It's a conservative estimate, but I figure that during the seven years I've spent writing about the accounting profession, I've averaged about 5 stories per week, adding up to 260 per year, or 1,820 stories for my entire accounting journalism career.

I've attended approximately 40 conferences, paid the tab (or been treated to) about 700 business lunches and dinners, interviewed over 5,000 people, and surfed thousands of Web sites in search of interesting industry news or information.

After seven years, I'm ashamed to say I still can't balance my checkbook, create an Excel spreadsheet or prepare my own tax return.

But on the flip side, I've gathered more than 600 industry contacts, forged many valuable friendships and learned more about how businesses run -- and the people that run them -- than many people learn in 20 years.

When I entered journalism more than 12 years ago, my dream was to write for a major newspaper, uncover a big scandal and earn a Pulitzer Prize. But fate, as it usually does, intervened. When my wire service employer stopped paying my expense checks at about the same time I became engaged to be married, I sought out a more stable job and set my sights in a different direction.

I landed at Accounting Today in 1996 partly to escape my tenuous situation, partly to see the world on a corporate dime, and partly to learn the then-foreign art of business writing. I accomplished all three and am proud of my successes over the years.

But in the past few years, I started feeling the tug toward new challenges, and eventually realized my compass was no longer pointing toward that Pulitzer.

While trying to figure out my next career path, I stumbled across the burgeoning trend of strategic marketing for accounting firms. I read all I could on the topic, and attended both the Legal Marketing Association and the Association for Accounting Marketing's annual conferences. At the AAM conference, I had a life-changing epiphany. I didn't want to write about this topic or interview these marketers, I wanted to be one of them.

So I picked the brains of the best in the business, read up some more, wrote some stories on marketing, spoke at conferences on the topic and let my friends and colleagues know that this was the career I wanted.

When an accounting firm in New York started searching for a marketing director, one of those friends thought of me, and next week I will be starting a new life, a new career and a new challenge as marketing director for Citrin Cooperman & Company.

While I'm wistful about leaving a profession that stretched my creativity and allowed me the freedom to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable" (an ancient journalistic credo), the pulsing in my veins and racehorse eagerness to get out of the starting gate assures me I've made the right decision.

After many years of writing about best practices, seeing firms stumble, innovate, fall and rise to meet many different challenges, I'm stepping out from the sidelines, away the safety of the grandstand to take a stab at being part of the action.

I hope to see many of you in the races ahead.

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