Jesse Braswell is the Chief Financial Officer at North by Northwest. At 68 years old, Jesse has worked in the industry for many decades. In a recent interview, I asked Jesse when he began his career as an accountant. He told me he technically began it at the age of 13 when he started helping his dad, who was also an accountant, on a part time basis with his overload work. “My dad’s company is very similar to my present business. He thought the best way to help companies was to be active with them and close to them. I would occasionally help him when I got home from school. We worked on calculators, not computers. That’s when I fell in love with accounting.”
Jesse went on to earn his accounting degree with minors in economics and psychology. He attended the same university both his parents graduated from. He graduated from Auburn University in 1974. When Jesse finished school he immediately gained his first client in the trucking industry, who needed a controller. Luckily for Jesse, that first client had a son-in-law, who was also starting a company at the same time. The son-in-law also hired Jesse right out of college to be their controller. He didn’t know it then but he would end up working as the Chief Financial Officer for that business for 17 years.
Financial Information and Overall Data Go Hand-in-Hand
“After 17 years with them I decided to go back to school and get my masters in business administration with a concentration in accounting. After completing that, I went back to work for a similar company that was also in the trucking business.” According to Jesse, the trucking business is a lot more complex than people think. It involves various methods of measuring reviews and tracking routes and expenses. The necessities of measuring this kind of business led Jesse to become very interested in capturing and sorting data. “Then I was not only their CFO but I was also their CIO (Chief Information Officer). We bought our first computers in 1978, and designed their software. I hired software programmers who wrote programs for me. I became utterly engrossed in information. So, I stayed at that company for 14 years.”
Working at North by Northwest
Jesse’s expertise with sorting data and financial information led him to become an expert in the technology QuickBooks. This is what North by Northwest originally hired him to help set up and monitor. “I started working for North by Northwest in 2013 as a pro-advisor and QuickBooks expert.” But quickly, Jesse became a more permanent feature after he decided he particularly liked NxNW’s culture.
“The people have very interesting lives. It’s the most diverse company I’ve worked for and I like their outlook on life. I was raised in the deep south (Ridgeline, SC – formerly Gopher Hill) by very conservative parents. And yet, I try to be open to things and not let one line of thinking influence my whole outlook. When I get to be around more creative or liberal people, it shocks my system and I like those sorts of conversations that can be challenging or interesting. I think that’s my favorite part of North by Northwest, is the people. And I think my being on the leadership team and a key financial advisor is a good fit, we work in tandem.
Advice for Aspiring Accountants
When I asked Jesse what advice he had for people wanting to get into accounting, he said it was a field you had to get acclimated to. “I tell people to try it and take that first accounting class. If you don’t find that fun then then you probably won’t enjoy it. If you don’t find accounting fun in your first year at college you’ll probably find it laborious and awful. But I love it. It takes a certain kind of person,” he laughed.
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