If you ask Dawn Dexter whether she thought she would be where she is today in her career, she would laugh and tell you, “Um no, not in a million years, no.”
Dexter is currently the Senior Director of Accounts Payable for Target Corporation in Brooklyn Park, Minn. She is a Fargo native and an alumna of the College of Business and Public Administration—she graduated in 1995 with a Bachelors in Accountancy. While Dexter says she, “loves being at Target,” it’s a path she never thought she would take.
Dexter started her career in public accounting. Over the course of six years she worked at Arthur Andersen and Deloitte in Minneapolis. She says at the time her end goal was to work at a not-for-profit. That was until Target came along. “When I interviewed there the caliber of people I was meeting with was very impressive,” So, in 2003, she took the job… and now she’s still there, 13 years later.
On Tuesday, April 12, Dexter was a panelist at the CoBPA’s twenty-ninth annual Hultberg Lectureship Series. The Hultberg Series gives students, faculty/staff and members of the Grand Forks community an opportunity to hear and seek advice from four successful female alumna of the CoBPA. When asked what advice she would give to students, this is what Dexter had to say:
“There is no normal, standard to be expected, career path. Your career path can change very wildly, mine has. I’ve done things I never though I would do and never thought I could do. And all of that has been extremely valuable for me from kind of a learning, growth, kind of professional development perspective. So I would say take some risks, take on new challenges, and don’t feel like you have to have a specific career path pre-designated.”
Dawn also encourages students to be themselves at work.
“At first, you sometimes feel this pressure to fill a certain mold or to be perfect or to kind of be what you see as the perfect CPA. And you don’t need to do that. You want to find a company where you can be yourself and you’re going to be happier and they’re going to be happier to have you.”
Dawn says her choice to work for Target was one of the best she’s ever made. “I love the fact that it’s never the same day after day. There’s always something new that’s coming up or a new role that you get, or a new opportunity that you get, that’s probably what keeps me there.” For Dexter, one of those is the opportunity to travel to India. She’s been to the country two times, and will be going for a third time in June. “We Partner with India on a lot of things. In India, everyone is proficient in English and they have tons of college graduates,” says Dexter. She says there are a couple hundred Indian people working on accounts payable in India… and they’re wonderful to work with.
“They are very friendly people. I say, when you go to India, they’re going to take you shopping, they’re going to take you out every night to dinner. When they come here, we’re so busy with our lives and our kid’s activities that we are not nearly as good of hosts as Indians are when we go to them, they are amazing hosts and extremely friendly people.”
As Dexter continues her career at Target, she says the classes she took through the UND CoBPA helped her significantly. However, she wishes she would have taken more systems classes. “Systems are such a huge part of what we do these days and I do think accounting and systems are going to be more and more together over time,” says Dexter.
While Dexter may not have taken the career path she expected to follow, she says she’s glad things played out the way they did. And maybe, just maybe, when she “semi-retires,” she will do a little work with a not-for-profit.