Alumni-led accounting firm visits UNG

University of North Georgia (UNG) alumna, Kathy Tillman, visited the Gainesville campus on October 23 as a speaker for the Cottrell Speaker Series in the Mike Cottrell College of Business at UNG.

Tillman is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and managing partner of Tillman, Bailey, Samples, and Associates, LLP in Gainesville, GA. She shared some of the knowledge she has gained in her more than 30 years of practice with students during her presentation.

“Supporting my alma mater has always been important to me,” Tillman said. “My business partners and I were some of the first to begin supporting the UNG accounting intern program 15 or more years ago.”

Giving back to UNG is something Tillman takes pride in. Her firm employs a large number of graduates from the Mike Cottrell College of Business, and nearly 80 percent of the firm’s employees are UNG alumni.

“We find that UNG graduates by virtue of the superior accounting program are well prepared for entry into this field,” Tillman said.

Tillman’s firm is unique in that it is the first wholly female-owned accounting firm in Gainesville/Hall county. They have seen tremendous growth since their founding in 2000, and their growth “continues to surpass our expectations each year,” Tillman said.

“We are proud to continue to employee so many UNG graduates and to provide them the vast range of experience that our diversification offers,” Tillman said.

A key focus of her presentation was on the variety of job responsibilities accountants may hold and how those roles continue to widen. She has enjoyed getting to experience many different industries and people throughout her career.

“I’ve met people from all over the world,” Tillman said. “Every kind of person you can imagine.”

Tillman enjoys every facet of problem solving and stressed the importance of critical thinking and analytical skills in the accounting industry during her presentation. She wants students to know that accountants don’t just sit behind a desk and crunch numbers all day.

Her interest in the accounting field was sparked in high school by one of her accounting classes and her older brother who is also a CPA. Her professors at UNG helped her discover her desired path in accounting.

“The accounting professors and primarily former dean Dr. Larry Dennis were very influential in my ultimate choice of public accounting,” Tillman said.

She encourages students interested in the accounting field to take a class, join a club or shadow a CPA to see if the field is somewhere they could see themselves. Her greatest piece of advice for students is to find what they love doing.

“The place where your best skills and what you’re most interested in intersect, that’s where you should be,” Tillman said. “If you do something you are good at and you love, you will be satisfied for the longest period of time.”