In anticipation for “The HBCU Experience: Tennessee State University” book, we got the chance to interview TSU alumnus and Tax Accountant Ashlee Brooks. Check it out!
Randall: Tell us about yourself!
Ashlee Brooks: A native of Memphis, TN – I am a proud of alum of the Tennessee State University. After working in the Aerospace Industry for five years, I pivoted my career into my personal passion of Accounting. By day I am a Tax Accountant who I works with a diverse group of individuals educating each on their path to building and maximizing wealth. By night I am a full-time mom of two toddlers.
Randall: How did you end up at Tennessee State University?
Ashlee Brooks: After graduating high school I had my sights set on relocating to Atlanta, GA. My godfather asked me to consider Tennessee State University as it was far from home, but still close. He provided me tons of TSU information to review and after learning he was an alumni of Tennessee State University, I became intrigued. My parents accompanied me on a campus tour and when I received a full scholarship, the rest was history.
Randall: What did you get your degree in? Did it support what you are doing now?
Ashlee Brooks: I received my Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. I have loved this field since I as a senior in high school. Luckily for me, my personal and professional passions aligned. In my current role, I am a Tax Accountant at a public CPA firm in the area of Franklin, TN. I prepare taxes and provide tax strategy to individual and small business clients.
Randall: Can you give me a quick description of your years in college?
Ashlee Brooks: Freshman year, I thought I knew it all and college was a breeze. My classes were similar to my high school courses and outside of class I hung with my high school friends who also decided to attend Tennessee State University. I came into TSU thinking all people who looked like me were the same. However, by the end of my 1st year at TSU, I realized we all come from different backgrounds and have different philosophies and goals in life.
My sophomore year, I felt like a “real” adult. I went to classes in the morning and worked in the afternoons. I thought I could balance everything and had it all together. By my junior year, I was like a fish out of water. Everything I thought I knew, I realized I did not. I got a rude awakening. Working, attending classes full-time and participating in numerous extracurricular activities began to take a toll both physically and academically. I spent my senior year catching up on my academics, chasing internships and juggling leading my sorority of 70+ members. After self-reflection and a few “come to Jesus” conversations with my mentors, I decided to stay a 5th to regain my focus, increase my gpa and obtain a position that would start my career. I graduated accomplishing my goal of improving my gpa to a 3.7, accepted an with a Fortune 500 company in the Aerospace Industry and moved across country to Tucson, AZ.
Randall: What year would you consider as your success year?
Ashlee Brooks: One year I would consider as a huge success was my last year in graduate school. During the two years, I attended Virginia Commonwealth University, I struggled, academically, spiritually, financially and the list goes on and on. At one point, I questioned my self-worth and if I graduate school was for me. This feeling did not last long as I had a good support system that worked hard to get me out of a rut. On graduation day, I had gained so much exposure mentally and academically, I felt I could accomplish anything. Like TSU, I again went into graduate school thinking I knew everything and life decided to give me a quick awakening. My take away was – just when you think you know everything…there’s always room to learn more. Never limit yourself or your ability. This was the year of being open to new people, places and things.
Randall: How did you start working in your current position?
Ashlee Brooks: My motto is never be afraid to ask. All someone can tell you is either yes or no. When I decided to expand my career, I blindly contacted every CPA firm I could find. I reached out directly to every hiring manager and partner. Some I heard back from, some I did not. After receiving a response from one firm, I was able to secure an interview. I believe in being your authentic self when speaking before a group of people. After telling my story, I received a job offer on the spot. Three years later, I am still learning and continuing to hone my craft in tax and small business consulting.
Randall: Did you expect to be in the position you are in today?
Ashlee Brooks: The honest answer is no. The accounting field is an extremely challenging, high-pressure, and fast paced environment. You are expected to know advanced concepts on day one and at times this can be intimidating and a blow to your confidence. What keeps me in this role is my over-the-top determination, passion and desire to build client relationships while providing tax education which helps with the overall wealth of client.
Randall: How do you feel your HBCU experience at TSU aid you in your success?
Ashlee Brooks: I did not understand the power of networking until I left Tennessee State University. The various organizations I was a member of instilled in me the importance of relationships. I have lived in Arizona, Virginia, Texas and Tennessee and through each move I never met a stranger. My TSU network would always put me in contact with other TSU alums in the area. In meeting my fellow Tigers, I continued to be welcomed as another part of their family. This strong sense of relationship building overflows into my profession. I continue to find ways to increase my clientele base because of the importance I place on making each individual feel valued. This key component is something that was instilled in me at my HBCU and I continue to pay it forward.
Randall: What’s next on your journey?
Ashlee Brooks: After obtaining a few more years in public accounting, I will branch off to start my own business focusing on individual taxation, small business consulting and offering other accounting services. I plan to continue presenting on various panels to provide tax and small business education while partnering with my beloved alma mater to provide financial literacy seminars to my future TSU alums.
Randall: Tell us about your book?
Ashlee Brooks: As the Lead Author of the HBCU Experience – TSU Edition, I am so excited to present a collaborative series of stories told from the perspective of my fellow TSU alumni. The book will highlight the TSU experience from various walks of life and how those experience molded them on their professional journey. Although each author’s reason for attending Tennessee State University is unique, the common thread will be the Big Blue family we each leave with.
Randall: Where can we find you?
Ashlee Brooks: Residing in Nashville, TN, I can be found volunteering at various TSU alumni events or sharing tons of tax and financial literacy content on my social media platforms. Instagram: @sweet14sassy
LinkedIn: Ashlee Brooks