Janay Bingham is a fourth-year student obtaining a dual degree in Accounting and Finance. She is staying a fifth year to graduate with a Masters of Accounting and Information Systems and plans to sit for the Certified Public Accounting exam. Janay’s drive to become proficient with numbers began at an early age. When she was in second grade and new to her school, her class played a game called “Around the World” to practice math skills. Two students at a time would go up against each other, trying to answer a math question faster than the other; whoever gave the right answer first would move on to face off against the next student and the game would go around the classroom until there was one winner. When it was Janay’s turn, she knew the answer to the question but froze up when her opponent blurted out the wrong answer. Hearing another student in the class remark, “she’s so stupid!” made her determined to make math one of her strong suits. Fast forward to high school and Janay began running out of math classes to take. She decided to take a forensic accounting class as an elective, because she was interested in learning about the field of accounting that dealt with scandals involving money, like fraud and money laundering. The teacher brought in one of his former students one day to explain her day-to-day work as a forensic accountant, which sparked Janay’s interest in the field even more. She entered Virginia Tech as a business undecided major and after taking a few accounting classes, decided that accounting was, in fact, the right path for her. The numbers, rules, and consistency of accounting appealed to Janay. She decided to study Finance too for its compatibility with accounting and the deeper understanding of money management she would gain.
Janay has been very involved in extra-curricular activities during her Virginia Tech career. She danced on the Virginia Tech dance team, the HighTechs, was a member of the National Association of Black Accountants and is a sister of the sorority, Alpha Chi Omega. She chose to join Alpha Chi Omega specifically for the organization’s philanthropy, domestic violence awareness and sexual assault education. Mock Rock is the chapter’s annual fundraising effort for the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley, in which participating student organizations compete to win and points are awarded to organizations based on their fundraising efforts. The monetary proceeds and resources collected are donated to the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley. She explains how rewarding being a part of this philanthropy has been, recalling how women who have received support from the Women’s Resource Center have personally thanked her for the work her chapter does. While she loves knowing that she is positively impacting women in the local community, she realizes there is still a lot of work to do surrounding the problem of sexual assault on college campuses and believes education and raising awareness is key.
This academic year, Janay joined Pamplin Leadership Academy for the opportunity to work on a team and help a real-world client bring their business plan to fruition. Janay knows that teamwork skills are vital in the workforce but often aren’t taught in the classroom. Pamplin Leadership Academy placed her on a team and assigned her team to a client who is opening a restaurant in Blacksburg that employs people with disabilities to engage them in a community they often feel ostracized in. The opportunity has given Janay a lot of experience working on a team and taking leadership, but she has learned that these skills aren’t always easy. Janay has found that the biggest challenge of teamwork and leadership is having to acknowledge that your team members may not share the same opinions and ideologies as you. To navigate that effectively, you must be aware and respectful of different perspectives when you communicate your ideas. “Being aware of those different perspectives is the key takeaway from learning how to be a true leader,” she explains. Janay’s emphasis on respect and understanding influences her definition of leadership. She believes that leaders should listen and lead by example rather than holding their authority over people stating, “it’s a fine line… if you stay open-minded, if you listen, if you have respect and demand respect then things will run smoother.” Janay and her team have clearly worked together effectively, as their client recently hosted her first mock-opening of the restaurant last month!
Janay has also had numerous professional experiences during the summer months. She completed her first internship early on as a rising sophomore at Hewlett-Packard (HP), getting to work in the finance sector of an IT company. Following her sophomore year, she attended KPMG’s Future Diversity Leadership conference in Los Angeles, California and learned about the firm and how to differentiate herself from other candidates in interviews, internships, and the workforce. She returned to KPMG as a full-time intern the next summer and will continue her internship there this summer. The way KPMG invests in their interns is what led Janay to return in hopes of being offered full-time employment for after graduation. “They make you feel as though your grades are not the only thing that defines you…for me, that speaks volumes because I’ve put a lot of passion into other things..,” she explains.
Janay’s advice for underclassmen is to not be afraid of failure. From wanting to become more proficient in math as a second grader to overcoming challenges during her college career, Janay has not let minor setbacks prevent her from accomplishing her goals.
We wish Janay the best of luck at KPMG this summer and in all her future endeavors!
Post written by Allison DeSantis, member of Pamplin Leadership Development Team