MAC Program Alumna ’11 Finds Mission and Purpose Through Accounting
By Caroline Barnhill
As a lifelong Wolfpack fan, Kristen Shepherd’s decision to come to NC State for graduate school was simple. However, what she got out of the program was more than she could have expected. She credits the incredible faculty and experiential learning at Poole College Jenkins MAC Program for preparing her for the field and ultimately helping her land a role with her dream company.
Originally from Clinton, N.C., Shepherd attended Meredith College to pursue a bachelor’s degree in accounting. During her senior year, she secured an internship at Protochips, Inc., a Raleigh-based technology company focused on empowering scientists, engineers and researchers to discover and analyze new phenomena by visualizing biological, chemical and physical processes in completely new ways.
“Protochips, Inc. customers are located all around the world, and in my role, I got a taste of global application of accounting principles and learned very quickly about the impacts of currency translations, revenue recognition considerations and effective communication across cultures,” says Shepherd. “It was such exciting work! I knew I wanted to continue my education and advance my skill set in technical accounting and business practices.”
So, in 2010, she applied for and was accepted into the Jenkins MAC Program.
“The MAC program was my first choice for several reasons. First, the professors are incredible. Accomplished in their own right, their professional career paths brought unique perspectives and showcased a variety of career opportunities that the world of accounting can provide. Second, Raleigh is the perfect city for learning. Situated right in the center of Research Triangle Park, it has a bustling scene for food, fun and a host of companies from every industry imaginable.”
After graduating from the MAC program in 2011, Shepherd accepted a role at a public accounting firm, but quickly realized that she missed being an integral part of a single company’s mission and purpose. As a corporate accountant, you have a front row seat to the financial impacts of each decision that a company is considering and the opportunity to influence decision making. And, for Shepherd, there’s something incredibly rewarding about being with a company as they grow and face new challenges. So, with that in mind, she left public accounting and went back to work for Protochips, working her way to the position of controller.
Then, in 2018, Shepherd was presented with an opportunity to relocate to Atlanta and work for her dream company – Chick-fil-A. “Fostering a spirit of servant-leadership, Chick-fil-A generously focuses on the bigger picture of what’s truly important through their mission statement. As a staff member, I have experienced first-hand what it means to be part of a corporate family in a way that is uniquely Chick-fil-A. The company enabled me to marry my personal and professional passions, which has created a new sense of excitement and ambition regarding my work contributions.”
The MAC program professors showed me how important it is to be led and mentored by individuals who inspire you.
“The MAC program professors showed me how important it is to be led and mentored by individuals who inspire you,” recalls Shepherd. “I think it’s very important that, when we are seeking new projects or opportunities, we not only look at the work at hand, but also at the people you will be working alongside on that project.”
As a lead restaurant cash management accountant, Shepherd serves 60 operators in the Southeast and Canada markets assisting with a variety of financial reconciliation and operational needs. “The dedication that Chick-fil-A operators have to their local communities and team members is truly inspiring.” Most recently, Shepherd also had the opportunity to serve on the International Execution Team for Puerto Rico, helping to establish sustainable processes to support the financial strategy for new market entry and expansion. “This was the most exciting work I’ve been part of in my career thus far. Seeing my contributions play out on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico for the Chick-fil-A family and brand has been so rewarding.”
“A huge portion of my current role requires partnerships with other internal teams from a diverse set of backgrounds and prior professional experiences, so the MAC group projects have proven to be a major career blessing,” Shepherd continues. “Learning to foster collaboration and communication within a team while also highlighting individual strengths continues to be a set of skills that I strive to utilize daily, and I’m so grateful that this was a significant aspect of the graduate program.”
Beyond the projects and coursework, Shepherd credits the MAC program for giving her so much more than she could have hoped for from a graduate program. “I often felt like I was drinking from a firehose of knowledge – in the best way. We studied real world case studies and scenarios that we would encounter, and I left the program feeling very confident that I had learned what I needed to be successful, regardless of the unique career path that I decided to pursue.”