September 2008 -

Gold Minds: Gowri Shankar - Business Administration, UW Bothell

As told to Jonathan Kiefer

Gowri Shankar
Mary Levin photo

Before I was teaching, I was working in finance, and I could see that the corporate ladder was not for me. Because the people three or four levels above me were doing very much the kind of thing that I was doing—as opposed to something with any intellectual challenge that I could see. It's like, "OK, you got more money and more power." But that was not really very exciting. Teaching is different. And as it turned out I really loved teaching accounting. I have a group of M.B.A. students who come from very different backgrounds. I am walking them through what financial accounting is all about and how to use it in their fields. Because all the people that we have in the M.B.A. program are managers, but very few of them have a clue as to what accounting is about; financial statements make no sense to them because they've never been taught how to read these things and how to understand them. Practically every quarter I have a student who says something like, "You know, I manage the financial statements for my condo society, and now suddenly it makes a whole lot more sense. All I was doing was filling out forms, but now I can see the context and ask the right questions." I keep thinking it's very strange. That's something that practically everybody who lives in this society is going to have to deal with, but we never teach it, except to a very select group of business students. So I find doing that very satisfying.