderson. “I knew she’d do extremely well as both an accounting major and as a professional accountant.”

Sutton mentioned that she was very happy that she followed Anderson’s advice by changing her major to accounting. She urged the students to find a faculty mentor they can trust and to listen to their advice.

Upon graduating, Sutton joined the audit staff at the Big 4 firm KPMG, where she worked for four years.

Sutton stressed the many benefits of working in public accounting, such as developing one’s interpersonal and analytical skills as well as receiving exposure to multiple industries. She realized that she particularly enjoyed working on manufacturing engagements. She enjoyed walking the shop floor, and was one of the few auditors who actually enjoyed physically counting inventory.

Joanna Fetzer Sutton and members of the SAA

Joanna Sutton, 1994 accounting alumnus (third from the left) spoke to 59 accounting majors at the Student Accounting Association’s third meeting of the semester. Shown are SAA student advisory council chair Sarah Crownover, SAA faculty advisor Kim Anderson; Joanna Sutton, and SAA field trip chair April Murdick.

After leaving KPMG, Sutton left to work for one of her clients, Westinghouse Electric, where she worked in various roles for 18 years. She was a financial analyst in accounting, a strategic planner, marketing strategy manager, new product development director, and an executive sponsor of external research funding. Sutton has considerable experience in collaborating with engineering teams to create and launch new products in high tech and business to business markets. These experiences include critical areas such as business model design, financial modeling, securing government grants, and developing partnerships with early-adopter customers.

Sutton offered several pieces of advice to the students throughout her presentation: go beyond the detailed numbers and spreadsheets when working for a company and get a sense of the broader business environment; find mentors while a college student and continue to seek them out throughout one’s career; be adaptable when dealing with audit clients so that they will provide necessary documents and information in a timely fashion; be opportunistic and take risks as new opportunities present themselves, taking career risks can lead to the discovery of new passions and new areas of accounting that could be very interesting; be open to taking additional courses, attending seminars, or completing graduate degrees in order to expand one’s knowledge and to prepare for new roles; and, finally, be a good business partner whether it be in teams or in a collaborative environment.

Eberly College of Business and Information Technology