Business degree leads to new career for nontraditional alumnus

Penn State Scranton business alum Kyle Wind

Kyle Wind spent the first decade of his career as an award-winning journalist -- until he decided a change was in order and turned to Penn State Scranton’s Business program.

Credit: Penn State

DUNMORE, Pa. – Kyle Wind spent the first decade of his career making a difference in the community as an award-winning journalist.

At some point, though, he decided a change was in order. To put his plans in motion, he turned to Penn State Scranton’s Business program.

In May, Wind, 36, graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in business with accounting option. Immediately afterward, he began work as the full-time controller at Matheson Transfer Company in Forty Fort. The job came as the result of one of three valuable internship opportunities Wind had during the course of his studies.

It’s an especially impressive position for a recent graduate, considering that Wind oversees all of the organization’s accounting and finances. The work is highly complex, he said, but fortunately he’s getting plenty of support from the company’s CEO, outgoing controller and office staff.

“I like a lot about my employer,” said Wind, of Dickson City. “The CEO, Corey Sands, is a great person to work for. He provides all of the support I could have hoped for, is extremely knowledgeable about every aspect of running his company and is a smart, hardworking and legitimately nice guy. The company has a good group of people making up its workforce and a pleasant culture.”

Wind perfectly illustrates why it’s never too late to try a new path in life, “no matter how different that path may initially seem.”

-- Angela Bassani, lecturer in accounting at Penn State Scranton

“While many might initially think switching from journalism to accounting is a far leap, Kyle and I noted many similar skills that are needed to be successful in both fields during discussions while he was a student here at Penn State,” Bassani said. “A good journalist, just like a good accountant, must be determined to find answers and share the truth with stakeholders, no matter how problematic those truths may be. They must pay close attention to detail, possess strong communication skills, and cover all of their bases. Kyle possesses all of these skills, which is why it is no surprise that after a successful career as a journalist, he will now go on to have a successful career as an accountant.”

Prior to arriving at the campus in the fall of 2017, Wind had spent 10 years as a reporter at the Daily Freeman in Kingston, New York, and The Scranton Times-Tribune. At the latter, he covered Lackawanna County government and felt like he did valuable, impactful work on behalf of the public.

Still, the more he looked around at the changing dynamics of the newspaper business, the more he felt like he should redirect his career while he was still young enough to do it.

Luckily, journalism had provided him with the communication, organization and time management soft skills that employers highly value. And, he had a knack for numbers.

After a lot of careful thought, he narrowed his focus to accounting. He liked the versatility of the  profession, and that it could provide both stability and significant earnings potential.

“At first glance, someone may believe I couldn’t have picked a career more different than journalism, yet accountants need to follow professional rules of conduct, be independent and be reliable reporters of information,” Wind said. “I am also good at navigating complex legalese and bureaucracy, which translates to accounting. I have always been good with my personal finances, and after serving as treasurer of one union and president of another, I showed some aptitude for being adept at navigating an organization’s finances, too.”

Ultimately, Wind chose Penn State Scranton for several reasons.

“Penn State Scranton is very close to my home. It had a program that was a good fit for my professional goals and has strong national recognition. And the tuition price made it a great value for someone who was ineligible for financial aid because I already had a bachelor’s degree,” Wind said.

Heading back into the classroom as an adult learner, Wind figured he wouldn’t have much trouble academically. However, he felt some trepidation about standing out as “the old dude in the classroom.”

Quickly, though, he developed a good rapport with his fellow students and found the business program’s curriculum to be both rigorous and extremely practical.

He found much to like about the faculty, too, singling out Bassani; James Wilkerson, assistant professor of business and business and project and supply chain management programs coordinator; and Patrick Sheridan, adjunct lecturer in accounting and emeritus member of the campus Advisory Board.

“Everything they taught was top notch and they taught me what I was looking to learn when I decided to come to Penn State,” said Wind, who served as a math tutor in the campus Learning Center.

Sheridan called Wind a “top-notch student.”

“He’s very serious about the subject matter, he catches on very quickly and he gets the work done. And he has this diverse background, coming from journalism and then doing a career shift. I give him a lot of credit for that,” said Sheridan, noting Wind received the Excellence in Financial Services student award that Sheridan and his wife, Mary Jane, established at the campus.

In addition to tutoring, Wind also participated in volunteer activities related to his degree.

Bassani met Wind in the spring of 2019 during the first taxation course she taught at the campus. During that first session, she discussed the United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne counties’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which provides free tax returns for low-income area residents. Bassani serves as the program’s director, and was looking to enlist some students to serve as volunteer tax preparers.

“Kyle came right up after class and told me he would love to volunteer and help with the program,” Bassani said. “He picked up tax preparation so quickly, and was a great asset to our VITA team. I have no doubt that whatever Kyle sets his mind to, he will achieve, and any organization will be lucky to have him on board.”

“Volunteering to prepare people’s income taxes was a great way to blend what I was learning in the classroom with practical application, and I got the chance to help people, too,” Wind added. “I think it became a strong addition to my resume, and I learned a lot.”

A big believer in internships, Wind had the chance to do two more following the VITA experience.

$100,000 saved through Wind's oversight

During his second internship at the Lackawanna County Controller’s Office, he took over the duties of an accounts payable auditor who was out on leave. County Controller Gary DiBileo was so impressed with the quality of Wind’s work that he secured funding to pay him.

While serving in the county controller's role, Wind resolved problematic paperwork submitted by contractors involved in a capital project, blocked duplicate invoices, caught employee expense reimbursement and overtime request mistakes, and flagged a county contractor attempting to charge a higher unit price than its contract stipulated. By the end of his internship, his accounts payable oversight had saved the county more than $100,000.

Through Wilkerson, Wind was connected to Matheson Transfer. The company’s longtime controller was about to retire and needed a successor to groom for the role.

Intrigued by Wind’s “unusual blend of skills,” the company took him on as an intern/part-time employee in October. By March, they were convinced he was the right person for the job, and that it was his to have upon graduation.

Wind initially had intentions of pursuing a job as an auditor, figuring it was well-suited to his journalism background. However, after receiving some good advice from Wilkerson, Bassani, Sheridan and Frank Sorokach, lecturer in business administration, he realized the opportunity with Matheson was simply too good to pass up.

“In the end, I weighed everything I heard from them and others and decided to be flexible about my master plan, and now I have a new plan,” Wind said. “The job has gone well. It’s been a constant learning experience, and I enjoy all of the responsibility that comes with it. I started out primarily handling payroll, payroll taxes and accounting functions such as making journal entries into the general ledger when I was part-time. I gradually took on more and more responsibility, such as certain human resources functions and helping the existing controller wrap up the financial statements for the end of the fiscal year.”

Sheridan said he makes it a point to assist many students with career planning post-graduation. No question, he’ll be staying in touch with Wind.

“I think Kyle’s going to have a very good career,” Sheridan said.

Moving forward, Wind has other significant goals, including getting his MBA, which he’ll start in the fall, and his CPA license.

“Then I can finally stop and take a breath. The last couple of years have been pretty tough, and it will be nice to have some leisure time again when this is all over,” he said.

No doubt, though, the outcomes have been well worth the effort.

“I got what I needed to begin a new career path,” he said.