CONTACT: DENISE BAILEY, Denise.Bailey@elliottdavis.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 5/8/2018
(By Lisa Garrett)
Denise Bailey received Tri-County Technical College’s 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award at the College’s spring commencement May 7 at Littlejohn Coliseum.
The award, which highlights her dedication to her alma mater, was presented to her by President Ronnie L. Booth.
The recipient of this award must have been awarded a degree, diploma or certificate from Tri-County; must have graduated at least one year ago; and must have made significant contributions to the College, the Alumni Association or the community.
PENDLETON --- When Denise Bailey graduated from Tri-County Technical College’s Accounting program in 2004, she narrowed her entry-level career options down to two areas in public accounting –tax or audit compliance.
She successfully landed a full-time job as a tax preparer in a Seneca accounting firm, expanding her skills in tax preparation while beginning work on a bachelor’s degree.
Sixteen years and two advanced degrees later, Bailey, the leader of Accounting Systems Consulting Specialty Group for Elliott Davis in Greenville, tells recent college graduates that today there are so many more career options to consider - positions in consulting that include improving accounting processes through the use of technology. “It’s not just math and numbers. That is always involved but it is so much more,” said Bailey, who was the first student from Tri-County to transfer to Franklin University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and a master’s in Business Administration (Finance).
As a member and chair of Tri-County’s Business Technology Advisory Committee, she tells Tri-County students to think outside the box, not just about debits and credits and tax and audit compliance services. There is so much to explore in Accounting, she says. Although she started out as a staff accountant preparing tax returns, she listened to instructors and colleagues, who became mentors, such as Brenda Mattison, accounting instructor, who boosted her confidence to continue her education during her time at Tri-County, and colleagues at Elliott Davis, who encouraged her to develop her area of expertise.
“Denise was such a committed student,” said Mattison. “She was a joy to teach because she was always prepared and ready to learn. I knew that with a little bit of encouragement she would continue her education and make a difference in the accounting field. But all I did was provide some information and a small nudge. She had the desire. I’m so pleased to see how much she has accomplished and so thankful she is willing to give back to Tri-County and work with our current students.”
Bailey gives students and co-workers the same advice she received – “choose a career you are passionate about.”
“In college and in the workforce, I found individuals to invest time in me. Find people you trust and admire who can help you to get where you need to be,” she said.
“A good mentor asks you to stretch yourself and is willing to invest in you and help you navigate through the process,” she said.
Bailey knew college was in her future but not immediately after graduating from a private high school at age 16. She worked for two years in her mother’s cleaning business and at 18 she married her high school sweetheart. She wanted to go to college but she says it was put on the back burner after the couple purchased a new home and began their family. Six years passed and in 2001 she decided to enter Tri-County six months after their second child was born. At 24, she enrolled in the Accounting program, while working full-time (she had taken over the cleaning business) and taking a full academic load of online and day classes.
“I chose Tri-County because in my research I discovered a rigorous program that would prepare me for the workplace,” said Bailey. Cost and convenience were two major factors for the Pickens resident as well. “I was the first in my immediate family to go to college so this was a big deal,” she added. She was awarded scholarships through the College’s Foundation and lottery tuition assistance funds, enabling her to graduate from college debt free. “I was there to learn. Brenda Mattison helped me apply what I was learning in class to my job,” she said. Bailey’s class was the first to take the Accredited Business Advisor (ABA) exam in the state (Tri-County was a proctor center).
The ABA is an eight-hour, two-part credentialing exam which tests the students' knowledge of financial, managerial and tax accounting via problems, glossary terms, and application (solving problems and applying theory). Bailey and her classmates passed the test proving to employers their competency in financial, managerial and tax accounting.
“The ABA certification gave me credibility when I applied for jobs,” she said. Her first was as a staff accountant at Stancil Cooley Estep and Stamey, LLP in Seneca. She entered the bachelor’s program online through Franklin University while working full time. After several years there she wanted to broaden her scope and work for a larger firm where she could continue to grow in her career.
She was working on her master’s degree when she was hired at Elliott Davis in 2006 as a staff accountant in the tax department. Six months later, in April 2007, she was promoted to manager of the Accounting Advisory Group.
She helped to develop the department and in 2014 started a new department called Accounting Systems Consulting where she and her team provide businesses of various sizes with accounting systems analysis, implementation and process improvement consulting. She has specialized knowledge in accounting systems applications, accounting workflow processes and analysis, and customized reporting structure. “We assess companies’ processes (technology) and systems (people). We bring players to the table who work on small and large projects depending on the size and scope of the customer.
“I love what I do,” she said.
“I have an awesome team,” she said, which consists of full-time accountants, consultants and data analysts. “No one is a number here. It’s always about teamwork. I always say hire someone smarter than you to help to take the company to the next level.”
Another way to recruit for Elliott Davis while giving back to her alma mater is serving on the Business Technology Advisory Committee since 2005. She currently serves as chair.
“Brenda called and asked if I would serve. It’s a way to give back, say thanks and show students what you can accomplish beginning with a Tri-County Accounting degree,” said Bailey.
The advisory committee consists of community business leaders who meet quarterly for discussion and to provide input to keep the Business Technology curriculum relevant to today's ever-changing work environment.
Their work as individuals in the community and as a group of professionals devoted to enhancing learning opportunities for students earned them the honor of advisory committee of the year eight times since 1981.
Each year the committee plans a half-day seminar titled, The Steps to Success, for students in the Business Technology program. Participants receive first-hand tips from local employers along with the do’s and don’ts of interviewing skills and workplace behavior.
“Tri-County is a good place to start. Your degree sets you apart and is the first step to continuing your education,” said Bailey. She says the committee members focus on careers in business technology and preparing students for the job interviews – essentially life beyond college. “At Elliott Davis and other accounting firms, in addition to accounting expertise, you need oral and written communication skills. That will set you apart in the workplace,” she said.
During the seminars, she shares her story with Tri-County students. “It wasn’t easy but you have to persevere and believe in yourself. Having a mentor is key,” she said.
“I was married with two small children holding down a full-time job and a full load of classes. I tell them, like many of them, a lot of the time I was overwhelmed as a young mother and wife, working full time and going to college. But I graduated cum laude in the master’s program because I applied myself and gave it all I had. I am systematic and I lived by a rigid schedule,” she said.
“But my priority was always my family,” she added.
She says that she will always make time for Tri-County. “I have a heart for the students and a passion for the program,” she said.
In addition to serving on the advisory committee, she is active in her church, Pickens View Wesleyan Church, where she serves as a board member and treasurer. She also serves on the SC District Board for the Wesleyan Church. She is a member of the South Carolina Association of Certified Public Accountants and is an Accredited Business Advisor in South Carolina and Advanced Certified QuickBooks Pro Advisor.
Bailey lives in Pickens with her husband, Arnold, and their three children.