Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Yvonne Metheny and the joy of being well-rounded

Yvonne Metheny has taken on a lot of projects in her 9 years in UVAFinance. Her official title is “Accounting and Financial Analyst,” but if you ask anyone with whom she’s worked, that title is deceiving. Yvonne, they say, can do just about anything:

“She’s a jack of all trades.”

“She just overhears you struggling with something and offers to help.”

“She’s willing to take on anything you give her.”

“She takes 20 minutes to find something that would take me hours.”

“She’s a go-to person, a problem-solver.”

“I can give her anything, and, with very minimal questions, she’ll get it done.”

Metheny is a lot of things, but she’s not a specialist. . . . Unless diversification counts as a specialty.

Metheny says she never really wanted to be an accountant. In college, she started with some accounting courses and did well in them, but she joined the Air Force and turned her attention to computers. Eventually, she earned her Bachelors’ degree in teaching and education (business education). A short stint teaching high school classes wasn’t a good fit, so she went back and got an MBA with a specialty in accounting.

While working in the field of accounting, Metheny says she’s tried a little bit of everything: debt accounting, cost accounting, and everything in between. She’s been very “behind the scenes,” even by accounting standards, double-checking department postings and ensuring that everything is correct, closing old projects so schools and units can see their financial situation more clearly, helping set up new software systems, and helping her colleagues navigate UBI.

Metheny’s supervisor, Senior Associate Comptroller Randy Ellis, described how Metheny recently came to him when he was working through a 68-tab spreadsheet that would be submitted to the State. He was working under a tight deadline and the work was painstakingly tedious.

“Yvonne came into my office and said, ‘let me know what I can do,’ so I gave her the piece of the spreadsheet involving UVA’s ten foundations,” Ellis said.

“She worked four long days on it, and then gave it back to me 95% complete,” said Ellis. The report was submitted to the State accurately and on time.

“I like puzzles,” Metheny said.

“I like the challenge of solving problems, and things that are new and different. I like learning the answers and teaching others.”

Indeed, for a person who decided early in her career that “teaching wasn’t her thing,” she has, in fact, done a lot of teaching.

Colleague Josh Breeden says that even when Metheny doesn’t know the answer, she takes on the challenge to find out. “You know if you say, ‘hey, Yvonne,’ – you’re probably halfway there. She can at least point you in the right direction,” he said.

Metheny’s career in accounting so far has defied her early expectations of the field. What she thought of as a day to day, same old, same old job has been much more fulfilling than she ever expected, and the reason for that, she says, is because she’s tried so many different things and found what she really likes to do.

“I’ve been very lucky because I’ve been allowed the opportunities to find the right fit for me. I’ve had supervisors at UVA who’ve allowed me to find, in effect to make the right job for me,” she said.

Metheny points out that the world of business changes all the time, and “you have to embrace it, even though it might be out of your comfort zone.”

She says she’s been vocal with her managers about what she’d like to do, what problems she’d like to fix, and also to keep her in mind for projects and positions that match her skill set. Through this openness, and her willingness to regularly try something different, Metheny says she’s developed a wide range of skills.

“Ultimately,” she commented, “the best fit for me is also the best fit for the University. When people are in the right roles doing what fulfills them, great things happen.”

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