Two-time reigning ITU Triathlon world champion Gwen Jorgensen has demonstrated plenty of endurance in the water, on the bike, and on her runs. She’s also proven her stamina in a very different environment—a cubicle in the tax department at Ernst & Young’s Milwaukee office. Jorgensen holds open the possibility she might someday return to tax work, but for now pursuing Olympic gold is her full-time job. Recently she opened up about her unconventional career shift with Tony Nitti at Forbes.com. We’ve shared some highlights from their interview below. You can read the full story here.
TN: You’ve said that you grew up dreaming of becoming a professional swimmer, but at what age did you decide that you also wouldn’t mind being a professional number cruncher? And what was it about yourself that made tax accounting feel like a good fit?
GJ: I have always enjoyed numbers and learning about business, so in college, I took business courses. Something about the order of debits and credits really intrigued me. I love trying to figure out the tax puzzle. I find it challenging and satisfying.
TN: When you joined E&Y, what was it that attracted you to tax in general, and corporate taxation in specific?
GJ: To be brutally honest, I didn’t want to travel and heard that auditors travel a lot. . . . I also was attracted to corporate taxation because I enjoyed searching for answers in the tax Code. Researching and finding solutions for clients is fun. And tax people are just awesome. Go tax!
TN: You chose a pursuit where if you’re not willing to put in insanely long, solitary hours of hard, thankless, soul crushing work, you’ll be chewed up and spit out with no chance of success. Then you left that pursuit and moved on to triathlon. Was there anything about your experience in public accounting that helped prepare you for your racing career?
GJ: I’ve learned from my accounting experience not to procrastinate and to always stay on top of your work, but I also learned to be fluid. Something always comes up last minute and you have to be prepared to work hard and find a solution. This carries over into triathlon. Every triathlon race is completely different and I have to be prepared for anything and everything. There is no time to react. I must just act. Being comfortable with this fluidity is something that is challenging, but also so important. Now that I’m a full time triathlete, the two things I learned that carry back over into accounting are 1) view my commitments as investments in my career and myself (never view them as a sacrifice) and 2) invest fully in one career. It is better to be successful at one thing than mediocre at two.
Jorgensen will make her run at Olympic gold in Rio on August 20th and without a doubt tax accountants around the country will be glued to the screen cheering on the only woman in the field who can swim a mile, bike 25, run 6.2, and recite Code sections from memory.
For those of you getting in condition for that other endurance event—busy season—Surgent has you covered with the best tax training available. If only there was an Olympics for that!
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