In Our Own Words: A Second Career

Meet Elena Lavigne — assurance staff, working mom

I had worked in industry for 10 years as a bookkeeper. I went back to school because I wanted to understand auditing from the other side of the desk. I wanted to use my industry experience and my training to help my clients. When I’m not working, I love spending time with my husband and two very active sons.

On what’s best about being an auditor…

“Decide what kind of life you want right now, and then how that job will fit into your life”.

“If you are looking for a fulfilled lifestyle, decide first what kind of life you want, and then how your career can fit into it.”

As an auditor, you’re constantly learning and putting your knowledge to work.  I like walking into a business and learning what they do, because you can’t put the story together from the numbers if you don’t understand the business.

I think it’s a plus to be exposed to a lot of different people in different industries who really have a knack for their business. They bring a lot more than just accounting knowledge to the table and that helps you hone skills you wouldn’t think you’d need as an accountant, but you really do.

On choosing a firm to work for…

If you’re just leaving school, consider that you’re not just choosing a job; you’re choosing an overall lifestyle. The bigger firms seem to have higher burnout and turnover.  If what you want is support, if you want to be at a firm for a long time, then you should go with a smaller firm.  A lot of people start out focused on making partner without thinking about what kind of life they’ll live during all the years they’re trying to achieve that goal. If you are looking for a fulfilled lifestyle, decide first what kind of life you want, and then how your career can fit into it.

On the benefits of a smaller firm…

Elena with her family

Elena with her family


For a time, I thought my only choice was to go work at a big national firm. It seems like their auditors are on the road all the time, the work is extremely stressful, the hours are long, and they burn out quickly.  I also got the impression they wanted inexperienced people so they had a blank slate to work with.  But I brought a lot of experience with me and I have a family, so I knew that type of work environment wasn’t for me.  At WBL, they viewed my experience as an asset and their commitment to work-life balance was the selling point. At WBL, we have fun, we work hard, and there’s respect for what is important to us outside of work.

On professional development at WBL…

At WBL, you’re expected to take on responsibility from the very beginning and you are given credit for the good work you do.  You’re not given busy work—papers to copy—but projects that require you to think things through.  You’re working next to the managers and partners, with access to them when you need it.  You’re always able to move forward by asking questions and getting answers while you’re working.  You’re not out there on your own and for someone who is new, that’s huge.