Powering Up a Career in Accounting Tech

Inspired by a professor, Elena Santiago ’20 took her finance expertise to the next level.

Portrait photo of Elmhurst College accounting and information systems student Elena Santiago.

Elena Santiago ’20 combined a passion for accounting with new expertise in information technology, landing her a job in technology risk advising at a top accounting firm.

Santiago enrolled in 2017 after previously working in bookkeeping and administrative jobs and earning an associate of arts degree from Wilbur Wright College. While interested in IT early on, a professor at Wright advised her to keep pursuing accounting because it was familiar.

But when she arrived at Elmhurst, a course in accounting information systems proved to be eye-opening. “I enjoyed learning how information systems are designed to include the built-in controls that are an essential part of accounting. I immediately recognized where accounting and IT could intersect for me,” Santiago says.

Wanting to know more about the technology that facilitates those controls, she enrolled in the University’s IT degree completion program, paving the way for a double major in accounting and IT, with a concentration in cybersecurity. Professor Dean Jensen helped her bridge a gap in IT knowledge. “The program assumed a background in IT that I didn’t have, but [Jensen] helped me figure it out.”

“She’s motivated and enthusiastic,” Jensen says. “With her accounting background, it makes sense that she would gravitate to risk management.”

Santiago went on to add information systems as a minor. “In accounting, you deal with a lot of sensitive financial information and federal regulations,” she says. “I want to be confident that I’m protecting that information.”

Those skills are in demand. Santiago received multiple job offers. After graduation in May, she plans to start as an associate at RSM US LLP, the No. 5 accounting firm according to Accounting Today.

On top of that, she recently won a scholarship from the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), which she says she’ll put toward her education. “When I started the IT program, I didn’t know enough to answer a single essay question on the application. One year later, I was awarded the scholarship. That goes to show how much curriculum is packed into the program.”

While mastering the IT course requirements was a challenge, Santiago found the academic work rich and rewarding. One course in cybersecurity required students to find and extract files from publicly available websites. “You learn to hack [ethically],” she says, “so you can guard against hackers.”

Posted Feb. 19, 2020

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